There hasn’t been a more crucial time than now for the church to rise up.

To say that the world we live in is in “much trouble” would be an understatement. The sad reality is, this trouble is not just in the “world out there” but has crept within the churches leaving them at risk of confusion regarding the nature & purpose of the local church.

There is a discipleship confusion. Biblical discipleship should and ought to be a natural and vital part the local congregation that looks to Christ.

Here are three emerging needs the church has forgotten.

Scriptural Authority & Sufficiency (Power: Hebrews 4:12)

In American churches, the task of a pastor is more so one with a mentality of a biblically glorified CEO who vision casts some sort of mission statement. You just don’t find that in the bible..

Instead, Paul casts a vision that calls upon every shepherd/teacher “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12 RSV). Those sixteen words serve as the pastor/equipper mission statement from God.

John Piper said the following statement.

“We pastors are killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry. The mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet. It is not the mentality of the slave of Christ. Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence and heart of the Christian ministry. The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake.” [1]

The mentality of professionalism has crippled and weakened the effectiveness of the local church body. The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will bring upon ourselves. There is no such thing as a professional child-like faith (Matthew 18:3), nor is there such thing as a professional tender kindness (Ephesians 4:32).

We need more biblical standards to strengthen competent disciple-makers within the body of Christ; disciple-makers who are trained in biblical soul care from the ground level. We need to apply the gospel with the fullness of grace and truth to the multifaceted brokenness in people’s lives. This is the essence of Christ’s incarnational ministry.

Progressive Sanctification (Hope: Romans 15:4)

This is perhaps one of the biggest problems we find in our current seminary programs. Most Masters of Divinity training focuses on the clergy for serving in pulpit ministry of the preaching of the Word (public ministry of the Word).

There was even a culture of exhaling preaching ministry as a glorious task in seminary. As a result, many young seminarians rarely heard about shepherding the flock day by day through discipleship (private ministry of the Word).

I sensed this in my first pastorate in Chicago. I soon faced the daunting question of the great need of my congregation before me. I daily asked, “How can I possibly help all the people whose lives are overflowing with troubles, conflicts, emotional problems of every kind?”

The church is a place of real-life change. In order to see this, we not only must disciple, but we must disciple well. The problem within the church is that people are not discipled so they don’t know what to do, resulting in not doing anything.

The church leadership with this view of the gospel has led to the mindset that disciples are just made automatically on a conveyor belt (progressive sanctification). Disciples are not made by accident or automatically; there must be an intentional plan in place for them to be made consistently.

We need a discipleship model that doesn’t simply end on a theory level, but one that results in thought shaping, heart-engaging, ministry-guiding, and word selecting commitment for the same of the gospel. [2]

Priesthood of believers & Community (Love: John 13:35)

The local church has been caught in the lie of the consumer mentality gospel. This means that reaching and teaching must go beyond the 21st-century mentality of checking-in at church then mentally “checking-out.”

Bill Hull recognizes this problem when he writes:

“The evangelical church has become weak, flabby, and too dependent on artificial means that can only simulate real spiritual power. Churches are too little like training center to shape up the saints… The average Christian resides in the comfort zone of “I pay the pastor to preach, administrate, and counsel…. I am the consumer, he is the retailer…. I have the needs, he meets them… that’s what I pay for.” [3]

A shepherd/teacher is called not only to do ministry but to help others learn how to do it. This model Paul sets forth flies in the face of this consumer mentality Christianity.

Therefore, the biblical discipleship ministry is not simply staffed by elite paid clergy, by few for the few. Instead, it is God’s call for all the saints (the priesthood of believers) to biblically counsel and disciple all.

The average church on Sunday morning is far too much like a college football game on Saturday afternoon – 66,000 people badly in need of exercise watching twenty-two young men badly in need of rest.

Reforming our Discipleship

I am excited to witness the churches rising up in the 21st century for a resurgence of the gospel through discipleship. Christians can both biblically and compassionately be able to apply the Word in the fabric of our everyday conversation. (Ephesians 4:15)

The church is to set the standard for compassionate, life-giving counsel that creates disciple-makers who will begin the second-reformation that will capture the hearts of many, fulfilling the Great Commission that will enact the world revolution.

Scripture: Hebrews 4:12; Romans 15:4; John 13:35

[1] John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry, Updated and Expanded Edition, Revised edition (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Books, 2013).

[2] Bob Kellemen and Paul Tripp, Biblical Counseling and the Church: God’s Care Through God’s People, ed. Kevin Carson (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2015).

[3] Bill Hull and Robert Coleman, The Disciple-Making Pastor: Leading Others on the Journey of Faith, Revised edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007).

Jonathan Hayashi, Ph.D.

Dr. Jonathan Hayashi has a B.A. of Pastoral Ministry, M.A. of Congregational Leadership, and a D.Ed.Min. of Biblical Counseling. He presently serves on the Executive Committee at Southwest Baptist University (Bolivar, MO) and on the Board of Trustees at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jonathan is a contributor for the bi-weekly journal, Pathway (Missouri Baptist Convention), and is the author of Ordinary Radicals: A Return to Christ-Centered Discipleship, as well as Making Lemonade: Turning Past Failures into Gospel Opportunities. He is a certified biblical counselor with the ACBC. He and his wife, Kennedi, have four children: Kaede, Seiji, Anna, and Ren.