It’s not just Timothy who makes disciples; it’s the whole church.
by Diane J. McDougall
What joy when a pastor sees his church members living out what he’s passionately taught, then teaching others with the same intensity.
About 150 folks attend Lanse (Pa.) EFC, a 123-year-old congregation that Matt Mitchell has pastored since 1998. And one of his many loyal parishioners is Nesta Kephart.
A member for 42 years (so she’s actually a role model for her pastor, in many ways), Nesta has served throughout the church, teaching and leading ministries to women and children. Most recently, she joined the hospitality committee, which is pivotal to any church activity where food is served. And her passion for good food and hospitality is undergirded by—driven by, actually—her passion for disciplemaking.
Nesta encourages the hospitality committee not simply to serve food, but also to grow together spiritually both before they serve and as they serve. So the members meet regularly, sharing what God is doing in their lives as they walk through Scripture.
Before church events, they pray about who might be there and what their needs might be, and share ideas for how the event can be more of an outreach. Often, their outreach begins by simply asking people they meet to share their stories. “Everyone has a story,” Nesta explains. “If you find they do not know Jesus, that is where discipleship begins—share the gospel in some way.
“Even if they do know Jesus as Savior, they still have a story. Ask, How did you come to know Him. Who is God to you? Have you shared your experience with anyone else?”
Nesta calls it community-shaped disciplemaking—a term she learned from Matt. “I am trusting the Holy Spirit’s direction,” she says, “purposefully encouraging a disciplemaking attitude as we serve together.
Matt must smile when he hears Nesta explain her hospitality ministry. Because his very definition of “church” is: Jesus’ worshiping community of gospel-centered disciplemakers.
“For me,” he explains, “disciplemaking is community-shaped because that’s what the church is, that’s the example in the New Testament. It’s not just Timothy who makes disciples; it’s the church. It’s not just Paul who does; it’s the whole church. Sometimes it’s one-to-one or one-to-two or small groups or through the preaching. The whole church makes disciples.
“If what you’re doing is not making disciples, cut it out. But it’s not just ‘programs are bad, disciplemaking is in.’ Maybe what you’re doing is making disciples (or can be) if you have the right attitude.”
He points to Nesta. “You can just feed people,” Matt shares, “or you can meet together and pray before you feed people and remind each other of the attitude you want to have as you work together in the kitchen and as you hand off that piece of lasagna and as you clean up and as you sit down with someone in the middle of serving and ask how they’re doing.”
Matt’s celebration of Nesta’s role in the church accentuates that not everyone is a carbon copy disciplemaker. “I don’t believe that everybody has to have two people they’re pouring into and those people are each pouring into two people, like an Amway marketing strategy.”
Instead, he points to a more organic process, “one that’s shaped by people’s gifts and callings, personalities and opportunities and passions.”
Which makes for an exciting church culture, and Matt has front-row seats to watch it unfold with people across his congregation.