2 Timothy 4:2–3
"Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching."
Have you ever sat around your office or your kitchen table and thought, “You know I wish my pastor was more invested in my life. If only Pastor _________ would take the time to disciple me, I bet it would be amazing, and I’d be a better Christian.” ?
The truth of the matter is that if you attend a large church, this thought may have crossed your mind once or twice. You may even think, “Well if Pastor ________ isn’t spending time discipling me, then what is he or she doing all day long?”
Let’s use First Pres as an example: Aside from weddings, funerals, hospital visits and the daily responsibilities of helping run a number of ministries, at our church the members outnumber the pastoral staff 600 to 1. Even Jesus only had 12 disciples and beyond that, spent most of his time with three. Which means that each Pastor at First Pres would need to take on an average of 588 more disciples than Jesus had to cover everyone. Woah, talk about overwhelming.
My humble suggestion is that the preaching of the word of God on Sunday mornings and participating in our gathered worship is an essential part of discipleship. The more we come prepared on Sunday to be discipled, the more we can appreciate the work the Holy Spirit is accomplishing through our Pastoral team and staff! (And in our own lives.)
Our pastors spend all week caring for the church family as a whole. It’s an important role that they’ve been uniquely called to fill. But you and I are the next part of the disciple-making equation. The reality is, you’re already being discipled by a pastor.
Scripture teaches us that the gathering of God’s people, on the Lord’s Day, is not simply a tradition to which we remain faithful, but an essential aspect of the discipleship of God’s people. Every movement of the liturgy, as well as the singing of particular songs and the preaching of the Word, are designed to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” the body of Christ (the church family)! What happens on Sunday morning is not about checking off your spiritual to-do list for the week; it is stepping into the presence of God, trusting that the Lord will use the Holy Spirit and the gifting and preparation of the pastors. Their job is simply to guide us to the foot of the cross, and invite us to change.
Each week, you are invited to participate in a service of worship to the King of kings and Lord of lords. It can be difficult not to approach worship as consumers of the products that others prepare for us. But the Word of God, experienced through song and preaching, should not be the same for us as going to the movies. Hebrews 4 says that the Word (the Bible) is “living and active.” The Word works to discern our hearts and motives, and when it falls on willing hearts, it ignites change in the life of the believer. This is why the Apostle Paul tells his student, Timothy, to “preach the Word!” Because Paul knows that the preaching of the Word invokes change, and that becoming more like Christ is the essence of discipleship. As we gather on Sunday mornings for worship, come prepared to be discipled. Here are some practical steps you can take:
Be present and attentive in worship.
It sure is hard to receive “the exhortation, rebuke or reproof” of the Scripture if we aren’t in church. Make it a point to be present in worship. But remember, presence alone does nothing if we aren’t attentive to the Word being preached. Come to worship expecting the Creator of the Universe to speak to you.
Don’t drop the sermon on your way out.
Discipleship is continually growing in the knowledge and love for Jesus, which transforms us into better image bearers of God. But, it is hard to be transformed if you forget what you learned. Wrestle with the ideas presented by the Pastor. Talk about it over lunch and dinner. And remember that the pastors are our God-given shepherds who work hard to lead us to lush fields and cool waters, to sustain us.
Allow the sermon to disciple your family.
Teach your kids that worship is important by talking about it throughout the week. Ask hard questions like, “How are we putting the truth from Sunday into practice?” or “How can we look more like Jesus after being convicted or encouraged by this message?” Parents, if you leave the sermon at the door, you’re teaching your kids that the sermon is only as important as the movie you saw last week. Don’t just consume. The word of God meets us where we are, but doesn’t leave us there.
And a small disclaimer: discipleship is offered to you in many other ways, including our School of Discipleship, which offers study on a variety of teachers and topics. Take advantage of all you can; the church is designed for it.
Tanner Fox is a coordinator in our Student Ministry, and under care of our church, studying at Reformed Theological Seminary. He loves his wife Ashley, preaching and taking amazing photos. firstname.lastname@example.org
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001) Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.