REVISED Monday, July 2, 2012.
NEW ORLEANS (BP) — Discipleship is the key to healthy, effective churches, Sam Nadler said June 16 during the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship’s annual meeting at First Baptist Church in Kenner, La.
“The undiscipled believer is a dysfunctional member of the body. Discipleship is what makes you functional in the body of Messiah,” said Nadler, president of the North Carolina-based Word of Messiah Ministries. Church members who go through the motions of Christianity without maturing in their faith “may look the part but … are not actually able to serve the Lord.”
During the meeting, the SBMF also elected a slate of officers that included Ric Worshill as president and Bruce Stokes as vice president and director of missions. Regional directors for five sections of North America were elected and will help the fellowship coordinate its work with the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board. Worship at the gathering was led by Stuart Lee, a Messianic Jew who serves as worship leader at The Rock of Israel Messianic congregation in Long Grove, Ill.
Many churchgoers, Nadler said, are “acculturated” — taught how to put up a Christian front — but never discipled. Though the Holy Spirit is responsible for saving people, fellow believers are responsible to help them grow in godliness, he said.
“Messiah’s job is to redeem, raise the dead, even the spiritually dead — as we all were before coming to faith,” Nadler said. “But now it is our job to get them out of the dead man’s clothing, out of the grave clothes that they might be wearing indeed garments of righteousness.”
Discipleship involves teaching believers to develop deeper relationships with Christ, imitate Christ and understand the truths of God’s Word, Nadler said. On a practical level, that requires instruction in prayer, Bible reading, fellowship with other believers and evangelism, he noted.
As parents want all their children to become responsible adults, God wants all His children to become mature followers of Jesus, Nadler said, adding that one-on-one instruction is an important component of disciple-making.
Nadler cautioned against declaring discipleship efforts a failure if they do not yield large numbers of mature believers. Measuring the success of a church through numbers alone, he said, represents the adoption of “carnal values.”
“God is not ashamed of a remnant,” he said, “and you shouldn’t be either.”
Though modern Jewish ministries may be viewed as a fringe movement of Christianity by some, Nadler said that Jewish and Gentile believers in the first century knew about and respected Jewish customs.
“All the believers in the first century were Messianic. Their church schedule, as such, was oriented around the feasts of the Law,” he said. “… Every believer was assumed to understand these things, and it shows how far we’ve gotten away. And therefore our Messianic calling is for Jew and Gentile alike.”
As Jewish and Gentile believers follow Christ, their godly example will make non-believing Jews hungry for the Messiah, Nadler said. As more Jews are saved, more discipleship will be needed, he said.
“God expects evangelism to lead to discipleship every time as He expects pregnancy to lead to parenting every time,” Nadler said.
David Roach is a writer and pastor in Shelbyville, Ky.