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Missions groups alerted to IMB discipleship aids

ST. LOUIS (BP) — There is one core imperative — one command — in the Great Commission: to make disciples. In light of that, “What does it mean to make disciples?” Zane Pratt, International Mission Board vice president of training, asked during the Fellowship of Baptist World Ministries’ annual breakfast June 13.

Many people have memorized the King James rendering of the Great Commission, which reads, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations,” which Pratt said has led to the idea that discipleship is primarily conveying information, a method that fits with the way the American education system works.

However, Pratt noted to FBWM attendees that education was approached differently in Jesus’ time: The teacher would give lectures to large groups, but he also would gather a small group around him who would live, eat, sleep, walk and talk with the teacher day and night. The students would hear their teacher instruct large groups, and in the oral tradition, they would hear the teacher’s lessons over and over, and they would know that information verbatim. The pupils would have an opportunity to ask the teacher questions and interact with him. At the same time, they would observe the teacher’s lifestyle and begin to mimic the teacher — so much so that a person could observe someone else and identify that person’s rabbi.

Knowledge of the content of all that Jesus taught and commanded is essential to discipleship, Pratt said, but discipleship also involves a lifestyle of obedience to the things of God — lessons of obedience that can never happen in a classical classroom situation.

“Genuine discipleship must involve a change in life, as well as new information in the brain,” Pratt said. “It must involve new patterns of life and behavior. It also must involve a change in heart, a change in affection, so we grow to love what God loves, to value what God values and to treat lightly what God treats lightly. That alone would be revolutionary in any sort of discipleship because typically what happens is we give the information without changing the heart or behavior.”

IMB’s training team is committed to a philosophy of training that involves “head, heart and hands,” Pratt said. Reading from Ephesians 4:11-16, he said true discipleship happens in the church: It is where God has all the pieces He has designed to shape Christians into the image of Jesus.

“We’re not going to train people unless we disciple, and we’re not going to disciple outside the local church,” Pratt said. “What we need is churches who take the discipleship task seriously.”

Pratt described several resources being designed by the IMB training team to empower pastors and leaders in local churches to lead their members in true discipleship:

— Mission Intensive, a 36-hour training course to engage senior pastors along with other local church leaders.

— A six-week online course to equip churches in missions education.

— An online, interactive training package for short-term missions, regardless of where the short-term mission partners will be serving.

Pratt said the training resources reflect two convictions: 1) IMB wants disciples who resemble Jesus who make disciples who resemble Jesus and 2) the local church is where that happens.

Pratt invited FBWM members to go online to training.imb.org for more information about resources to help local churches in fulfilling the command of the Great Commission to make disciples.

Rodney Cavett, president of FBWM and a member of First Baptist Church in Glen Rose, Texas, who presided at the meeting, said, “Great things have been done through volunteer missions on the field.” Cavett noted that the fellowship was established as a place where people who take the Gospel overseas through volunteer missions can connect to coordinate efforts and maximize resources.

FBWM members include world mission organizations that focus on global evangelism and function in partnership with one another and in covenant agreement with the International Mission Board (IMB). The FBWM meets twice each year; once at the SBC annual meeting and once every January. The next meeting will be Jan. 16-18, 2017, in Richmond, Va., at the IMB. For more than 20 years, IMB has provided training, equipping and fellowship for the FBWM.

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  • Julie McGowan