JEFFERSON CITY – As catalyst (strategic leader) for Making Disciples for the Missouri Baptist Convention, Dr. Matt Kearns has served under the direction of Executive Director Dr. John Yeats to lead a multi-year effort to reorient the MBC staff around a restated vision and mission.
The vision of the MBC missionary staff is: “Transforming lives and communities with the gospel.” The mission for all MBC missionaries is: “Cooperating with Missouri Baptists to make disciples, multiply churches, and develop leaders.”
In this Q&A, Kearns addresses what it means to make disciples, and how the MBC is cooperating with Missouri Baptists to accomplish this.
When we talk about making disciples, what does that mean?
By making disciples, we mean following Jesus, modeling our lives after Him, and obeying His command to help others become disciples of Christ.
How does making disciples tie into the other elements of the MBC’s mission, specifically, multiplying churches and developing leaders?
All three of the field ministry elements are interdependent. Although not necessarily sequential, the primary mission for all followers of Jesus is to make disciples.
Making disciples is directly tied to developing leaders in that obedient disciples will lead others to make disciples. Where disciples are made, church multiplication will be necessary. Where disciples are being made, new leadership will arise.
What is the MBC doing to help Missouri Baptists make disciples?
We have ambitious goals for 2016. For example, we are establishing disciple-making cohorts for existing church staff leaders; working in partnership with the Developing Leaders group to host network gatherings; hosting events that train and equip students and youth pastors in making disciples; serving in partnership with associations to make disciples in the university environment; and providing leadership and resources for key disciple-making efforts such as VBS, Sunday school, and summer missions.
How will Missouri Baptists know if the MBC is successful in reaching these goals?
By the end of the year we will: engage all known ministers of education in developing and implementing a disciple-making plan; partner with Developing Leaders to host six network gatherings; engage 1,500 students in disciple-making efforts through Super Summer, campus missions, Global Encounter, and collegiate missionary efforts; and we hope to have recruited 50 pastors and youth pastors for a cohort pilot project.
Together, these efforts should demonstrate the achievement of our first-year goals. They also should generate stories of life and community transformation while fostering greater cooperation among MBC churches with the convention staff and with each other.
Aren’t Missouri Baptists doing enough by giving through the Cooperative Program and the Missouri Missions Offering?
While giving to cooperative efforts is a biblical and helpful part of the process, it falls short of full engagement. While some may only be able to participate in this way, all followers of Jesus are called to actively and obediently engage in making disciples, and as a result see leaders developed and churches multiplied.
Why the emphasis on making disciples rather than on the elements of making disciples: evangelism, Sunday school, men’s ministry, and so on?
“Making Disciples” is the objective of each follower of Jesus and in turn, of every gathering of believers functioning as a local church expression. A biblical understanding of disciple-making should lead to each follower of Jesus apprenticing himself/herself to Jesus and living their lives as if Jesus is living His life through them.
Each disciple and each church must live as Jesus lived in his or her context and each church must function under the Lordship of Christ. In so doing, many “elements” or “methods” may be considered to effectively make disciples in context. However, loyalty to a method must not replace the primacy of the mission.
What is one thing Missouri Baptists can do today to be more focused on making disciples?
I would encourage all Missouri Baptists to embrace a biblical understanding of making disciples and engage personally in the process. One practical first step may be to find someone who is making disciples and learn from them.
Next: Multiplying churches – an interview with Dr. Rick Hedger.