Where is your ministry at in the process?
Do you want the ministry God has called you to lead to make and multiply disciples?
When we study the life and ministry of Jesus, we see a clear, identifiable, intentional process He modeled for us in building a disciple-making movement. This process is something Sonlife trains in our Strategy Seminar, and it’s something you can personally study in Knowing Him: A 50 Day Chronological Study of the Life of Christ. I was introduced to this process as a young youth pastor shortly after graduating from Bible college. Understanding Jesus’ model for ministry transformed my ministry approach from day one! Over the coming weeks, I want to unpack the 5 Phases in building a disciple-making ministry as modeled by Jesus. First though, it will be helpful to take a 30,000 foot view of all five to understand where we’re going. I also want to provide a link to Sonlife’s 5 Phase Ministry Assessment so you can get a feel for where your ministry is at as we begin.
Our understanding of the life and ministry of Jesus from a chronological perspective is based upon the excellent work done by Thomas & Gundry in their Harmony of the Gospels. Their work includes several essays in the appendix addressing harmony questions. They have built their work upon the gold standard of harmonies, A.T. Robertson’s A Harmony of the Gospels for Students of the Life of Christ (1922), which itself was built upon earlier studies by Robertson’s father-in-law, James Broadus. It’s through a careful study of the harmony of all four gospels that you will discover with greater clarity the intentionality in everything Jesus did to produce the results He produced.
In his classic work, The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman writes:
“The Master disclosed God’s strategy for world conquest. That is why it is so important to observe the way Jesus maneuvered to achieve His objective. He had confidence in the future precisely because He lived according to that plan in the present. There was nothing haphazard about His life- no wasted energy nor an idle word. He was on business for God (Luke 2:40). He lived, He died, and He rose again according to schedule. Like a general plotting his course of battle, the Son of God calculated to win. He could not afford to take a chance. Weighing every alternative and variable factor in human experience, He conceived a strategy that would not fail.”
What was that strategy? What was the plan Jesus would follow in creating a movement that would make and multiply disciples to the ends of the earth and change the world? And how is He calling us to be a part of His strategy? What’s His invitation for you to continue moving His plan forward, advancing the gospel among our generation? Let’s dive in!
PHASE ONE // PREPARATION
At about the age of thirty, Jesus was baptized. What was the Father doing in the Son’s life during those thirty years to prepare Jesus for the next three and a half years? Little is recorded of Jesus’ life before His ministry began. There are three major components to this part of Jesus’ story.
- Jesus’ birth and escape to Egypt (Matthew 1 & 2, Luke 1 & 2)
- Jesus in the Temple at age twelve (Luke 2)
- John the Baptist’s ministry to prepare the way (Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, John 1)
These three components highlight three major developments in the preparation of a disciple-making leader.
- Identity – who am I? (“You are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins… and they will name Him Immanuel, which means God with us.”)
- Character – what do I value and prioritize? (“Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and man.”)
- Calling – what is God’s purpose for my life? (“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!?”)
During the preparation phase, disciple-making conviction and competency must be cultivated. If we are to ever be used by God to help build a disciple-making ministry, first we must BE a disciple-maker. We must personally model what we will be leading others to do. We must develop a vibrant relationship with God, walking in Holy Spirit dependence, immersed in His Word, communing with the Father in prayer. We must be living and modeling a Great Commandment-Great Commission lifestyle.
Are you personally committed to following Jesus and making disciples along the natural path of your life?
PHASE TWO // FOUNDATIONS
The major event that serves as the transition between Phase 1 and Phase 2 in Jesus’ earthly ministry is His baptism. The baptism served as Jesus’ commissioning into ministry, with the affirmation of both the Spirit and the Father.
“This is my Son, whom I love. WIth Him I am well pleased.”
Jesus spends the next 18-21 months laying the foundation for the movement He is launching. He calls His initial followers. They believe in Him as their Messiah. They spend time with Him (John 3:22). They learn from Him. They observe His character and priorities. Jesus is rubbing off on them. We don’t have much recorded in the gospels during these 18-21 months. A few verses in Matthew and Mark, Luke 4, and John 1-4. A study of the chronology of the life of Christ from the Harmony of the Gospels reveals that John 1-4 all occur BEFORE Jesus invites His disciples to be “fishers of people” (Matthew 4:19-22, Mark 1:16). A key chronological indicator is that Jesus doesn’t invite them to fish for people until AFTER John the Baptist has been imprisoned (Matthew 4:12, Mark 1:14).
As we study the events of these 18-21 months, we observe at least six foundational priorities Jesus put in place and carried through the remainder of His earthly ministry. We go into greater detail on these 6 Foundational Priorities in our Foundations Seminar, and Dann Spader covers them in his study, Walk Like Jesus. We use the acronym HS POWER to remember these six priorities.
6 FOUNDATIONAL PRIORITIES
Holy Spirit Dependence
Exalting the Father
Relationships of Love and Integrity
A fun exercise is to look at Acts 2:42-47, the first description of the early church, and see how all six of these foundational priorities are reflected in the church. It’s a picture of a healthy church, and healthy things grow! The result of all six of these priorities being present in the early church was this:
“And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
My friend Ken Adams often says, “Jesus started the church the way He wanted it, and now He wants the church the way He started it.”
How closely does the ministry that you lead resemble Acts 2:42-47? Are the priorities Jesus established with His followers the foundation of your ministry?
PHASE THREE // TRAINING
For the initial 18-21 months, Jesus was doing ministry. He was teaching. He was reaching and baptizing new followers. He was modeling His character and priorities. The major event that serves as the transition between Phase 2 and Phase 3 is Jesus’ invitation to two sets of brothers:
“Come, follow Me, and I will show you how to fish for people.”
This is a pivotal moment for Andrew, Peter, James and John. They have been fishermen following Jesus. Now, He is inviting them to leave their nets behind, follow Him with even greater intentionality, and learn how to fish for people themselves. He wants to train them to make disciples just as He did. We must understand the significance of this moment. Up to this point, they were being ministered to BY Jesus. Now, they are being invited to do ministry WITH Jesus. This is a game-changer! They will be equipped to preach and teach, share the good news, heal the sick and cast out demons. They will be trained to do everything Jesus had been doing.
Phase 3 and Phase 4 work together. They are happening simultaneously. The disciples are getting hands-on ministry training experiences. Their training is taken outside the “classroom” and into the “lab” of the real world as they travel from village to village ministering to real people. Training, followed by practical experience, followed by more training and more practical experience.
What are you doing to equip your disciples to be disciple-makers? Are you intentional in providing training and experiences to embed disciple-making values and skills in their life?
PHASE FOUR // OUTREACH
As we study the Harmony of the Gospels, we see these Ministry Training and Expanded Outreach phases lasting between 6-9 months. The sections of the gospels where we primarily see these events are Mark 1-3 and Luke 4-6. As we study these passages, and the corresponding events in Matthew’s Gospel, we see at least six “fishing trips” Jesus takes His disciples on to equip them as fishers of people. As Dann Spader studied this section of the Harmony years ago, he identified forty-plus miracles and fifty-four creative outreach events during the Ministry Training and Expanded Outreach Phases.
The disciples were being equipped in both Peer Care and Peer Share during Phases 3 & 4. Peer Share is where the disciple is equipped to share the good news with those who are spiritually lost, inviting them into a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Peer Care is where the disciple is equipped to walk alongside the new believer, helping them to grow in their newfound faith in Christ.
Sonlife provides equipping events for students that intentionally combine training and experiences to help you develop a disciple-making ministry culture. These events are designed to help your students move from Chair 2 into Chair 3 (4 Chair Discipling) and your ministry move from Phase 2 into Phase 3 & 4.
Do your equipping strategies and experiences include both Peer Care and Peer Share? What environments are intentionally designed as equipping opportunities?
PHASE FIVE // MULTIPLICATION
The major event that serves as the transition between Phase 3 & 4 and Phase 5 is Jesus’ identification of the Twelve as His apostles. They are now His apprentice leaders. They are the ones He will entrust with the movement when He eventually departs and returns to the Father. This Phase lasts fifteen months, and the majority of the gospel record of the life of Christ is devoted to this Phase. Jesus appoints the Twelve in Mark 3 and Luke 6. That means the last 13 chapters of Mark and 18 chapters of Luke are devoted to the Leadership Multiplication Phase of Jesus ministry. Sonlife has an entire training devoted to the Phase, our Leadership Multiplication Retreats . By way of comparison, 83 verses in the Gospels cover the Preparation Phase, 204 verses cover the Ministry Foundations Phase, 370 verses cover the Ministry Training & Expanded Outreach Phases, and 3220 verses in the Gospels are devoted to the Leadership Multiplication Phase.
What was Jesus doing during those final fifteen months to prepare His disciples to lead and multiply the movement upon His eventual departure? Multiplication was already happening during this time. In Matthew 10, we see Jesus sending out the Twelve two by two from village to village, teaching, preaching, healing and casting out demons. Then, in Luke 10, we see Jesus sending out the SeventyTwo two by two from village to village, teaching, preaching, healing and casting out demons. Jesus has even identified Three among the Twelve as His primary leaders for the movement: Peter, James and John. What was Jesus doing with them to prepare them to be leaders among the Twelve (see: Transfiguration)?
Who are your Three? Who are you intentionally investing in to multiply your life and ministry? What are you doing to prepare these disciple-makers to become disciple-making movement leaders? Are you giving ministry away?
So, where are you at in the process of building a disciple-making ministry? Our simple 5 Phase Ministry Assessment can help you discern that. And where do you go from here?
- Follow along with the Sonlife blog series on the 5 Phases.
- Connect with a Sonlife Team Member for personal coaching and to jump into one of our Strategy Cohorts.
- Look for a Strategy Seminar in your region, or ask us about hosting a Strategy Seminar at your church.