“Equipping the saints (members) to fulfill their calling and Godly gifts and talents.”
Mt. 28:19 (“…and teach them…”)
The empowerment of our members is clearly stated as part of our vision: “We see a church accessible to all people, celebrating our unity and God given diversity, empowering our members for caring and transforming our communities to the glory of God.” One of the main reasons why believers are called upon to come to a church service, is for the purpose of empowerment.
Empowerment is inherently part of the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Mt. 28:19) The making of disciples implies empowerment. In a time when basic knowledge about Kingdom principles and being followers of Christ has become very limited and shallow, the AFM needs to emphasise the importance of empowerment.
A key-Scripture in this regard is Ephesians 4:11+12: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Also 1 Cor. 12: 27+28) We acknowledge these equipping-ministries. Their main task is to equip/empower the saints for their work in ministry.
It is important to create an environment and culture where “ordinary” members assume their responsibilities as “full-time” members of the body of Christ. Each member must realise that they are equally called by God and has a particular gift(s) to fulfill their ministry. It is these members who live and work in our modern-day market-places. They must be empowered and mandated to be witnesses of Christ near and far. The missional purpose and dimension of our empowerment is unmistakable.
In empowering our members we will do best by following Jesus’s way of empowering His disciples. He first spent time in teaching them. This was followed by showing them the “how to”. He then proceeded by making them part of the ministry – eg. the multiplication of the fish and bread. The next step was to send them out to minister by themselves. (Luke 9:1+2) When they failed or made mistakes, He corrected them – eg. the son with the evil spirits. (Mark 9:14-29) This is where the important responsibility of mentorship and coaching comes in. When their training was completed, He made sure that they were filled with the Holy Spirit before they were send into the world. (Luke 21:49, Acts 1:8) Then they must repeat this process with new converts. (Mt. 28:19 and 2Tim. 2:2)
Empowerment takes place in different ways and on different levels. It must always be remembered that the main purpose of our empowerment is to develop true disciples, apostolic agents who are able to fulfill the Missio Dei – the Mission of God. We must steer away from the age-old tradition of seeing members as mere laity and pastors being the “called ones”. Every member must know that they are just as much called by God and that they are called to be witnesses of Christ through their lives and work. They are equally and “full-time” part of the body of Christ.
Teach members to follow Jesus and become more like Jesus.
Produce a Christlike character in all members.
“Discipleship means the lifelong process of spontaneous and intentional learning, training, growth and development during which the believer, through the working of the Holy Spirit, increasingly and authentically demonstrates more and more of Jesus Christ in his/her life.”
“A personal follower of Jesus Christ during his/her life.”
1 Cor. 11:1
2 Cor 3:18
Discipleship is inextricably linked to the Great Commission and therefore of great importance as strategic focus in our One AFM Game Plan. Let the words of Jesus again resonate in our ears: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Math. 28:19) The Great Commission goes further than preaching the Gospel and making converts. Those converts must be discipled. If not, we have not properly given execution to Jesus’s commission.
Being a true missional church presupposes true disciples, just as church-members who are true disciples implicates a missional church. There cannot be one without the other.
One has to be a disciple yourself to make disciples. (1 Cor. 11:1) This implies that one has accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour. There are many who admire Jesus as the supreme example and noblest expression of perfect humanity (eg. Mohandas Ghanddi), but you can only become a disciple of Jesus if He has become your Saviour/Redeemer. Discipling begins with redemption.
The essence of discipling is to internalise the character and mind of Christ, in other words, to spontaneously portray more and more of Him – more of His love, His life and His power. (Gal. 4:19)
Discipleship implies empowerment. It is also the reason why new converts desperately need to be baptised in the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8) A Spirit-controlled life spontaneously produces Christlike qualities. (2 Cor. 3:18) That is part of the fruit of the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22)
Our failure to produce true disciples of Christ, may be the one major shortcoming of the church and is likely the reason why our country have such unacceptable levels of social, sexual and personal evils and injustices – in spite of such a high percentage of Christians. There are many nominal Christians but much fewer disciples of Christ.
The church and its ministries cannot save people – only God can do that. We are however commissioned by God to produce disciples, personal followers of Christ and lead them to maturity. (Ephesians 4:12). This happens through preaching and teaching, through the exemplary lives of leaders, through mentoring and coaching which takes place in the context of true and genuine relationships. Producing true disciples of Jesus is a major challenge – from our smallest assemblies to our mega-churches.
Every AFM member is called to be a witness of Christ!
“Be” church beyond the “church building”.
Members are called to be witnesses of Christ.
Members are called to actively represent Christ in their communities.
Members fully realise they are Kingdom agents.
“A missional church is a church where every member consider themselves an active member of the body of Christ, called and sent by God to be light and salt wherever they come.”
The term MISSIONAL is a new word but it is vital to understand the real meaning as this is not merely one of the strategic focuses of the AFM, it is the foundation on which our strategic plan is built. Being missional is the reason for our existence, the DNA of our church and our conclusive redemptive purpose. While the word “missional” itself was not used or known during our early years, first generation AFM members were however truly missional in their daily living. It’s even engraved in our name.
We need to rediscover and re-align ourselves to the Great Commission of Our Lord Jesus Christ: Mt 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Mark 16:15: “And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” John 20:21: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
To be a missional church, three truths need to be emphasized:
1 – God is really the Great Missionary. He is the first “Sender” and also the first “Sent One” – “For God so loved the world, that He gave…” (John 3:16) The theological term is: Missio Dei – meaning the Mission of God. This is the summary and sum-total of God’s redemptive work. The Father sent His Son; the Father and the Son sent the Spirit; the Father, Son and Spirit sent the church. In the Gospel of John alone, nearly forty times we read about Jesus being sent. In John 20:21 Jesus sees himself not only as one sent but also as one who is sending: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you”. It is vital that we, the church, should see ourselves – both individually and collectively – as sent by a Missionary-God. It is important to realise that the Great Commission of Jesus was not given to a selected few, to a committee or to some “missionary-minded” people in the church, but to the whole body of believers – no believer is excluded!
2 – Missional church versus “attractional” church. (Seeker-sensitive) The church service is not supposed to be the primary connecting point with those outside the church – especially in a post-Christendom context. While there is nothing wrong with attracting people to church and being friendly and sensitive to seekers, the missional church is more concerned about sending the people in the church out among the people of the world, rather than getting the people of the world in among the people of the church. Its primary challenge is not to get more people in the church(building), but to get more church amongst the people of the world. The market place instead of the church-service becomes the main connecting point with the unsaved. Our “come and see” approach much change to “go and be“.
The major part of Jesus’s ministry was not church/temple-bound and did not take place in the temple or synagogues:
1 – He called His disciples – not in the temple or from amongst the theologians and religious leaders, but at there workplace – while fishing and collecting taxes. – (Math 4:19, Luke 5:27+28)
2 – His greatest teaching on the Kingdom (the Sermon on the mount) was delivered not in the temple but on a mountain side. (Math. 5-7)
3 – Many of His miracles took place in people’s houses and along the way.
4 – He visited the places where sorrow and hurt abound – Bethesda. (John 5:1-8)
5 – He bowed down and embraced little children in the streets of Jerusalem. (Math. 19:13-15)
6 – He was kind to sinners but harsh towards religious hypocrisy. (Math. 23:1-39)
7 – He didn’t shy away from parties – Cana. (John 2:1-12)
8 – He even joined some on the job – (Luke 5:1-6)
9 – He did some cross-border mission work and dared to enter a foreign country with strong occultic practices, where a demon possessed maniac ruled and the people begged Him to leave. (Mark 5:1-20)
10 – He touched the untouchables (lepers) and loved the unlovable (tax-collectors – Luke 5:12+13)
11 – He ignored cultural, gender and racial boundaries (Samaritan woman at the well – John 4:1-10)
12 – He socialized with the sinners – was called “a friend of sinners and tax-collectors, a winebibber and glutton.” (Math. 11:19) These were the kind of people He mixed with.
The attractional model works relatively well where the general culture is religiously inclined – like in many parts of Africa. The Western culture is however post-Christian and the attractional model has by and large lost its appeal and effectiveness. There is an increasing divide/rift between “church” and “world.” In Christ God (the Word) “has become flesh”. We call it “incarnation”. Being “missional” implies that Christians (the church) in a derived sense will become Christ “incarnated” in our communities. (This can also serve as a further definition of a missional believer.)
3. Being a Missional Church implies that we are actively participating in the Missio Dei, or mission of God.
Many times we wrongly assume that the primary activity of God is in the church, rather than recognizing that God’s primary activity is in the world, and the church is God’s instrument sent into the world to participate in His redemptive mission. There are basically three kinds of churches today: 1 – Churches who have no interest or involvement in winning the lost; 2 – Churches with a missions program; 3 – Missional churches. This key distinction clarifies the difference between a church with a missions program and a missional church. A church with a missions program usually sees missions as one activity alongside many other equally important programs of the church. A missional church, on the other hand, focuses all of its activities around its participation in God’s agenda for the world. All activities of the church must be focused on and organized around the missio Dei. If the church be compared to a wheel, missions is not a spoke of the wheel – it is the hub, the cone of the wheel. Everything should be connected to it.
It is the Missio Dei/God’s mission that calls the church into existence. In other words, we can no longer see the church as the starting point when thinking about mission. Instead, the church must be seen as the result of God’s mission. In the words of South African missiologist David Bosch: “It is not the church which undertakes mission; it is God’s mission which constitutes the church.” Or stated in a slightly different manner; “it is not so much that God has a mission for his church in the world, but that God has a church for his mission in the world” (Christopher Wright)
Integrity. Integrity is about genuineness and truth. It is about wholeness of character. As spiritual leaders you and I must be the first to display integrity. We cannot teach it if we don’t live it. Our ministry must show it. We must “walk the talk”. God can do much for an unholy person – but for a hypocrite He can do nothing. Our services must be genuine. Our lives must be genuine. Believers may fail in many ways, but when integrity is compromised, nothing can make up for it.
Relationships. Strongly attached to integrity are relationships – deep genuine relationships. We have emerged from a racially segregated past and, given the racial tensions which are again coming to the fore in our country, it is essential that we should strengthen and nurture our God-given unity. Our relationships with family members, colleagues and church members, is of the utmost importance. It is not possible to build a healthy church without in-depth relationships. Please demonstrate this and teach it to your people.
Accountability. I am sure you would like to see this quality in your members. But again, it starts with our leaders. We are not isolated individuals with no responsibility toward one another. As believers we are firstly responsible to God, but the fact is that the Bible also clearly spells out our responsibility to one another. In a time when individualism is highly prized, in the church accountability is not negotiable. Ignoring this, leads to self-destruction. We must rightly understand authority. God has placed authority structures in marriage, family, church and the state. Everyone must be held accountable by someone somewhere. Also, you cannot have authority if you are not under authority.
Excellence. Do we believe that everything we do we must do as unto the Lord? Do our personal lives and our ministry testify to this? As leaders we are ultimately responsible for excellence in our church and our services. It is a value that we need to teach and to demonstrate to our people. Poverty is no excuse for the absence of excellence. Excellence must be our intention and our attitude. Mediocrity is not good enough.