Changing Course, Making Disciples

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By Brian Sharpe

Twelve years ago I was sitting in my office and realized that I had no clue how to do my job. My proverbial “bag of tricks” that I entered into ministry with was all used up. What should I teach students? How would I train my leaders? I suddenly realized I had no real idea.

So, sitting there in my office in front of my computer, I began to search for solutions. God directed my attention to the Evangelical Free Church (EFCA) website, and I looked to see what they offered on their student ministries page. They spoke of training for youth pastors. Yes, I thought, I need fresh training.

So I contacted them and asked them about training. What happened next has been one of the most influential events that has occurred in my ministry life.

I received a call from the national director of student ministries for the Evangelical Free Church of America. We set up a training event at Elim, but beyond that, he invited me to work with a team of other youth workers to help further student ministries in the EFCA in our district.

The influence of this team has changed me in more ways than I could never express in this post. It has fanned within me a flame of desire to have others speak into my life. It put me around a table with a whole group of youth workers who had been where I was and had come out on the other side.

The effect this event has had on Elim is significant as well. Not only am I a better leader because of the people I have invited to speak into my life, but I have been challenged to ensure that disciple-making becomes at the core part of what I am about in student ministries, and in turn, what we as a church are about, as well. This focus has produced a lot of conversation among the elders, staff and ministry leaders about how we can focus on disciple-making.

Martin and Nate and I, along with the Elders, have sought to keep disciple-making a focus for us at Elim. This focus gave birth to the diagnostic tool that we are calling the Three Hands of Disciple-Making. This tool helps us evaluate the relationships in our lives, with a focus on who serves as our Pauls, our Timothys and our Barnabases.

As we have gone through this Three Hands process we have discovered that Elim can celebrate a lot of people who are investing as a Paul in others. This has led to the leadership trying to focus on helping our Pauls figure out how to be better Pauls.

We have walked this path of trying to be about disciple-making with some exceptionally helpful people. One was our district superintendent, Bruce Martin. Bruce has helped us on this journey to stay focused on helping develop people’s identity in Christ. Another is Jeff Sorvik. Jeff is leading a network called the Creo Network, which focuses on helping churches live on the mission of disciple-making. In order to be engaged in Creo you have to commit to create and execute a disciple-making vision. We have joined this network and look forward to working this disciple-making vision, not on our own but with other churches.

One of the commitments we have made in joining this network is to be engaged in a cohort group that is focused on building a leadership pipeline. Martin and I are excited to be a part of this cohort and the outcomes that could come from the investment in this cohort.

We value the input of other leaders in this process. As a church we talk about not walking alone, but living this life in community, walking with others. We are trying to model this by joining with our district leadership and inviting them into what goes on at Elim, and with joining the Creo Collective.

We are excited to see what God will do at Elim as we seek to honor Him and focus on being a disciple-making church. Elim exist to be an “oasis for renewal with God and one another.” As an oasis we seek to nurture passionate followers of Jesus. (We define a “disciple” as “a passionate follower of Jesus.”) Our heart as leaders is to nurture that passion in everyone who calls Elim “home.”

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