My primary purpose is to secure as much glory for Jesus Christ by equipping and encouraging His saints to aspire to greatness in the Kingdom of God and to obtain as much treasure in Heaven as possible (2 Corinthians 11:2; 1 Corinthians 7:35; Matthew 6:19-34; Colossians 3:1-4; 1 John 2:15-17).
The fellowship of believers is called a household in multiple places in Scripture (Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 2:19; 1Timothy 3:15; 1Peter 4:17), and its leaders are expected to be men who know how to manage their own families well, otherwise how will they know how to take care of God’s church (1Timothy 3:4-5)? So over the years, I have taken inspiration from parenting for ideas on discipleship and taken techniques of discipleship into my parenting.
First, I recognize that I do not lead for the sake of my own comfort and preferences, but I am directly under Christ and responsible to Him for whatever I do, whether leading a fellowship or leading in my family (1Corinthians 11:3; 2Corinthians 5:10-15; Hebrews 13:17; 1Peter 4:1-2). My first responsibility is to know Christ and learn to walk in His ways, because not only must I teach others by word, but I must also set an example for them to follow (1Corinthians 11:1; Hebrews 13:7-8; 1Peter 5:1-4). Indeed, to truly know Christ and understand all He has taught so that I can teach it accurately, I must first walk in obedience to all He teaches (John 14:21).
Second, I recognize that everyone I lead, I must lead toward Christ. It is my sacred duty to prepare and present everyone under my responsibility mature and blameless before Christ (2Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-27; Philippians 2:14-16). I must know Christ, who is the model of every individual’s spiritual maturity, and I must know each person entrusted to my care. I need to know where we each should end up, and I need to know where each person is in their growth, to discern what steps they need to take next. What are their gifting and strengths? What are their weaknesses and challenges? How can they be encouraged and helped to overcome challenges? How can they develop and use their gifting and strengths? In raising up believers, there is need for gentleness, for sharing of life, for upright engagement, and for exhorting and imploring godliness (1Thessalonians 2:7-12). I must ultimately hand everyone over to Christ, for His glory and joy; I want Him to be pleased with my efforts.
To that end, my chief aim is to teach everyone to read the Bible for themselves daily, to listen to what it says and to put it into practice, especially heads of households, who can then better train their own families to walk with God (Genesis 18:17-19). That is the context within which I desire to fellowship and teach, that I might be able to preach to Biblically-literate people, who can like the Bereans (Acts 17:10-11) keep me accountable and safe, as surely as I desire to instruct them accurately. Over the years I’ve come to the conviction that it is not enough to be able to search the Bible for proof-texts, but it is necessary to be familiar with and submitted to the whole Bible in order to guard against seeking only those verses that support a particular teaching and missing those verses that balance that teaching or correct an erroneous understanding.
The biggest challenge to that goal is the idea that the Bible is difficult for the average person to understand. I do not believe that. Difficult to accept and submit to, yes, but not difficult to understand. To show the contrary, I lead small groups and individuals to read the Bible and see what it says, see that they can understand it, though they might need some coaching to stick with the text. I also make an effort in my preaching and teaching to confine myself to the text and its plain meaning, using cross references only to establish or expand on the teaching of the text. I do not want to create an unhealthy dependence on me to know what is True, but a right dependence on the Word of God. My purpose is to build the believer’s confidence in their ability to understand and apply God’s Word to their life.
My goal is to help every believer establish and grow in their relationship with Christ. The Scriptures and obedience to them are the key to that growth (John 14:21). Open, honest, transparent, genuine, reciprocal fellowship is the other side of the coin (1John 1:1-10; 2Corinthians 6:11-13). Building relationships takes time, and knowing another person, including God, well takes even longer. I do not believe in short-cuts, but in disciplined, diligent, faithful pursuit of Christ by growing in familiarity with, trust in and obedience to all He has revealed to us (2Timothy 3:16-17; 2Peter 1:16-21; Deuteronomy 29:29). We are called to pursue Him together in humble, teachable community, each member using his or her gifts to build up every other member into the maturity of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16). The local church was never meant to be a one-man show or even a few-man show; rather, faithful men are called to lead and equip the whole congregation for the work of ministry.