In the New Zealand Pacific Union Conference we see discipleship as the core element shaping all other ministries. Where in the past our focus might have been on programs, training events and resources, we realised a shift needed to take place. Discipleship is more than a program, a seminar or training event. Rather it informs, shapes and drives how we do ministry. It means that every ministry is held up against the values of the discipleship framework to ascertain how effective it is in leading people to become growing disciples of Jesus.
NZPUC model of discipleship
Our search for greater understanding of discipleship started with re-reading and studying the ministry of Jesus. For Jesus lies at the heart of Christian discipleship. Jesus’ invitations involved first getting to know Him, living with Him, and growing in knowledge and appreciation of His purposes. In travelling that journey with Jesus, His followers deepened their commitment and were transformed into passionate witnesses.
Our understanding is that this journey is not static but it is a dynamic, living experience of continuous growing in Christ. Our circular model is represented by these four elements with Jesus at the core.
Knowing is the personal discovery and transformation that comes about by experiencing the presence of Jesus. This occurred when Simon was transformed into Peter and Thomas touched Jesus’ side (see John 8:31; John 17:3; Philippians 3:10,11).
Living is choosing a Jesus-inspired lifestyle that transforms our relationships. This took place in the life of Saul who persecuted the followers of Christ until he had a personal encounter with Christ. His relationship changed from persecutor to a passionate follower (see John 13:35; Philippians 2).
Commitment is the unconditional embracing of Jesus’ will for our lives in everything that we are, we do and we have. John made this verbal commitment at the cross when he accepted the responsibility of caring for Jesus’ mother (see Matthew 16:24).
Multiplying is the active engagement of a disciple with those who are learning to know, learning to live and growing in commitment so they may have a personal discovery and become transformed by the presence of Jesus. The Samaritan woman at the well rushed off to tell her neighbours about her experience with the Saviour (see John 15:8).
Our areas of focus
Studying the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, one can’t help but notice that once she met Jesus she couldn’t hold her joy to herself. She shared what Jesus had done for her. Please note that she didn’t have any training on witnessing, manuals or resources. She had a life-changing encounter with the Master (see Mark 1:43-45; Matthew 9:30,31; Mark 7:36; John 4:28-30).
"We believe that the most urgent need in our churches is not new resources, more training or equipping, but our members need to experience that intimate, life-changing experience with Christ."
On the other hand, an average Adventist church in New Zealand Pacific Union Conference is over resourced, over trained, over “fed” and even overfunded. These resources do not equate to a life-changing encounter. As a result, very few are passionate about sharing their journey with others.
We believe that the most urgent need in our churches is not new resources, more training or equipping, but our members need to experience that intimate, life-changing experience with Christ, just like the woman at the well. Instead of producing new resources, conducting more training or running more seminars, we intend to devote more energy to Igniting the Passion of people so they Actively Connect with God and each other and Engage in serving their communities (iPACE). This will be a major shift in the way we do ministry in the NZPUC.
Our revised focuses are shown in the graphic below.
Jesus wants His Church back
Jesus calls His Church—which has a knowledge of the truth—to come back to the essence of a true spiritual journey: discipleship. This is His formula for a relationship with Him. “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).
Jesus offers the best gift He can give. He offers Himself to us, His Church. Jesus is inviting His Church to spend time with Him so we can get to know Him. He wants to meet us just as we are, being transparent and vulnerable so He can truly bring about healing in our hearts.
By knowing Jesus intimately, we inevitably change into His image and ultimately experience eternal life.
As we connect with Jesus in these intimate ways we will produce the fruit He wants us to bear (see John 15:5).
Victor Kulakov is Discipleship Ministries leader for the New Zealand Pacific Union Conference.