Dr Leigh Rice is an experienced pastor and church leader. He currently serves as Team Leader of Discipleship Ministries for the South Pacific Division (SPD), based in Wahroonga, New South Wales. The Discipleship Ministries Team (DMT) brings together a number of the Church’s ministries and departments for a greater focus on discipleship. As part of this strategic focus, the DMT has supported the publication of two books—Mission Shift and Following Jesus—among other resources. Dr Rice talks about discipleship and books.
Why has discipleship been recognised as such a strategic and spiritual focus for the Church in this part of the world?
Jesus commanded his church to “go and make disciples of all nations” (see Matthew 28: 19) and the South Pacific Division has taken this command seriously. Our mission is to “call” all people to become disciples of Jesus Christ, to “proclaim” the everlasting gospel and to “prepare” people for the soon return of Jesus. Strategically, the SPD is prioritising disciple-making, maximising the use of media and health ministry with a focus on the big cities with populations over one million where the Church has been less effective in making disciples.
How are books valuable resources for discipleship and spiritual growth?
The Bible and other Christian writings have always been valuable in giving instruction and insights into discipleship and the disciplines that help Christians to grow their spiritual life. Most of us learn from the spiritual journeys of both the Bible characters and earlier Christian leaders.
Why are these two book projects—Mission Shift and Following Jesus—important to the focus of the SPD’s Discipleship Ministries Team?
The Discipleship Ministries Team at SPD has supported the printing of two new books on discipleship written by leaders from the South Pacific. The two volumes have very different focuses. One gives a biblical rationale for the local church to focus on disciple-making. The other is an opportunity for the reader to explore the pattern of Jesus in making disciples. DMT sees the study of these books as a catalyst for a renewal of the early Adventist movements that focused on making disciples and planting churches.
What has caught your team’s attention with Mission Shift?
Mission Shift considers the challenges facing the Church in the developed world and gives a biblical basis for a refocusing the local church on discipleship making. Kayle de Waal shares great insights from the writings of Ellen White and contemporary research. Mission Shift is a good read for all local church leaders and may help a church board to refocus the church for disciple making.
Peter Roennfeldt has become a significant teacher of disciple-making process and principles throughout the Pacific. What does his book add to that work?
Following Jesus is an in-depth chronological reading guide of the life of Jesus, which reveals Jesus’ approach to making disciples and building the foundations for the early Christian movement. This book is a great opportunity for members to re-discover the life of Jesus. A group at the SPD office is finding a great blessing in sharing insights from their reading together.
How will your team know if this focus and work on discipleship has been successful?
We will know that we have had success when church members move from talking about the Great Commission and actually begin making disciples. New disciples will create a need for planting new churches and, as new disciples become more like Jesus Christ, societies will be transformed. Where there are more disciples across the South Pacific, there will be more kindness and honesty, and less corruption and family-based violence.
Authors Peter Roennfeldt and Kayle de Waal are speaking as part of the One Project 1:1 on August 12 at Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong. For more information and to register, visit the1project.org/gatherings/avondale-1-1-2017.