A Culture of Disciple-Making

Surrounded by spiritual darkness, people seek the light of a healthy local church. Yet, that is impossible without trained urban pastors and church leaders. 95% of pastors around the world have no formal ministry training.

According to Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, every business should have a long-term goal that changes the very nature of a business' existence. This is called a Big Hairy Audacious Goal” or BHAG.

World Impact has a BHAG, but we put our own spin on it by calling it our “Big Holy Audacious Goal.” Our BHAG is to see a healthy church in every community of poverty by focusing on hub, culture-influencing cities.

When I share World Impact’s BHAG, I get two primary reactions: Jaw-dropping shock and awe that we would chase a dream so big, or eye-rolling “go figure” as if to say here is just another Christian organization claiming something unrealistic. From my perspective this goal is very realistic if we follow the model Christ laid out.   

One of my mentors instilled in me the idea of disciple-making being the currency of God’s Kingdom and the key to lives being changed. At the end of His earthly life, Jesus said, “do what I have done” (John 14:12), “walk as I have walked” (1 John 2:6), and “follow my example” (John 12:5). One of the last commands he left us with was to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

If we are going to see the Gospel spread and transform urban communities, we need to embrace Jesus’ disciple-making way of life. I’ve seen it happen. One of the legacies of the small, urban church I planted and pastored in Cincinnati from 2000-2007 was a vibrant missions ministry. It was not a formal program, but was woven into the fabric of the church.

I intentionally recruited people to help me start the church. I selected those who caught the vision and showed leadership potential to be my apprentices. Once she or he proved their character, competence, and commitment as an apprentice, I began to formally train them. Once trained, I gave them defined leadership roles that their skill set could handle. As they matured they often moved on to lead other ministries.

The disciple-making efforts of my local church influenced a church planter in Boston, two associate pastors serving in the Cincinnati area, an orphanage worker in Kosovo, a mission worker in Poland, and an urban missionary in East Palo Alto, California. I saw urban Kingdom expansion by simply taking disciple-making seriously!

What does it look like to follow that principle as an organization? We have one focus—making effective ministry training affordable and accessible. We use a “train the trainer” model by coming alongside leaders in communities of poverty with programs designed to meet their unique needs. The highway to a healthy church in every community of poverty is paved with these contagious, intentional relationships. Every believer is called to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Christ has shown the way and all we need to do is follow Him. 

Read more from Dr. Alvin Sanders. 

Purchase Alvin's book, Uncommon Church.