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November 14, 2021
Ron Miller

Too often we think of disciple-making as evangelism.

It is that, but it is necessarily much more. Christ made it clear in the Great Commission that disciple-making includes “teaching them to observe all I have commanded you.”

One of the core strategic focuses of the East White Oak mission team is training national leaders and teachers. Developing church leaders is a strategic need and the key to strengthening the Church. Training church leadership is an urgent priority, probably one of the most important spiritual issues throughout the world. Even the lack of Biblical understanding in the US church is concerning. The availability of Bibles, Bible studies, teaching, and many study aids has not seemed to help this lack of biblical literacy. The great disconnect is whether most people read with the intent to understand and apply the Word to their lives, or simply to add to their list of accomplishments. It is important to reach the lost and unengaged people and churches around the world. They need teaching and help in understanding and applying the Word. The Holy Spirit is the one who ultimately does the instruction, but new believers need help to make the Word relevant to their lives. God may be calling some of you to help with this need.

My first experience in Zimbabwe was with Pastor Jeff and Pastor Walt in 2008. We taught at pastor conferences and trainings hosted by Jabulani Mudenda. It was an eye opening and life changing trip. Prior to this I had been on many mission trips, but most were work trips. I had very little direct contact or impact on the nationals. There is nothing wrong with work trips. I recommend you take the opportunity to do that if you have the chance! But to spend time teaching and training, then sitting down to fellowship and discussing scripture afterwards, was totally different. The opportunity to connect personally and spiritually, plus to build relationships with brothers in Christ, to challenge and be challenged in the word, was very enjoyable and challenging.

In Matthew 28:20 Jesus does not merely say, “teach them all I have commanded you.” He says, “teach them to observe (to keep, to do, to obey, to apply in their life) all I have commanded you.” In other words, do not just fill their heads with information. But teach them in such a way that their lives are utterly transformed. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will test and approve what God’s will is.” We do not just practice sin control, but we are changed from the inside out. We strive to live our lives glorifying God and worthy of our calling as sons and daughters.

Leadership training is a priority because when leaders are transformed their teaching is transformational. Those that teach are commanded not only to teach but to teach in a way that reproduces teachers. This is important. New churches among the peoples of the world do not just need to be well taught. They need indigenous teachers that come from being well taught. These teachers, without depending on missionaries, can teach true biblical text. Then they are able to show that true meaning to others with compelling explanation and convicting application in their own life context and culture. There is a way to teach the Bible that keeps people perpetually dependent on the teacher. And there is a way to study and teach the Bible that turns them into self-replenishing teachers. Folks can teach without foreign dependence. Too many missionary teachings in the past have kept the students dependent on the missionary. They need to take ownership and work through the text themselves.

So, we ask ourselves: Are we observing all that Jesus has commanded us? And are we willing to share with others what God has taught us? This is the “Great Commission” – to help not only lead folks to Christ but go much further with them. We seek to disciple them to fall in love with the Savior and live a life glorifying Him and building His Kingdom, not our own.