Mark Dever – Centrality of the Church in Disciple Making from the Desiring God Conference 2013 – Session 1 – The Disciple Making Pastor

mark dever

Mark Dever from from February 4, 2013 TEXT – Matthew 28:18-20

 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

1. Preach God’s Word

  • Don’t think that making disciples is something that merely happens in sort of one on one meetings. The most fundamental way you make disciples in your local church is by preaching.
  • There is only one thing that is biblically necessary for building the church and that’s the word of God.
  • The Gospel is God’s way of giving life to dead sinners and to dead churches.
  • God’s word is His supernatural power for accomplishing His supernatural work. That’s why our eloquence, our innovations, our programs are so much less important than we think. That’s why we, as pastors have to give ourselves to preaching, not programs.

2. Pray

  • Devote so much time to prayer that nominal Christians are bored by talking to a God they only claim to know.
  • Diligently call upon God by prayer for the true understanding of His word.

3. Make Personal Disciple Relationships
4. Have Patience
(see notes below video)

Centrality of the Church in Disciple-Making from Desiring God

What does it mean for us to make disciples?

In (this) Session 1 I want to talk about the disciple making pastor. And, in
Session II I want to talk about the disciple making church (coming soon)
We’re going to be looking at similar things, same goal, but, slightly different perspectives.

The disciple making pastor. What is Gospel ministry about? If it’s not about making disciples. If someone were to look at your ministry and ask you, „How do you see the Lord, using your ministry to make disciples?” How would you answer that? What do you see?

1 Peter 5:1-4 – So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Many of you read this passage, no doubt. We understand and see the weight of it. Now, the subject of the ministry should interest any Christian. Anything that gives us examples of how to follow our Lord Jesus Christ, and Pastors we see are supposed to be examples. Anything helps us if we’re Christians. And, if we’re really Christians, we want to follow Christ. And, we’re anxious to get anything that will help us do that. Even though, more than merely Christians, I think this topic is one that is especially interesting to church members.

Normally, we can assume that Christians know that they should be church members and they are. And, for church members, few topics can be more significant than what those who lead them are commanded by God’s word to do, for God’s glory and for their own good.

If we are the one who normally preaches at our church, we need to understand, we need to have unique opportunities as we teach the word from week to week. What a privilege, what a special burden the Lord gives us. I love those weekends where I don’t preach. And, I love those weekends where I preach. I want us to, at this time, consider some practical faithfulnesses that you, brother Pastor are especially called to pastor your church. But, before we do that, let’s make sure we notice these few verses in 1 Peter 5. I think it’s clearly there in verse 4, where Peter writes about Jesus Christ as chief shepherd. He is the senior pastor. He is the Chief shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd. You can tell, because good leaders, the good shepherd lays down His life for His sheep, as we read in John 10. So, brothers, if you’ve come to this conference weary, take hope from verse 4. „when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. That will never fade away.

The ancient Greeks saw pelicans beating it’s breast with its beak and they thought that the pelican was plucking its breast to feed its young with its own blood. The early Christians adopted this as a picture of what Christ has done for Christians. That He has fed us and given us life, by giving us His own blood, by giving us Himself, for us. This is what a good leader, a good shepherd, a good pastor does. He lays down His life for the sheep. We’ve read of pastors doing this, we have biographies in the book store. We’ve heard of pastors doing this. We’ve seen pastors doing this, in imitation of Christ. But, brothers, these are the years, the days, and your church is the place where you must do this. I want to share with you some reflections on 4 crucial aspects of the ministry of the disciple making pastor. (12:32)

4 crucial aspects of the ministry of the disciple making pastor

1. Preaching God’s Word

preacherDon’t think that making disciples is something that merely happens in sort of one on one meetings. The most fundamental way you make disciples in your local church is by preaching. That is the most fundamental ministry God has entrusted to you: giving God’s word to God’s people. There is only one thing that is biblically necessary for building the church and that’s the word of God. Others, can do pretty much everything else, but, I was set aside by the congregation for the teaching of God’s word. The word of God would be the fountain of our spiritual life, both as individuals and as a congregation. God’s word has always been His chosen instrument to create, and convict, and convert, and conform His people. God uses His word to create faith. As we go through the New testament, we see this.

~~1 Thessalonians 2:13 – when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. So, the word performs God’s word in the believer. Or,
~~Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. God’s word gives us new birth. James advises in
~~James 1:21 –  and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. The word saves us. Peter, also claims regenerating power for God’s word-
~~1 Peter 1:23 – since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 1:25 And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

So, there is creating, conforming, life giving power in God’s word. The Gospel is God’s way of giving life to dead sinners and to dead churches. Friends, many of us are called to go to a church that is orthodox on paper, and dead in practice. There is no other way. This is what God does. He creates His people by His word. If you want to work for renewed life, and health, and holiness for your church, then you must work according to God’s revealed mode of operation. Otherwise, you risk running in vain. God’s word is His supernatural power for accomplishing His supernatural work. That’s why our eloquence, our innovations, our programs are so much less important than we think. That’s why we, as pastors have to give ourselves to preaching, not programs. That’s why we need to be teaching our congregations to value God’s word over programs.

Preaching the content and intent is what God used to call His people and build His church in the past. It is what God uses today to build His church. So, preaching His word, His Gospel is primary. Practically, one thing that means for Pastors is – if you want to know what the heart of your public ministry is- it’s your private study. The heart of your pastoral ministry is when you are giving yourself to God’s word in private. To poring over it, studying it, praying for God’s Spirit to give you eyes to see. Praying for the people He has called you to preach His word to. You must give yourself to the study of God’s word.  What did Paul say to Timothy? 2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. We must teach our congregations that this is our job description. (19:00)

2. Prayer

man prayingThe second aspect of a disciple making ministry is prayer. In your personal life, pray. In your homes, pray. In your meetings with others, pray. In your public services, devote so much time to prayer that nominal Christians are bored by talking to a God they only claim to know. Don’t worry about them. Don’t try to pitch your times together so nominal Christians will like, you will kill your church. You want to be a disciple making pastor? Pray to God, unashamedly, publicly. Lead your people into praying to God. Show them how to pray to God, by your own example of praying. You want to attract real Christians and hungry non Christians.

Diligently call upon God by prayer for the true understanding of His word. So that you may be able to teach and exhort by the Scriptures with wholesome doctrine and to withstand and convince those who oppose the truth. Prayer shows our dependance on God. It honors Him as the source of all blessing. It reminds us that ultimately converting individuals and churches is His work, not ours. Jesus reassures us that if we abide in Him, and if His words abide in us, that we can ask anything, according to His will and know that He will give it to us.  What a promise! Are you seeing that in your church? (22:00)

Okay, what then shall we pray for, if that’s the case?

  1. What more appropriate prayer could a pastor pray for the church he serves than the prayer of Paul for the churches that Paul planted? Just look through the New Testament: Ephesians 1, 3 Philippians 1, Colossians 1, 2 Thessalonians 1. Allow these prayers to be a starting point for praying Scriptures more consistently. Instruct your church members that one of their most effective ministries is praying for you. 
  2. Pray that your preaching the Gospel would be faithful and accurate and clear.
  3. Pray for the increasing maturity of the congregation, that your local church would grow in corporate love and holiness and sound doctrine, such that the testimony of the church in the community would be distinctively pure and attractive to unbelievers.
  4. Pray for sinners to be converted, and the church built up through the preaching of the Gospel.
  5. Pray for opportunities for yourself and your church members to do personal evangelism. Model that yourself. Pray about such matters publicly in your services.

Pray personally. Model for your congregation faithfulness, in praying for your people. Your prayers don’t have to be long, just biblical. You want to give yourself to prayer. If you want to make disciples, as a pastor, preach God’s word, pray, and

3. Personal Disciple Relationships

bible study groupOne of the most biblical and valuable uses of your time as a pastor, and I realize that a pastor’s time is limited, but have personal disciple relationships in which you meet with a few people one on one to do them good spiritually. If you’re in the kind of church that’s given to gossip about the pastor having friends, you need to confront that head on. Call it carnal, jealous, ungodly, satanic. Tell them you’re a human being, you can have friends or they can fire you. I’m not joking. I really think we are responsible to teach our congregations that that is a good and Godly thing, and will be for their own benefit, even if they’re not the immediate ones that you have time to befriend. Because what will happen through your discipling relationships, your church will be built up and your whole congregation will be blessed through the mature leadership. Pray against the tendency you see to jealousy, or to gossip in this. Teach and encourage your fellow workers to join in with you in this ministry.

So, initiate personal care and concern for others, and pray God would use you to establish a culture of that in your church. Not merely a program that you can implement, a staff member responsible for it and think you’ve taken care of that. This practice of personal discipling is helpful on a number of fronts. It obviously is a good thing for the person being discipled, because they’re getting biblical encouragement and advice from someone a little further along in terms of the life stages or their walk with the Lord. In this way, I think discipling can help to function through another channel in which the word can flow into the hearts of the members and get worked out in the context of personal fellowship.

It’s good for the one who disciples as well, because it encourages you to think of discipling not as something that super christians do, but it’s something that, if you’ve been a christian for 2 weeks, you’ve got something to say to someone who just came to Christ yesterday. It’s part and parcel of your own discipleship to help other people follow Christ. Members need to know that spiritual maturity is not only about their own private quiet times, but about their love for other believers and their quiet expression about that love. It promotes this culture of growing a distinctively christian community in which people are loving one another, not simply as the world loves, but as followers of Christ, who are together trying to understand and live out the implications of what Jesus commanded His disciples, there in Matthew 28- that we are to live our lives in love for God and others. These kinds of relationships help both spiritual and numerical growth of a church.

Another healthy byproduct of your own personal discipling is that other members of your church- you will find that it helps dissolve resistance to your pastoral leadership, as you are there with individuals, trying to help them. Developing these kinds of relationships establishes personal knowledge of yourself, which is so helpful in nurturing personal trust of your character and your motive, and growing an appropriate level of your leadership among the congregation. Brother Pastor, pray for sheep who want shepherds, who want to be pastored and loved, and cared for.

4. Patience

Brothers, run at a pace the congregation can keep.

  1. patienceHave a biblical perspective on time. You’re there for the long haul.
  2. Have a biblical perspective on eternity. As Pastors, we will one day be held accountable by God for the way we’ve led and fed His lambs. All our ways are before Him. He will know if we’ve used the congregation simply to build a career for ourselves. He will know if we’ve led them, or left them prematurely for our own convenience and benefit. He will know if we drove the sheep too hard. Shepherd the flock in a way that you won’t be ashamed of on the day of the Lord. Colossians 3 „Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”
  3. Have a biblical perspective on success. Brothers be careful. If you define success in terms of size, and your desire for numerical growth will probably outrun your patience with the congregation, and perhaps even your fidelity to biblical methods. Either your ministry among your people will be cut short- I mean, you’ll be fired- or you’ll resort to methods to draw a crowd without preaching the true gospel. You will trip over the hurdle of your own ambitions. But, if you define success in terms of faithfulness, then you’re in a position to persevere, because you’re released from the demand of immediately observable results  are freeing you for faithfulness in Gospel ministry, to whatever the message would call us to, leaving the numbers to the Lord. It seems ironic at first, but, trading in size for faithfulness as the yardstick for success is often the yardstick for legitimate numerical growth.

God is happiest, it seems, to entrust His flock to those who shepherd in that way. Confidence to christian ministry does not  come from personal competence or charm or charisma, or experience. Nor does it come from having the right programs in place, or jumping on the band wagon  of the latest ministry fad. It doesn’t even come from getting a degree from seminary. Much like Joshua, our confidence is to be in the presence and the power and the promises of God.

More specifically, confidence for becoming and being a pastor comes from depending on the power of the Holy Spirit to make us adequate through the equipping ministry of God’s word. 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. And, how does the Spirit make us adequate? What instrument does He use? God’s word. 2 Timothy 3;16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, The one thing necessary is the power of God’s word. That’s why preaching and prayer will always be paramount, no matter what fads top the charts. Stake your ministry on the power of the Gospel. Success is faithfulness in these matters.


Preach, and pray. Love, and stay. One day, before the American Revolution, there was a day of remarkable gloom and darkness. There was an eclipse over the New England states., known for years afterwards, simply as ‘the dark day’. A day when the light of the sun was slowly extinguished. The legislature of Connecticut was in session, and as its members saw the unexpected and unaccountable darkness coming on, they shared in a general awe and terror. It was supposed by many that this was the last day, that the day of judgment had come. And someone, in consternation, moved and adjournment. And then, there arose an old Puritan legislator, a Mr. Davenport of Stanford, and said that if the last day had come, he desired to be found in his place, doing his duty. And, therefore moved that candles should be brought in, so that the house could proceed with its duty. I think there was a quietness in that man’s mind. The quietness of heavenly wisdom, an inflexible wisdom to obey present duty. Pastor friend, you and I should do our duty, in all things, like this old Puritan. We can’t do more. We should never wish to do less. The ministry has private discouragements, and public discouragements aplenty. And God’s kindness to it, often has compensating blessings in this life.

One day, these clouds will be rolled back like a scroll. Live and minister in light of that day.

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