Fulfilling the call to make disciples

(Photo: Getty/iStock)

Westminster Chapel saw church leaders and Christian organisations from across the UK gather for the annual Ekklesia Church Leaders Conference on Wednesday.

Pastors Chris Frost and Mark Waterfield delivered the keynote address introducing the theme for this year's conference 'In but not of' taken from John 17:14.

"We want to build churches so that if they were to disappear their loss would be felt profoundly by their local community," said Frost.

He continued: "We also want to build churches that in some fundamental ways challenge the status quo and see people freed from destructive cultural norms."

Frost went on to declare that the Church is "called out" of the world to be followers of Jesus who "live in the tension of being in but not of the world".

For Waterfield, revival is about playing the long game.

"It is going to take longer than we would like and be harder than we would think," he said.

He continued: "We want the suddenly but we struggle with the gradually. There aren't any cheat codes if we want to see change, if we want to see society transformed and see revival."

"We cannot control the suddenly, that is the work of God, but we can control the gradually, that is what we are to do."

Frost urged the conference not to give up, referencing Galatians 6:9 that at the right time a "harvest will be reaped".

He went on to say that in the effort to build the church, it is important to invest in discipleship.

Theologian and author Lucy Peppiatt led a talk on "birthing Christ in others" in which she reflected upon and analysed effective leadership and the duty leaders have to make disciples.

"It's a long process making disciples of all nations. When you look at it like that, of course it is going to take a lifetime, but this long process begins when we are born anew, birthed again as a child of God," she said.

"The leaders are the ones who are tasked with birthing Christ in others. In one sense it is only a work of the Spirit. Of course it can only be a work of the Spirit to birth us anew and make us like Christ."

Peppiatt touched on Paul's letters in the New Testament, shedding light on how he compared making disciples to childbirth.

She called Paul a "fascinating character" who "breaks the mould of so much of our models of leadership".

She also addressed the tendency for the Bible to be interpreted through a masculine guise when feminine attributes also run through Scripture.

"If rebirth is the beginning of discipleship and this is the heart of Christian living, it's no wonder really that Paul draws on birthing imagery to help him imagine what he is doing in discipling others," she said.

She continued: "Paul believed he was called to join in a process of discipling that was like parenting, that involved fatherly and motherly roles to facilitate the forming of Christ in others."