Breaking Up with the Groups/Discipleship Pastor

One of my mentors, Brad Waggoner, recently told me that he noticed a major shift in church ministry in the early ’90s when “senior pastors of churches broke up with their discipleship pastors/ministers of education and ran off with the worship pastor.”

Of course, a senior pastor does not need to choose between the two. Both the worship ministry and the discipleship ministry of a church are vitally important to the health of the church and the maturation of believers.

But in many cases, the senior pastor has left the groups/discipleship pastor. In many contexts, love for the discipleship ministries of the church has grown cold. The big gathering, with her flashing lights and carefully designed stage, has been a seductress to some.

And this is tragic. It is tragic because God matures His people in biblical community. It is tragic because the ministry of a church must be much more than a gathering on Sunday.

How do you know if your heart has left the discipleship ministries of your church? Perhaps these questions will help:

  • Do you spend disproportionately more time in conversations about the weekend worship service than about the discipleship process at your church?
  • Do you know what is being taught in your groups or classes?
  • Do you treat the teaching your people receive outside of Sunday—teaching done by others—with the same concern you view “the weekend”?
  • Is it enough to “have groups” or do you want your groups built on the solid foundation of the Word?

A church exists to make disciples. Clearly this mission includes the worship gatherings, and it definitely goes beyond them.

Please note I am not suggesting “the weekend gatherings are not important” or advocating senior pastors “break up with their worship leaders.” Nor am I saying that discipleship does not occur in worship gatherings as the Word is taught and people are brought into the presence of Jesus. I am, however, saying that it is tragically unhealthy when the discipleship ministries of a church are minimized and neglected.