Leadership Lessons: Releasing Joy-Filled Disciples

What kind of disciples are naturally missional? Ones who are thrilled with Jesus, obviously. Who are gripped by his grace, obsessed with his wonder, amazed at his forgiveness, satisfied in his love.

(OK, I know that "missional disciples" is really a tautology. There aren't really any proper disciples who aren't. But in the UK there is a remnant of a "christendom" mentality that believes that you are a disciple because you go to church. Remember Keith Green - "going to church doesn't make you a disciple any more than going to MacDonalds makes you a hamburger. A disciple is someone who is bananas for Jesus!")

People like that can never be nominal. One of our church students said to me last week "why are there nominal evangelicals who just like attending church, hearing sermons and singing hymns? How can anyone be nominal if a man really has risen from the dead?"

She got it right. If you believe a man has risen from the dead, you can't but praise him to the world. (and you can't but delight in being with the fellowship of all the others who know him. When you hear people grumbling in church, forming factions, back-biting, you have to ask whether they know the grace of God in their lives or whether they are just nominal).

I used to do a lot of evangelism training for students. Looking back I think I would do it very differently now. I was pretty indiscriminate about who I did it with, and never asked the prior question I should have asked about any of them: are they falling more and more in love with the Lord? The thing is that if they were I didn't need to do much evangelism training, because they were going to tell people anyway. And if they weren't I could do all the evangelism training I liked and it wouldn't make much difference. They might know how to have a good conversation with someone about Jesus, but they wouldn't really want to. I would have spent my time much better with some of those students discipling them and introducing them to the joy of the Lord that flows from receiving his grace instead. 

Does the Bible connect leadership with helping disciples be full of joy in God? Yes it does. It lots and lots of places, actually. Two main ones are:


  • The end of Philippians 1 where Paul says he wants to work with the Philippi church for their progress and joy so that they will overflow with Joy in Jesus Christ
  • 2 Cor 1:24 where he says that he works with churches for their joy in God, because that is what produces firm faith

Note that connection: joy in God leads to firm faith. Why? Because knowing God closely and personally is intensely joyful. In fact the greatest joy in the universe. A joy that you will never give up for lesser joys. A joy that you will give up anything to have more of. And what is faith? It is the trust that as you do he is going to you more of himself. That is why the Bible says that the joy of the Lord is our strength.

To link this to the two previous posts, this means that disciples and communities of disciples who are exploding with inexpressible and glorious joy are naturally missional. They just can't keep it in. And they are naturally obsessed with bringing God glory through making disciples because they want everyone else to experience the same delight in the Lord that they have. 

Leaders, therefore, are given by God to help others delight themselves in the Lord. To enjoy him for ever and to enjoy him in front of a world that needs to know how marvellous he is. A church should be a community of marvelling disciples. Who then go to work on Monday morning full of that marvel, abandoned in their praising of him to the world.