For many people the new year is a time for reflecting on what has gone, and looking ahead, and that is true for us too. We’d like to start by bringing you up to speed with EQUIP, the name we use for our work with church leaders. Fifty leaders now meet three times a year in five centres: Chester, Hungerford, Bristol, Derby and Canterbury. At each meeting Roger and John Benson, who lead the groups, aim to share insights from their long years of experience in parish ministry.
The most recent round of meetings covered the subject of making disciples, which we believe should be a focus of all ministry. As Roger and John look back we can think of many people now following Jesus with enthusiasm – people who were not doing that when we first met them. We want our EQUIP group members to have the same experience.
We believe that a church leader who hopes to make disciples must first and foremost be a hard-working pastor, a shepherd of the sheep who knows each one intimately. This is not easy! We know that in every church there are some who do not have it in their hearts to become disciples, some who are not open to learning new things, some who are unreliable, some who simply lack the time. So in our meetings we have been talking together about whether (and how) to challenge such people. We also recognise that some church members have such hard lives that our focus must be entirely on helping them to trust God through difficult times. But we also know that in any church, in any place, there are some who will be able to devote many years to wholehearted discipleship. It is our task and our privilege to find these people and help them fulfil their potential.
Church leaders who wish to make disciples must be able to manage their time well. This means dedicating many hours to working one-on-one with many individuals. It also means that administration, important though it is, must very largely be delegated. We discussed these things in our sessions.
Disciples can only be made in churches that teach the Bible well both on Sundays and in mid-week groups. And disciples can only be made in churches which pray, which make converts, and which have an effective ministry of healing. If a church has these things, it is easy to provide all kinds of opportunities for young Christians to grow into confident disciples; if not, then it becomes hard to help people make progress, however keen they are. All this is easy to envisage but hard to make happen; making it happen depends chiefly on reliance on the Holy Spirit but also on the willingness of church leaders to structure their churches appropriately. We took a lot of time in our sessions to talk about how to do this.
This round of teaching in EQUIP groups is now being followed up by more than 50 one-on-one visits to our EQUIP group members; we too are aiming to be hard working pastors! Each person, each church leader we serve, is unique. We will be listening to each one, praying with each one, and helping each one to make plans. And in a few places we will also be contributing to their local ministry, perhaps by preaching, perhaps by giving evangelistic talks, perhaps by taking teams with us to support evangelism, healing, or prayer.
Ian reflected on his time with EQUIP as follows:
“I have been a member of Equip now for several years. You have helped me enormously to focus on the things that matter most, the things that work and don’t work and how best to go about the Christian ministry in a church. You have inspired us by your preaching and teaching. You have occasionally disturbed my comfort and comforted me when I might otherwise have been disturbed! And always with great clarity. I take away with me your approach to preparing and preaching sermons, running home groups that grow, the importance of mentoring, how to take the spiritual temperature of a church, how to run church services, how to be a healthy church that makes disciples and many other tools that have served me well – and I hope will continue to do so as I move in to retirement.”
EQUIP is led by Roger Morgan and John Benson. To find out more visit our EQUIP page, or contact us by email or phone.
Posted 6th January 2020