Special Story from NYC
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“To really impact the culture and the focus of the Church, disciplemaking has to get into the DNA, from top to bottom and from the bottom to the top,” pastor Cliff McDowell says. “Christ called us to make disciples. But to do that, we might need to let some things go, rather than just adding more to the plate.”
Cliff’s experience with intentional disciplemaking through Navigators Church Ministries (NCM) goes back more than 10 years. His church (Church of God, East New York, Brooklyn) had been using the Growing in Christ Navigators material and the The 2:7 Series®. Then he met Navigator Steve Tice, who introduced the concept of intentional disciplemaking, with the support of coaching, to help the church incorporate the process.
“We did have some small groups and solid biblical teaching, but we were not as intentional about disciplemaking,” Cliff says. “Now we are focused on making disciples and empowering ongoing spiritual growth. We have a core group of people who take discipleship seriously.”
Through relationships with Cliff and several other Church of God pastors in the greater New York City area, Steve is now working with the denomination to bring disciplemaking to more of the 23 churches in the region. They are piloting the process in three disciplemaking churches, and, based on the outcome from the pilot, will be expanding to more churches around the NYC metro area.
Steve knows bringing this practice to churches is a long-haul process.
“We are focused on a coaching model, so there is support for a point person within each church, to help them champion and shepherd the process within the church,” Steve says. “Intentional Disciplemaking Churches undergo a process that includes understanding discipleship, assessing the needs and leaders within the church, and moving forward with the change process. It is long-term, not a quick change. We want to see generations of disciples resulting from this emphasis.”
One of the challenges for inner-city churches is that their congregations have many needs demanding attention, and discipleship is not a quick fix, but a long season of growth. Harold Banarsee, president of the Church of God of Eastern New York association, is committed to disciplemaking as an ongoing emphasis for the churches. The winter retreat for the denomination will focus on discipleship.
Steve is excited to see New York City’s local disciplemaking churches reaching outside their walls.
The vision of NCM is to come alongside church leaders to develop generations of disciples in everyday life—where they live, work, and play. As followers of Jesus grow in their relationship with their Lord, they will reach out to their neighborhoods and workplaces to share the hope of Jesus. The disciplemaking emphasis in their churches provides a ready place of growth for those coming to faith, continuing the generational process. Steve hopes to see this fruit in inner-city Brooklyn, where he and his wife, Audrey, live, and all across the metro area.
The art of discipleship in the church is not another program to add to the schedule—it’s a whole life process.