After his resurrection from the dead, and just prior to his ascension, Jesus gave his disciples a mission. He said, “while you are going, make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19). This is sometimes called the Great Commission and surely becomes the mandate for Aspen Ridge Church life. It must be noted that Jesus addressed his followers, who had been in his tutelage for some years. A person must be a disciple before he or she can make a disciple. Just what does a disciple look like? How do we know when we see a disciple?
A disciple has found a home in Christ. He or she “abides” or lives with Christ by means of a personal relationship. This relationship is cultivated and nurtured by talking with Jesus and listening to (with obedience) His word. In John 15:7 Jesus said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Such abiding in Christ will show up in the following behavioral expressions: an increasing awareness of God’s love and presence, growing in the grace and knowledge of God, reflecting on and applying Scripture in your everyday life, dialoguing authentically with God, worshipping God in Spirit and truth. This will also include authentic loving relationships. These loving relationships will include the following behavioral expressions: showing respect for all people; forgiving others and asking forgiveness; confronting others with humility as necessary; praying with and for others; supporting each other honestly through life challenges. This includes worshipping Jesus Christ in the context of Christian community.
A follower of Jesus Christ is also serving fellow pilgrims in the ways of faith. This will include such behaviors as: blessings others with your words and deeds, partnering with others to minister in practical ways, ministering personally and appropriately to the poor, speaking up for people experiencing injustice, cultivating a compassionate heart. Further, this person is reaching out with the Christian message to a lost and dying world. The words “bearing fruit” have to do with harvesting new converts for eternal life. In John 15:16 Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you, that you should bear much fruit.” Such behavioral expressions include the following: engaging in spiritual conversations with those who are not yet followers of Jesus, explaining the good news and the way of Jesus, establishing new believers in a disciple-making process, and connecting people with a faith community.
This kind of disciple-making should (and God-willing will) result in personal and community transformation. The Apostle Paul describes a person who is transformed and renewed in the spirit of his mind (Rom. 12:1-2). Behavioral expressions of this transformation include: actively engaging with God in the examination of your heart, cooperating with God’s healing work in your life, processing feedback and input from others, living out new priorities and changed behavior, increasingly bearing the fruit of the Spirit. In the way of community involvement we seek the following: participating in a faith community that reaches outside itself, praying for healing and reconciliation in society, caring for God’s creation in practical ways, helping others cultivate healthy lives and relationships.
Previously, an initiative was led to make the Great Commission intelligible and accessible to Middle School-age students. We established a disciple-making mission of inviting neighbors to find a home in Christ together. This statement means to be visionary and seeks the realization of our disciple-making purpose in an observable way. This statement defines our harvest field (neighbor) and gives us the mandate to inviting our neighbors into an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ. This statement recognizes human responsibility and the sovereignty of God in evangelism. Ultimately, we invite people to find their true home in Christ. God is able (and does) bring his people home; we are responsible to do our part by inviting neighbors to come home to Jesus. Our mission statement has been enthroned in the church constitution as a way of elevating such mission and securing confirmation and ownership by our church family.
Our vision involves a big, hairy, audacious, God-sized goal which may be realized in the next five years. Such may be summarized as a practical demonstration of the love of Christ to our entire harvest field of 40,000. It is by means of service that we intend to gain a hearing for our message. It is acknowledged that our harvest field includes tens of thousands… and we are hundreds. However, it may also be said that our church of hundreds can (and has) reached thousands with various acts of service, service projects, and demonstrations to the love of Christ. We seek to cultivate a multiplying effect through our small group ministry that will fuel such service projects. We intend to build a network of healthy small groups which learn, love, and do together. The “doing” will include service projects that display and demonstrate God’s heart for Conifer, Evergreen, and our surrounding region. This vision has been established, first in a 2015 strategic planning process, and more recently in a 2019 process.
A few components of the 2019 strategic plan relate to this disciple-making plan in a direct way. Recommendation #3 includes “continue momentum with more community involvement and service projects.” This includes additional service toward parents of children in mid-week activities. The vision also calls for such acts of service to be generated through small groups. Some of the recommendations for discipleship in the 2019 strategic plan have already been enacted. This includes hiring a full time Director of Children’s Ministry to oversee and cultivate the disciple-making of our children. Further, recommendations include training in spiritual gifts, small groups for new converts, and training in recruiting and supporting apprentices for small group leaders.
An additional recommendation includes establishing a disciple-making curriculum for new believers that may be deployed through our adult small group network. Such has begun with a “Freedom in Christ” curriculum in a mix of new and established groups. This discipleship material gives special attention to negative thoughts, irrational feelings, and victory over the darkness. Such help is needed in both the church and community context. Two new adult groups have launched with “Freedom in Christ” content and a third is noted with church leaders. Further, such will be offered for all adult groups alongside an upcoming “Freedom in Christ” teaching series on Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. A decision has been made to seek the inclusion of new believers into existing and seasoned adult groups to promote cross-pollinating relationships among those of different maturity levels.
The impetus for such vision was expressed in the 2015 strategic plan, which raised funds for support of adult small groups and service projects (among other upgrades). This led to the call of Eric Krajewski as Director of Small Groups. Under Eric’s leadership we have moved from 14 small groups to over 30 groups. Since these are the means by which we intend to realize our vision, and since God has been blessing progress to this end in our adult ministry (even despite COVID 19 setbacks), I recommend our leaders prioritize the funding for this position in a way that expands its influence. This includes building an “on ramp” toward a 20-hour a week Director of Small Groups.
Values include long-standing qualities for which we would like to be known. In the early years of serving as Pastor at Aspen Ridge Church, I carefully listened to the history of our local church. This was for the purpose of discerning church “strengths” which could be developed and enhanced. It is not to be denied that weaknesses exist, or that such weaknesses must receive needful attention. However, my philosophy is to build on our historic church strengths. These strengths are related to our unique design and gifting in this time and place. What are our unique strengths that can and should be developed?
First, our church has been known for faithful and robust preaching. We are governed by, and centered upon, God’s Word. However, we are not simply a lecture hall or preaching center. We seek to continually elevate this strength by becoming prayerfully reliant upon God’s word to guide us toward our home in Christ. We do not have a static or impersonal relationship with God through His Word. Rather, we rely upon God’s word and let God pull us into relationship with Him and others through the Scriptures.
Second, our church has been perceived as having strength in children’s ministry. It is a great privilege to invest in children as our Savior said, “Let the children come to me” (Matthew 19:14). However, our heart for children relates to our heart for the families of children because Jesus intends to be the center of a healthy family unit. Instead of simply having an isolated ministry to children, we seek to be known as a church that invests in families so the generation to come may know the treasures of the gospel.
Third, our church has been used by God to raise up and send missionaries around the world. A significant number of the missionaries we support have been active participants in the life of Aspen Ridge Church. God has used our church to help many find such important roles in God’s kingdom work. However, instead of being a church that sends a select few across blue waters, or instead of merely providing prayers and financial support to missionaries around the world, it is more complete to say that all God’s people have a role to play as ambassadors of Jesus Christ. Our effectiveness as a church in sending missionaries around the world is related to how effective we can be in our region. We believe all are sent by God so our community and world may come to know Jesus Christ.
Fourth, we believe God is on the move in our lives and among our neighbors. While we have been known as a friendly and loving church, we understand this love must be demonstrated to be effective. Our mission calls us to move into and toward our world; hence, much of our work is done “off campus.” However, the relational networks we build may and will result in guests who attend our local church. When they do, we seek to cultivate a welcoming environment for all who join in our journey toward Jesus Christ. We only have one opportunity to make a first impression.
As a means of publicly identifying our strengths and describing the type of church we would like to be, our Aspen Ridge Church family endorsed these values and enthroned them in our church constitution by congregational vote.
Our disciple-making mission is clear and ongoing. Our vision is throbbing with possibilities of future realization. Our values are compelling and call us forward. Just how do we move into the future God has for us? It will not happen simply by good intentions. It must follow a carefully conceived plan that places certain practices in motion that carry us forward. To this end, we have identified four strategic steps to realize our disciple-making mission.
We begin with what is a common point of access for church life… weekend worship. We seek to present weekend worship services that are evangelistic and celebratory, because finding “home” in Christ causes angels to celebrate (Luke 15:10).  God is worthy and worship is the chief and ultimate end of human beings. We were designed to find our satisfaction in God. This happens in many ways, one of which includes musical celebration. Music is not the only side or dimension of corporate worship. However, music may be a tool for the invitational aspect of our mission. People are not only moved by music but celebrate with and to music. Music may be analogous to a language. It is acknowledged many languages exist in the world and are neither “good” nor “bad” in themselves. We determine what kind of music to use in worship services by identifying the leading musical preferences of our community. Our intention is to use a style most accessible to the broadest demographic in the harvest field. Providing alternate days and times for weekend worship provides additional and multiple entryways for our increasingly busy population. Further, making such available by internet (through livestream technology) opens possibilities to additional invitations and participation in weekend worship. Steady follow up of guests happens through regular invitations to “Eat & Greet” events at my home and the “Bridge” (an orientation meeting and for next steps). Attendance at weekend worship may (and God-willing will) lead to connecting with a small group.
A second stage in our strategy includes building relationships and cultivating a sense of family identity through small groups. These small groups are 8-10 persons who learn, love, and do together.  We learn from the Scriptures and from the weekend teaching in community; we care for each other by means of prayer and acts of service; we serve our neighbors and community through various outreach events and service projects. It is in our small groups that we supplement weekend worship in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Disciple-making is done in community that is rooted in God’s Word. Aspen Ridge Church began to introduce sermon-based small groups a decade ago to promote a “lecture-lab” model of disciple-making. Many of our small groups use the weekend message and Scripture to grow in the way of understanding, application, and spiritual formation.
Here it may be worthy to address the needful question of congregational care and nourishment. What is my plan to provide congregational care needed to generate mature and reproducing disciples? It must first be acknowledged that such needs for congregational care are real. Having a plan for such care is vital and will include the following steps.
Step 1 – recognize that no one individual (as gifted as any pastor/teacher may be) is able to meet all the care needs of the congregation. It is for this reason that Christ gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). These varied gifts are all needful in the way of meeting the legitimate needs for care in church life.
Step 2 – understand that pastors and teachers (among the other gifts) are to equip believers for the work of service which eventually leads to maturity (Ephesians 4:12). The equipment relates to the proper use of Scripture and prayer to stimulate and deploy workers for the harvest. This makes church leaders like player/coaches. He surely lives a life of disciple-making and evangelism, which models the importance of his teaching. However, he “coaches” in the way of building up the congregation and empowering believers for the work of ministry.
Step 3 – identify and deploy small group leaders through a small group network. It is by means of learning, loving, and doing that people flourish as team members who are properly cared for and supported. Over the years, Aspen Ridge has begun to build a small group network of sermon-based groups, topical groups, and fun groups. In each case, small group leaders present front line care for participants. Further, these leaders agree to provide hospital visitation as needed.
Step 4 – build an intentional multiplying effect into each small group so that new small group planters may be generated who provide increasing opportunities for local church discipleship and community service. This will happen through apprentices identified in each group and given opportunities to develop and be deployed in that role.
Step 5 – promote a culture of “one another” whereby brothers and sisters learn to meet one another’s needs in Christ. This best happens in small group life and in the way of regular and ongoing relationships. Further, identify and promote spiritual gifts (Ephesians 4:8), which are to be used to serve one another and as a means of fulfilling our mission to our harvest field. Such initiatives have begun with the Gifts from Above series.
Step 6 – provide additional training for pastoral staff, ministry team leaders, elders, and small group leaders in keeping a record of pastoral care in our church teams database. Such contacts, including postcards, phone calls, emails, text messages are an ongoing means of pastoral support, and should be logged in the church-teams database. This will provide documentation for progress in the way of pastoral care.
Step 7 – promote and uphold healthy boundaries in recognition of the finitude and limits of pastoral staff. A particular pastor cannot, and should not, always be available for urgent congregational needs. This would create an unhealthy dependency upon one or a few leaders. Further, it would take opportunities away from small groups and leaders to gather around needs and opportunities.
A third stage in our strategy includes encouraging all to join in serving Christ in a practical way. Step 5 (above) recognizes that not all have the same spiritual gifts. Service will look different depending on different passions and gifts. Even so, Christ’s design for His body is that all serve through the local Christian church toward the world. Our service begins in our church facility as practical ministry is needed to make a functional “home” that can welcome pilgrims to a spiritual “home.” We seek a growing percentage of attendees to find a place of ministry and service. Further, our vision calls for service projects in our community as a demonstration of Christ’s love to a waiting and watching world. As important as our “on campus” ministry is, our “off campus” ministry is even more important.
Our strategy begins and end with cultivating a lifestyle of inviting neighbors to find a home in Christ together. Making disciples must include developing relationships with those who are outside the Christian faith. God uses the means of prayer to give us what He wants. As disciple-makers, we will learn to pray for our friends, family-members, and neighbors. We will also learn how to have conversations about spiritual subjects. We will learn how to share our faith story. We will learn how to share our faith with our lives and our words. We will become increasingly effective in leading people to faith in Jesus Christ. Such training has been provided through a small group curriculum entitled “Becoming a Contagious Christian.” Further helps and tools have been used and are available, including Gary Rohrmayer’s “Spiritual Conversations.”
As a leader of this strategy, I understand that my life and habits must re-enforce and model such a lifestyle. For this reason, I invest a portion of my time in Conifer and Evergreen making friends with people in our harvest field. I am involved in service toward the needy in our region by way of food distribution with Mountain Resource Center. I am serving our neighbors in the way of snow removal and welcoming newcomers. I am praying regularly for our region and harvest field, weeping for those without faith in Jesus Christ. I am seizing opportunities to have spiritual conversations with enquirers at my workout studio. I am sharing the story of my personal conversion to Jesus Christ and the difference it has made in my life. I am sharing the gospel message with friends and acquaintances when and as the time is right. Further, by the grace of God, we have seen individuals receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and expect a bountiful harvest to this end.
How do we measure our progress toward our vision and mission? How do we know when we are hitting the mark? On what basis can we celebrate wins? I propose new and modified measures and outcomes for our church in light of a changing world and harvest field.
In the vertical dimension of disciple-making (sometimes thought of as SEEK), weekend worship remains foundational to fulfilling our mission. The number which can potentially connect by means of multiple weekend services has significantly grown by electronic means. I recommend we sustain our physical worship service options and continue to invest and expand in online delivery. I also recommend we count the total number of online community “engagements” (loosely defined) alongside those in physical attendance. These may provide evangelistic and other prospects for ministry. In the coming year we seek an average weekend attendance of 400 (both physical attendance and online). Further, disciple-making happens in healthy community. By means of generating apprentice-leaders, we seek to plant 10 additional adult small groups, rising to a total of 40.
In the horizontal dimension (sometimes thought of as SERVE), we pursue healthy “one another” church life with robust and full participation of all. The use of spiritual gifts is needed for all to come to maturity in Christ. It is our goal that 80% of our physical attendees serve in some way. Further, we seek one service project for each small group per year. As this is realized, 40 service projects will be celebrated and elevated. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men so they can see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
In the way of giving personal witness to faith in Christ (sometimes thought of as SHARE) I believe our measures and outcomes should adjust and shift. Instead of simply counting outreach events, I would like to begin celebrating the number of spiritual conversations we have with neighbors. God willing, these conversations… alongside church events and evangelistic invitations… will result in faith commitments and baptisms. Such baptisms are to be measured so they can be celebrated! We seek 20 baptisms in the upcoming year of ministry.
Personal Reflection and Assessment
One thing I enjoy about my relationship with God is…
One thing I want more of in my relationship with God is…
As you consider the abiding relationship a disciple has with Christ (described on p. 1), where are your strengths and weaknesses?
As you consider the relationship a disciple has with the world (also described on p. 1), where are your strengths and weaknesses?
As you consider our local church where do you see disciple-making health and vitality… weakness or malaise?
 The behavioral expressions of a disciple came from Robert Logan’s The Discipleship Difference (Logan Leadership, 2015), 28-32.
 The distinction between “mission” and “vision” may be found in Will Mancini’s Church Unique (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2008), 164-177. Further, the general template of mission, vision, values, and measures, sometimes called vision frame, comes from this resource.
 For the matter of evangelistic worship, Timothy Keller’s “Evangelistic Worship” has been influential and is available online.
 On this subject see Gordon MacDonald’s Who Stole My Church (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007).
 Regarding small groups, we have been especially helped by Carl George’s Prepare Your Church for the Future (Tarrytown: Fleming H. Revell, 1991).
 This is described in Larry Osborne’s Sticky Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008).
 Carl George’s Nine Keys to Effective Small Group Leadership (Mansfield: Kingdom Publishing, 1997) has been especially helpful to this end.