Disciplemaker: Rediscovering Jesus’ invitation to discipleship and mission, a new book by Craig Millward, will be available soon! Below is a short interview extract with Craig about the new book and some of the questions it explores:
I’ve been a church leader for around 25 years, most of that in one place. There were a number of different phases to that journey. We spent a great deal of time exploring what it meant to create a culture of permission and therefore experiment, saying to people “Let’s give it a go, lets try this and have an adventure together and reflect on it afterwards to learn any lessons that need to be learned”. As this sense of adventure became ever more keen, we went through a season of investing in leaders and giving them permission to develop certain areas of church life. We had some very successful years, but however effective we were in attracting newcomers (and we were – it was a very creative place to be) so frequently the same question began to reoccur in my head: “Had we just created a collection of Christian consumers, rather than disciples?” I realised that I didn’t know how to call people to follow me as I was trying to follow Christ. Jesus’ instruction is to seek the kingdom and elsewhere he says he would build his church. It’s so easy to spend a lifetime seeking to build a church, hoping that one day it will express the kingdom. My experience is that it’s far better to do it Jesus’ way! Discipleship is both intentional and relational. Disciples aren’t produced by accident! When I was younger I was taught that as long as I attended church on a Sunday and did my Bible notes in the morning I was living the Christian life. At no point were we really expected to share our lives with each other. I think Paul uses the phrase “one another” at least 58 times in his letters – “love one another”, “serve one another” “spur one another on to good deeds”… Essentially there are so many phrases that show us these things happen as we engage with one another. We can be in community what we can’t be on our own. The intentional and relational aspects of discipleship are what I have discovered as being key.
What are the main questions that you think the book addresses?
I’m just the sort of person who asks lots of questions about everything, so there are many questions encapsulated in this book. But if I was to say what some of the main ones are, I would say:
Firstly – What is Discipleship?
Principally my understanding is that discipleship is simple because everyone can do it, but it’s also costly. Jesus told us many times that following him would cost us everything. I was really challenged by Jesus’ words in Matthew 28 several years ago:
“Go in to all the world and make disciples, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Essentially he is encapsulating a series of key messages, one of which is the call to teach others exactly what Jesus has taught them. I found myself reading the books of Acts and realising that this is exactly what happened! For example in Acts 6, there is a simple story where 6 men are chosen to address a practical need that has arisen by some people being neglected in the sharing out of food. One of the men chosen is Stephen, who it is noted is a man known for signs and wonders (v8). I began to ask myself – “Who taught Stephen to do those things? How did he learn?” Jesus didn’t seem to have any direct discipleship of him, so somebody else must have taught him. If you look at Phillip in Acts 10 you can see the same thing. He knows how to share the gospel and the Holy Spirit is able to use him to impact the life of the Ethiopian Eunuch. The book of Acts is full of stories that indicate there were lots of people who did exactly what Jesus called them to do in Matthew 28. Discipleship was something that was defined very simply and clearly by Jesus in such a way that others were able to do it themselves.
Secondly – What’s the context in which discipleship and mission best happen?
It seems to me that the New Testament indicates we become disciples within community. Nowadays we live with a lot of “individualistic” presuppositions that wouldn’t have existed back then. For example when Paul gives his many instructions to the church in his letters, the word “you” is almost always plural. Often its something we miss because we only have one word for the singular and plural. We miss the fact that so many of the instructions about how to become followers of Jesus are given to communities of people rather than to individuals. So its essential that we find some way to build intentional communities where we can encourage one another and be everything that we need to and for one another. Discipleship and mission is something that happens best in community, not what we often think which is just that its something that happens between “me and Jesus”
I think the third question is – How is the Holy Spirit involved in all of this?
I find it incredibly sad that over the past couple of decades in particular the Holy Spirit has become such a divisive question. He was never intended to be that way. The Bible talks about many aspects of the Holy Spirit, but two of the key distinctives for me would be that first of all he brings unity and that secondly he is the spirit of mission. Everything that the Holy Spirit gives us is given for us to be able to give away. It seems to me that sometimes the Holy Spirit has become quite a divisive force for a whole load of different reasons, but I am trying to help us understand how the Holy Spirit is the one who calls us to “go” and empowers us to go, and I want to help rediscover those distinctives.
What are your hopes for this book?
For many years I have been discovering that there are many leaders asking the same questions that I have been asking. Alongside those I have already mentioned, they have been “What is a disciple and how do I become one?”
My journey began with an academic question that I was asking myself. I researched many books (!) and it led me to encounter many people who were asking the same question and had begun to find some answers. It is my hope that if this book is to become helpful to you, it will introduce you to a world where many people have asked similar questions and an environment where its possible not just to find some of the answers, but also to find friends – friends who can help you on the journey.
Craig is married to Andrea, and together they have two children; Shaun and Bethany. He has served as a Baptist minister since 1990, and has spent the majority of that time leading a Baptist church in rural Norfolk. Under Craig’s leadership, this church grew and became known for its innovative culture and servant heart to the local area.
Craig currently works for 3DM Europe, developing partnerships with theological institutions and coaching leaders from historical denominations as they seek to establish a culture of discipleship & mission.
Craig holds a PhD in Baptist & New Church movements’ response to the charismatic renewal. He has also previously published a book under the title of Renewing Harvest: Celebrating God’s Creation.
If you would like to hear more about this or would value asking any further questions, you can get in touch with Craig and the team via the 3DM Europe website here.