This flows out of a basic concept of the church: Jesus is Lord.

There is a point in our journey toward spiritual maturity that we become concerned about what Jesus wants, and it becomes our desire to please him with our behavior. This flows out of a basic concept of the church: Jesus is Lord. We have a desire to repent, to turn toward Jesus Christ and away from all other directions, and then move toward him. As we focus on him in our desire to do what pleases him, we hear his calling: Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. We who once spread nets for fish will now be taught to spread nets for human beings. That is the call. The same call is extended to James and John, who are mending the nets; that, too, is a part of fishing.

            The outcome of all this fishing is well expressed in the vision of our Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference: “All the physically and spiritually hungry people of our world feasting on God’s abundant grace at God’s table so that they experience God’s unconditional love for them, are formed in that love, and are sent to live and share that love with the individuals and institutions of our world.”[1] That’s the end result of all this fishing – all are present at the table. God desires not only that no one be excluded, but that no one be absent. All people are valuable to God, and Jesus lived, died and rose for all of them.

These three seminars on making disciples for Jesus Christ are in service of this
vision. There are a variety of methods of fishing for people, and some are more effective than others. The church growth movement began when Donald MacGavran, a missionary supervisor in India, “lamented that so much activity was taking place in the name of evangelism but that very few disciples were being made.”[1] He began to study what was working. At that time there were few examples of success to study as the vast majority of his missionaries were ineffective at fishing for souls. Most of our efforts today are similarly ineffective. As missionaries repented of methods which did not work and humbled themselves to adopt methods that did work, the lost began coming to the table in greater numbers. The church of today needs to similarly and humbly repent.





[1] The quote is a selection from David O. Kueker’s Fuller Seminary Doctor of Ministry project submitted in September, 2007, entitled Diagnosis, Dialogue, and Decision: A Threefold Process of Revitalization For the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
It is shared here in recognition of its 12th Anniversary along with comments to update and provide perspective on the material. The original project was a Training Manual/Study Guide of three Seminars supported by three chapters of research and an Introduction. The material is available for download at In 2009 it was provided for purchase as a softcover book entitled Designing Discipleship Systems: Christian Disciple Making For Any Size Church, Any Theology through

[2][3] [4][5] [6][7] [8]

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.

[1]Thom Rainer, Effective Evangelistic Churches: Successful Churches Reveal What Works and What Doesn’t (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1996), 169.

[1]Illinois Great Rivers Conference, Vision, Mission, and Strategies, conference/vision.html (accessed June 15, 2007).

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