[Editor’s Note: In this Between the Times Interview we talk with Matt Rogers, Pastor at The Church at Cherrydale in Greenville, SC, about his new book Aspire: Developing and Deploying Disciples in the Church for the Church (Seed Publishing Group, 2014). Matt is a SEBTS M.Div. grad and PhD Student, so he talks about his book and how the training he received at SEBTS prepared him to write it.]
Church leaders must do more than simply affirm the Great Commission. We also have to do the hard work to finding practical ways to empower all of God’s people to meaningfully participate in this grand mission. For too long the church has grown increasingly dependent on vocational pastors to do the work of disciple-making while the majority of the church remains passive. Pastors are equally complicit in this process as we have often failed to do the hard work of training our people to know how to make disciples themselves. Aspire was written to provide the church with a path for one-on-one relational discipleship undertaken over the course of at least one year. The book is divided into three, 12-week sections: Gospel, Ministry, and Mission. Section 1 aims to provide a robust, gospel framework derived from God’s Word that moves through God’s redemptive work from creation to consummation. Section 2 focuses on the process of spiritual formation and growth that results from heartfelt worship and is demonstrated in practices such as prayer and Bible reading. The final section pushes the disciple to live all of life on mission as they seek to declare and demonstrate the gospel to a watching world.
2. What makes Aspire different from other books on discipleship, church, etc?
I began Aspire with the premise that the churches who would find the book helpful did not need to be convinced of the disciple-making mandate that Jesus has given to his church. My desire was to spend more time addressing the “how” question of disciple-making. How can the men and women who fill our churches take a younger believer through an intentional process of disciple-making? The answer requires a book that is more than a theological textbook or a Bible-study. The book is designed in a workbook-like fashion that will allow the disciple-maker and the disciple space for reflective journaling on the topic under consideration. Ideally, the pair would meet each week discuss how God was transforming them through His Word. Books alone will not make disciples, but my prayer is that a book like Aspire will make it easier for churches to both affirm and live the Great Commission.
3. How much of the book (or the idea for it) emerged from your ministry as a pastor?
The best books are forged in the fires of local church ministry. Church planting actually forced me to write this book. I knew that I was planting a church to make disciples, but I, like many pastors, had never been discipled myself. Week after week I was challenging my people to make disciples, but I found that I was increasingly relying on my sermons and the church’s programs to do the work of disciple-making. As a result, I was nervous that the church was doing the same. They heard the call to disciple-making and knew this was the measure of our church’s health. Increasingly, however, I had well-meaning, long-time Christians who seemed insecure and discouraged by their lack of clarity on how to go about the task that I was calling them to. Most of those who were active in disciple-making had developed a plan through a parachurch ministry while in college through ministries like Cru or Navigators. I was burdened by the fact that many of the adults in our church who had been walking with Jesus for several decades seemed to lack a clear plan for discipleship, though they are the ones who often have the most to offer.
4. How did your time at SEBTS prepare you to write such a book?
I came to SEBTS to get an education and I got much more than that. I also fell in love with the local church and her God-given mission to make disciples of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. My time as a Master’s, and now a PhD student, allowed me to develop a robust understanding of God’s mission in the world and a contextual application of the Great Commission for the church who God entrusted to my care in Greenville, SC. The faculty provided exemplary models of leaders who were shaped by God’s mission and fostered an environment that was theological rich while still practically applicable. The seminary provided a tangible conduit of God’s grace to me and the lasting value of Aspire will be a testimony to the training, support, and encouragement that I found at Southeastern.