the shape of leadership

Intimate Discipleship

A conversation with Mark Brewer

Chris Colvin on December 5, 2018

Mark Brewer is executive pastor of Oaks Church (AG) in Red Oak, Texas. Oaks Church has been the only place of worship Mark Brewer has called home.

“I got saved here, moved into a Sunday School class here, was called into ministry here,” he says. “It’s the only place I’ve known.”

Brewer and lead pastor Scott Wilson have been together for 30 years.

“It’s Scott’s job to lead the vision; it’s my job to drive it,” Brewer says. “He gives the why and what; I take care of the how and when.”

That combination of pastor and executive pastor has led to multiplication — and now, it’s key to their great discipleship strategy.

“The No. 1 responsibility of each staff position is to make disciples.” — Mark Brewer

The church’s overall strategy for discipleship is more clear now than ever. And it’s all about moving from “arm’s length” to “armpit” relationships.

“In Matthew 28, Jesus gave us our orders,” Brewer says. “The Western Church got the teaching part down. That’s the arm’s-length relationship. We’ve never been better from the pulpit, online and podcasts.”

What was missing was something that could help with the obedience part of the Great Commission.

“The only way to know if people are obeying is if we have an intimate relationship with them,” Brewer says. That led to the metaphor of an armpit to describe the kind of close relationship discipleship requires.

“The No. 1 responsibility of each staff position is to make disciples,” Brewer says. “That goes for worship leaders and children’s ministry, youth to senior citizens, and even operations and finances. Everyone is on notice.”

How do you create an environment where discipleship comes naturally? Brewer says it takes modeling and intentionality. In other words, people can do it if they see someone else doing it. So he and Wilson recently modeled the steps on Sunday mornings during a sermon series on discipleship.

Showing examples of specific situations and how to overcome hurdles gives everyone a better grasp on how to disciple. It also lets them in on the responsibility of it.

“At Oaks Church, we love to say that no one walks alone,” Brewer says. “When we give an altar call, we live that out.”

During the weekly call for salvation, leaders encourage everyone in the audience to ask those seated next to them whether they want to go forward to receive Christ. The response doesn’t happen alone. It happens together.

Those simple connections are what make discipleship possible. Brewer explains that when you shrink things down to the simplest element, people can absorb it. That Sunday morning experience can transform into an eight-week discipleship process as the person who leads someone to the altar then walks beside that new convert in his or her first weeks of faith.

Brewer compares getting people into a discipleship pathway to a parent caring for a newborn.

“If the newborns have a good first 90 days, they have a real shot at long-term health,” he says. And you can’t do that by keeping someone at arm’s length. You have to get closer than that, as close as under their arm.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2018 edition of Influence magazine.


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