Monday, February 17, 2014

What Comes to Mind?

What comes to your mind when I say the phrase "Make disciples"?

This is the question I'm wrestling with lately. (among many others) It comes from a personal angst as a church leader. Okay, a pastor.

I'll admit that I've preached a lot the last three years on making disciples who make disciples. I do not apologize for this. This has been intentional and strategic.

Intentional because I've had a growing conviction as I read through God's word and other books (i.e. Radical by David Platt) that we, the Church, are not doing this well in America. It certainly doesn't seem to be our main priority or agenda. If it is, we're doing a pretty lousy job.

Strategic because, contrary to some church growth seminars, the quickest growth is always through the strategy that multiplies over the one that just adds. 

That said, it's also been a bit frustrating. Some of that is just my personal immaturity. I'm impatient to see the Church grow and mature into a Jesus movement in America and beyond. But it's more than that, I think. And I think it's bound up in our cultural paradigm in how we "do" church in America.

So back to my question: When I say "Make disciples," what comes to mind?

For many, if not most, it's probably things like:

How to grow in Christ
Bible studies
Spiritual Disciplines
The importance of the Church
Sermon series
Reaching out to those far from Christ
Equipping others to know and follow Jesus
Sunday school

These are all great answers. I guess I just see a couple of disconnects that still exist in many churches today. Even in churches that are leading their people to make disciples. I want to propose two today:

Mass producing vs. Personally investing

My observations are that we tend to equate discipleship exclusively with classes, small groups and sermons. What seems to be missing, either because of a lack of understanding or an unwilling heart, is that discipleship is akin to apprenticeship. And much apprenticeship happens one-on-one or one-on-two. I wonder if our culture has pushed us towards valuing quantity at the expense of quality. And in the end, I would argue that you get both when you start small and focus on quality. (ex. Jesus and just twelve disciples vs. the crowds he spoke to)

Optional vs. Responsible

Another observation is that we don't seem to feel responsible as Christ-followers to be actively making disciples. It feels like we see it as optional. As in I'll do it if I have extra time. I'm not just talking about discipling co-workers and neighbors. ("Love your neighbor...") I'm talking about discipling your own children.

So there it is. Here's a test. Ask your church leaders (staff, elders, overseers, deacons, etc.) to answer this question and see where they go first. Then, after they answer, ask them how have they been doing this the past six months.