When I first started sharing with others that I wanted to write my thoughts about discipleship down into the form of a book, I often received the question, “why should there be another book on discipleship?” To be honest, I get the question. There seems to be way too many books written on discipleship. It seems like everybody has an opinion. Why add one more voice to the existing noise?
Here’s my reasoning. Even though everybody seems to have an opinion on discipleship, it seemed like, from my vantage point, that not many people were actually engaged in some kind of disciple-making. I can remember vividly engaging people in conversation and saying something along these lines.
“According to Jesus, the one thing that every believer has a responsibility to do is make disciples, right?”
They’d often respond in the affirmative. After hearing a yes, my follow up question was,
“So, what’s your personal plan for making disciples?”
Now, I know this is obviously a “gotcha” question. But the question did expose a vast disconnect between our responsibility as believers and our level of intentionality to carry it out, especially in the arena of making disciples.
Perhaps we have forgotten just how foundational discipleship and disciple-making is to the Christian faith. Without a disciple-making movement, the Christian faith will never grow. It’s not a secondary or preferential kind of activity for the genuine believer. It should be priority number one.
I’ve heard some describe disciple-making as something for the super-committed.
“Making-disciples isn’t for the average Christian,” they’d say.
As a result of this kind of thinking we’ve built churches full of professing believers who are trusting in Jesus for the forgiveness of sin but scarcely walking in obedience to anything he has commanded.
We’ve got churches full of undisciplined disciples.
Think about it. The capital “C” Church is larger and more powerful now than it’s ever been in recent history. We’ve got more people and more money than we’ve ever had. Yet, when it comes to influence and impact we are weaker than we’ve ever been.
We’ve become marginalized in our culture. The Christian vision of reality has less currency in our cultural marketplace of ideas. How did this happen?
It’s a discipleship problem.
Churches these days love to talk about reaching the Millennials. I’m all for reaching the millennials. I am one (I think… born in 85). All the new books on Millennials talk about how they’re leaving the church in droves and not coming back.
They accuse the church of no longer being relevant for them. They see a discrepancy between the claim that the Gospel changes everything and the largely unchanged lifestyles of many professing believers. How did that happen?
It’s a discipleship problem.
Pastors are just as much to blame as anybody else. Making-disciples, as far as I can tell, is the ONE THING Jesus gave us the authority and responsibility to do. But, when I graduated seminary, all I was thinking about was how to grow the church. (to be honest… I was just hoping it would stay afloat underneath my leadership!) Thankfully, the church did grow. And as it did I became even more consumed with seeing it grow even more. But, is the numerical growth of the church what Jesus meant when he gave us the Great Commission?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a “numbers” kind of guy. Every number represents a person. I think until every person in the city of Abilene is reached with the Gospel that our church needs to keep on getting bigger. I love big churches. In many respects, the bigger you are the more you’re able to accomplish for the Kingdom.
My problem isn’t on pastors building big churches. My problem is when pastors make building the church the main goal. Jesus never told us to build big churches. Jesus told us to make disciples. Jesus said HE would take care of building the church. We just need to worry about making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to walk in obedience to their Lord in all things.
As Mike Green said in his book on discipleship,
if you focus on building the church you rarely get disciples. But, if you’ll focus on making disciples then you’ll always get the church.
The church is the EFFECT of discipleship, not the cause.
My goal at Broadview isn’t to make us into some kind of mega church (although, if that happens, to God be the glory!) I simply want us to be a people who make disciples who make disciples who make disciples. Will that cause us to grow? You bet. And the growth will be healthy growth because the largesse will be the effect of discipleship not the cause.
We need to return to a vision of discipleship that sees it as a way of life. Discipleship demands a certain posture of the heart for believers.
It cannot be boiled down to a program in the church.
It cannot be accomplished through an event that you attend or a class that you complete.
- Discipleship is NOT just a program in the church.
- It is NOT just for the super-Christians.
- It’s NOT something secondary or preferential.
A disciple-making culture of multiplication is the way that Jesus started his Kingdom movement. Shouldn’t we work towards the same thing? Shouldn’t we finish the movement the way that Jesus started it?
Discipleship is foundational to everything we do in the Christian life and the local church. It’s the ONLY thing we’ve been given authority to do. Most of the problems in the church today could be resolved if we would only return to biblical vision of making disciples. That’s why I’m writing these articles.
To be honest, I don’t care who reads them outside the confines of Broadview Baptist Church. My responsibility is to this congregation. I take seriously my calling to serve as your pastor. I’ll be held accountable for how I stewarded my leadership in this place.
I want to be able to say to our Lord with confidence that I did my best in leading us to accomplish what He asked for us to do. Don’t you want the same? If so, join me in this effort to see God create a disciple-making culture of multiplication in our church family.
In the next article, we will “define the terms” as we answer what a disciple IS and what a disciple IS NOT.