04 December 2009

Leadership Fridays: Building The Church or Making Disciples?

A funny thing happened on the way to church. Somewhere between my reckless, tell-all, "first love", simple devotion to Christ and leading a church of several hundred, I exchanged disciple making with church building.

I picked up the idea that, to be a pastor, I should build an organization that will accommodate a growing number of people. Leadership, excellence and creativity were the tools necessary for that success. My mind was filled with flow charts, graphs and schedules describing a structure that attended to the needs of every "attendee." If I would build it, they would come... and if they came, more were sure to follow. On the way to that church, I lost something significant.

Many pastors will be quick to tell you that the "church" has nothing to do with bricks and mortar but I venture that many, like me, shepherd their structures, programs and meetings before they shepherd the people. This is at best the first signs of the church's end and, at worst, it is blasphemous. The words of Jesus explain why:
"I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16.18)
Jesus takes responsibility for building the church and he does not delegate it. What he does delegate is the job of making disciples:
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations..." (Matthew 28.19)
Our responsibility is face-to-face, life-to-life, bible-open, prayerful, spurring one another to love and good deeds in response to the promises of the Gospel. This work is more difficult and more effective than preaching or building structure and it is to be the leader's focus (2 Tim 2:2).
"...I think it an easier matter by far to compose and preach a good sermon, than to deal rightly with an ignorant man for his instruction in the more essential principles of religion. As much as this work is contemned by some, I doubt not it will try the gifts and spirit of ministers, and show you the difference between one man and another, more fully than preaching will do." - Richard Baxter from "The Reformed Pastor"
Without a focus on making disciples, our structures (no matter how beautiful or popular) will hold people for a time and then, in hardship, they will slip through. As a result, many will look back in regret at years of busy "church building" that were absent of a growing affection for- and obedience to Jesus Christ.

The next four "Leadership Fridays" will examine the differences between "church building" and "disciple making." Specifically:
12/11 - "Why we prefer church building"
12/18 - "The downstream effects of church building"
1/1/10 - "The downstream effects of disciple making"
1/8/10 - "How we change from church building to disciple making"

Additional Resources
"Grow: Reproducing Through Organic Discipleship" - a free e-book by Winfield Bevins
"How NOT To Be a Missional Church" - a blog series by Jonathan Dodson at theResurgence
"Fight Clubs: Gospel-Centered Discipleship" - by Jonathan Dodson
"How Jesus Made Disciples" - a series of blog posts at theResurgence


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