14 January 2010

How does a church change from "church-building" to "disciple-making"? - Part 2

(continued from 1/13/10)

Pack a lunch
Shelli and I have been together for almost 17 years and I feel like, in some things, we are just getting to know each other. Over the last several years we have lived with various friends for an extended time and, in that time, we are always amazed at what we learn. This is why discipleship takes time.
The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out. (Proverbs 20.5)
The purpose in my heart must be patiently pumped out by a man of understanding. That takes time. Once the purpose is exposed, I need help seeing how the Gospel addresses it. That takes even more time. Discipleship is time-consuming. If we are going to do it, we need to pack a lunch and be intentional to provide the time. We aren't going to be able to do everything an American family is expected to do (hobbies, extra activities, entertainment, etc). If we are unwilling to live differently, I'm not sure why we should expect the Gospel to affect us at all.

Let the Scripture set the agenda
For years now the Bible has served this role in my relationships: ask a lot of questions about life and then, when I see any problems, I bring in the Bible as a source for solutions. This acknowledges that the Bible is an inerrant source for solutions but it misses something.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4.12)
The Bible is authoritative. It reveals us, we don't reveal it. More than a resource, the Scripture is a mighty force for the change we seek in discipleship. A church that is making disciples will lean on the Scripture in personal conversations and in teaching because it, and not our wisdom, pierces through our defenses and addresses the heart.

Stick to Good News
No one says it better than Keller:
"For a long time I understood the “gospel” as being just elementary truths, the doctrinal minimum requirement for entering the faith. “Theology,” I thought, was the advanced, meatier, deeper, biblical stuff. How wrong I was! All theol- ogy must be an exposition of the gospel"
If we are going to be transformed, if we are to find life, hope and joy we need to be experts in the Gospel (Romans 1:16-17). It's not the doorway to greater truth, it is the keel on our ship at all times. It is the only thing that promotes goodness and change while excluding boasting. It is the only thing that offers a no-strings motivation for love and forgiveness. All theology and every principle must be shaped by and grounded in the Gospel. Don't move past it. Stick to it.

Resource the Good News
Because the Gospel is the power of God for salvation, we need to be continually refreshed in it. Disciple-making environments are Gospel-soaked environments. We should be continually looking for new ways to bring Christ-exalting, Gospel-rich, biblically-solid resources to the church. Write a blog or something. Think of social networking as a place to resource your friends. Buy books for people. Buy books for yourself. Read them. Read them with others. Listen and watch great messages. Swim. (Here is an example)

Pray. And when you pray...
Because disciple-making is a matter of the heart, the prayers of disciple-makers will be heart-focused. That is what we see of Paul's prayers. They are prayers to realize the greatness of God and the wonders of the Gospel at the level of the heart. (A collection of New Testament Prayers - MS Word)

Leaders, in your doing, think more about training
what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2.2)
There are four generations in this passage. In everything we do, we should be thinking about how to train someone else to do the same thing. In fact, we should seek to train trainers. Do more than delegate. Do things with people with the intent to train. This will leverage your activities, not create new ones.

Help people together. Ask someone you meet with one-on-one to bring someone else on occasion. Bring families together and be willing to be interrupted by parenting. It will bless your kids and create a learning environment for the parents. As a pastor, I'm asking people who need counseling to bring their small group leaders or close friends with them. This increases the involvement of a community and trains people to minister the Gospel to the hurting.

Give up the need to be cool
If you are carrying the Gospel message, you're not going to be a trend setter (at least not for long). I know. I feel it. We are known as the backward ones. The non-thinkers. The hypocrites. The freaks. I know, it's not fair and it would be so great to find some respect out there but it ain't happening.

The drive for cultural acceptance is always attended with a drive to shave off the "unacceptable" parts of the message. When we do that, we sacrifice the very truth that changes us and discipleship stops. Whatever your approach, you'll be despised somewhere. It's o.k. be different "wisdom is justified by all her children" (Luke 7.33–35).

Think small and personal, not big and flashy
Big and flashy takes time and does not address individual needs. We have all grown up believing that big impact comes with big events, big numbers and flashy production. We need to shake that mentality and strategically plan for personal administration of Gospel truth. Jesus taught the crowds but His ministry was for a few. The church in Jerusalem met in people's homes.

From The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne:
"...despite the almost limitless number of contexts in which it might happen, what happens is the same: a Christian brings a truth from God's word to someone else, praying that God would make that word bear fruit through the inward working of his Spirit."
That is disciple-making and it looks small and humble, but it's how people change.

The End
Could it be that the ubiquitous hypocrisy and burn out in the American church might be a result (at least in part) of our focus on building churches over making disciples? Certainly there are reasons to believe there is a connection. Regardless, Jesus' mandate is clear. Our focus is to be life-on-life discipleship (Matt 28:19-20, 2 Tim 2:2). My prayer is that this series will stir a desire for that simple (yet demanding) ministry and that it may generate some creative ideas for change. May this really be just the beginning.

Additional Resources
The Supremacy of Christ and The Gospel in a Post-Modern World - Tim Keller (an absolute must-watch for those interested in evangelism)
"Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." - last Sunday's message on Luke 5:1-11, which addresses many of the things in this series. (Discussion Questions)
The Trellis and the Vine - I'll mention it again... it is worth your reading!

A final summary of this series of posts:
Leadership Fridays: Building The Church or Making Disciples
Leadership Fridays: Why We Prefer Church-Building
Leadership Fridays: The Downstream Effects of Church-Building
The Downstream Effects of Making Disciples v. Building Churches - Part 1
The Downstream Effects of Making Disciples v. Building Churches - Part 2
The Downstream Effects of Making Disciples v. Building Churches - Part 3
How does a church change from "church-building" to "disciple-making"? - Part 1
How does a church change from "church-building" to "disciple-making"? - Part 2


  1. Wow! Great ideas--all except the bring your friends to counseling part--Ha, Ha. Uh,no. Doesn't that leave wide the door for gossip?

  2. It sure can. Before this were to happen there would need to be confidentiality, trust, agreements, etc. But these are essential to any community at all times. In fact without them, there can be no real discipleship.

    If you can trust a pastor whom you know sort of, you should be able to trust a close friend as well.

    Grace and peace