“…Somewhere along the way the focus shifted OFF of the disciple and ONTO the number of new churches being started…”
I know those of you reading this blog have heard me harp on the issue of making disciples vs. planting churches many times. We can all agree that if we start with “church” we do not always, or might I say, very often at all, end up with a true Disciple of Jesus Christ. However, if we start with the Disciple we will ALWAYS see CHURCH planting follow close behind….
We have seen “church planting” become quite the fad in America over the last 20 years. In the past 5 or so years we have seen the trend shift a bit…Now, it’s not just planting a church, but planting a church that plants other churches. Somewhere along the line we decided that planting a new church is good, but we’re still just ADDING churches. To see the Gospel spread rapidly we need to see Churches multiply. For that to happen we must see the new churches planting newer churches, and so on and so forth. I believe that as the CP Fad has shifted, and we’ve created a new “scorecard”, or criteria for success we have still fallen short of the principle we agree upon in the first paragraph. Unfortunately, churches that plant churches are still not the answer…
In the past few years I’ve had the joy & pleasure of watching many of these trends unfold. I’ve watched myself fall into many of the traps myself, and seen behind the scenes of what happens to guys when we fall victim to an inaccurate metric for success in the kingdom of God. The very thought of a phrase like “metric for success”, or “scorecard” brings with it the illusion that we must perform to earn God’s favor. Obviously, this goes completely against the message of the Gospel, and purpose of Christ’s death on the cross. We must be VERY careful that we:
“…do not perform to earn God’s favor, but OBEY because we are overwhelmed that we ALREADY have His favor.”
There are obvious scriptural references that lead us to believe, as followers of Christ, our lives should bare much fruit. In order to bare fruit it is wise to have goals, and ways to “measure” the fruit of those goals. However, we must constantly be open to whether or not the goals we were pursuing were the right goals in the first place. Are they producing Biblical fruit based upon what Christ has commanded us to do, or a worldly product that men have declared as “fruit”?
What I am submitting with this post is that our “pursuits/goals”, & the “measurement system” that follow are still far from what Christ had/has in mind. (Perhaps the goal in and of itself is a good one, but the order, and/or route we choose to get there is where the problem lies…?)
The problem with the “new fad”/goal/measure of success being a “church planting church” (A church that intentionally plants more churches out of it) is that it STILL does not start with the disciple. Somewhere along the way the focus shifts OFF of the disciple and ONTO the number of new churches being started. Guys, we can TALK all we want about how we’re about “fulfilling the great commission” and “starting with the disciple”. However, our actions, budgets, time, energy, conferences, books, sermons, blogs, twitter posts, etc. PROVE that we are about planting churches (NOT the goal) and NOT about making disciples (The GOAL). Again, the D will result in CP. We have, once AGAIN, bi-passed the initial/root PURPOSE of focusing on the DISCIPLE-trusting that as we MAKE DISCIPLES Christ will “build His Church”.
Let’s face it-a large church with lots of money, people, & and an influential leader can plant lots of churches…and God help us, those new churches can be started without many TRUE Disciples of Christ being raised up. When the goal/fad that sells the books and gets the attention is on church planting-we, as sinful men, will do all that we can do to be successful in that goal-even if making disciples is set on the back burner.
I have been, and am still fighting against falling into this trap on a daily basis. Let’s face it: Intentional Gatherings looks much much more successful as an organization if I tell it’s supporters that we’ve seen “40 new lay-led simple churches started in the last year”. When that becomes the goal, how we measure success, and what causes people to believe in what we do we will accidentally start frantically trying to plant more churches instead of obediently making disciples…ouch.
The point here is that the professional staff of a church, or “church planting organization” continue to be the ones planting the churches. Money is thrown around like candy at guys in the name of “church planting”. No new lay-led communities of faith are birthing from the Harvest. The entire body of Christ is not being equipped to BE the Church & live out their faith in such a way that acts as a conduit for the Gospel to spread rapidly. In fact, you might find that if you interviewed “members” of a well-known “Church Planting Church” that “Church Planting” is foreign to them, and not “on their radar” at all. It may be an important goal/pursuit of the staff/leadership, but hardly thought about by the lay members.
Not everyone is called to be a “church planter”, or “apostolic leader”. However, EVERYONE IS called to make disciples. If we KNOW that the result of disciples being made will be new communities of faith being birthed then we should be seeing thousands of new faith communities starting all over the place as the Gospel invades the lives of unbelievers.
I have seen tons of churches started in the past few years, and even started a couple myself in name of “church planting”…Did God use them for good, and His glory? Of course. Were some disciples made, and others matured in their faith? Of course. Is it good? Yes. Could it be better? Always. Should we pursue GREAT? I want to. If we know that it starts with the Disciple, and the “church plants” will follow as disciples are made then why in the hell won’t we start focusing on the Disciple, and stop focusing on the church? Again, most of us want praise, recognition, etc. You don’t receive that type of recognition/praise for doing this…