I was recently asked to write an article for a new website launched by Campus Renewal Ministries. The purpose of the blog is to stimulate dialogue around the topics of unity, prayer, and missional communities on college campuses. Of course, I was excited at the opportunity to share what God has been doing around the country through students who are stepping out to make disciples and start new local church communities in their context. I shared a quick story, specifically about some things taking place currently here in Austin, and then a brief note about what it would look like if we started fostering “new discipleship environments” in our lives. CHECK IT OUT, and leave some input in the reaching campus comments section…
We are ultra excited about Student CPx on the West Coast. We are working with our close friend Brian Orme to host SCPx in San Diego in a few weeks! If you are on the West Coast, know anyone in that area, or just cannot make it to one of the other SCPx locations this summer then make sure you GET REGISTERED for SCPx in San Diego by July 9th! Check out a quick promo video for San Diego…
A disciple of Jesus…what does that mean? It goes much deeper than someone who “calls them self a Christian”. If we are disciples of Jesus we will DO what Jesus DID. He made disciples, and then told us to do so…so, if we claim to follow Him, we will go and make more disciples. That means we will also Baptize those new disciples into the kingdom of God. Below is a beautiful picture of this generational discipleship that’s hitting neighborhoods and campuses all over the country and world!
Zach & William live in our apartment complex. I met them soon after we moved in, and we have been in discipleship relationships since then. Zach’s roommate Kyle Baptized him tonight. Then, Zach Baptized a guy he’s been discipling named Jose, along with his other roommate William! This beautifully illustrates the call for disciples to make disciples as a normal part of the culture of following Jesus. Jose, who was Baptized by his discipler, now knows that he is to “do as his teacher did”. Since his discipler Baptized him, he is now empowered and released to go and do likewise; this will hopefully create a spiritual down line of disciples! Zach & William are going to pursue Jesus with us in this apartment community and trust Jesus for a new church to birth from the Harvest as more disciples are made!
“…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…
In continuation of previous post: “Compound Interest”…
Our problem is that we are impatient. We want “get rich quick” schemes, and don’t typically like to work hard for things. We want things NOW, and we want them easy. We are this way with our money, and we are this way in our discipleship methods. Last week I posted “Where’s The Value?” suggesting that we do not value the things that Christ valued based upon how we refuse to disciple others in the way that Christ modeled for us to do so. (By pouring ourselves into just a few people at a time for a few years at a time in such a way that they can & will go and do likewise)
Not only do we want things fast, once we get them we quickly grow discontent with those things we so badly wanted. It intrigues me that we can have such a strong/pure desire to see someone come to know Christ (Neighbor, friend, co-worker, classmate, etc.) that we will pursue/invite them into a relationship with Christ, and think we’re “all done” once they have made a verbal profession of faith, and been Baptized. But, this is only the beginning! When someone commits their life to Christ they have simply committed to beginning a process of discipleship that will go on for the rest of their lives! How have we been tricked into thinking this is the END goal!? This is merely the FIRST step! For the disciples the first step was that they left everything the follow Christ. What if Christ had said, “sweet, I got you to leave everything to follow me, but now you can go ahead back to your life. I just wanted to see if you’d do it”!? Is that not what we do as Christians? We desire someone to “accept Christ”, and when they do we act as if we’re DONE! Picture it: A person has been shadowing us, and watching us. They have allowed us to introduce them to their future Savior. They’ve been wrestling for months with this BIG life decision. They’re finally ready, and we are excited. We lead them through what a decision for Christ means, and maybe Baptize them. Then, we act as if the “job is done” when all along the person thought they were just entering into the beautiful beginning by making that decision!
I know too many stories of people who were led to Christ, and then left high and dry. This is sad to me; I’ve done it before as well. At best we pawn them off to our church “leaders”, or a nearby church to do OUR job, as disciples of Christ, for us. It’s time we step up and take the call to live out the Great Commission seriously. It’s time we actually BE disciples of Christ, and not just call ourselves disciples. We must stop kidding ourselves. We must stop pretending.
So do we truly find value in “making disciples”, or just getting people converted? I would submit that the conversion is the beginning of a discipleship journey that is accompanied by life transformation. We must continue that process with a process of discipleship. May we all search our current lives to see who we are in the process of “leading to Christ”, and who we are discipling.
I want to preface these thoughts to ensure that I cause no doubt in anyone’s mind regarding their salvation, or whether or not they are “really a Christian”. My thoughts below are merely an attempt to “raise the bar for what it means to be a disciple”. (Thank you Neil Cole) I am not passing judgment on anyone for these thoughts, because they apply to me as well. These are convictions that I have had personally, so if they challenge you, know that they challenged me first; they continue to challenge me daily.
There must be more to following Christ than reading my Bible, praying, and “going to church”…=)
I was thinking this morning about how much emphasis we put on certain things as Christians, but not on others. For the sake of keeping this short I will use the example that has been most evident in my life over the past few months, and what I notice as I speak with other believers…
If Jesus’ last command to His disciples when He left them with His Holy Spirit before going to sit at the right hand of the Father was to “Go and make disciples, Baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”, then why is it that many of us as believers do not do so? Some of us may do 1/2 of this command: “Go make disciples”. However, if part of our disciple making process is not Baptizing those new disciples then are we really making disciples at all? I have to ask myself why it is that MOST people, MYSELF included (until much later in my journey), who claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ, have NEVER Baptized someone? This seems a bit crazy to me when I think about it. Jesus’ last command…how is it that when WE made our decision to follow Christ, and then got Baptized that we did not realize/were not released to GO AND DO LIKEWISE? Why is it that the moment I came up out of the water “in new life” that I did not realize the COMMAND of Jesus to go and do the same? (Many Christians that I have dialogued about this with not only do not realize that they are COMMANDED by Jesus to do this, but often think they are NOT ALLOWED to because they aren’t “ordained ministers”. Ouch.)
Basically, we have the majority of the Body of Christ in America, (again, myself included) who are neglecting to carry out a foundational command of Jesus that He imparts to ALL BELIEVERS. This is the command that released the disciples to launch the spread of the early Church by the empowering of the Holy Spirit. If we are not carrying out this command, each and every one of us, are we drastically SLOWING the rate at which the Gospel can go forth to the nations? (TO OUR NATION?)
PRAISE CHRIST THAT IT IS BEGINNING TO HAPPEN IN MANY PLACES, AND EXISTING CHURCHES…(GOTTA SHARE THE POSITIVE TOO!) In fact, I have been hearing beautiful stories of many communities of faith who have begun releasing lay-people in their congregations to start Baptizing new believers! Praise Christ! Dad’s Baptizing their daughters, etc. Beautiful.
A main point I wanted to bring up was that we spend more time, energy, and efforts on our own individual “walk with God” than we do on pursuing this basic command of Jesus. We put more emphasis on religious tasks, duties, and checklists that we think we must do to be a good Christian than we do on this very basic task of making disciples/Baptizing them. What if we focused as much emphasis on going out to make disciples, and baptize them as we do on reading our Bibles and praying? What if it was just as important a task, and expectation as a believer to Baptize new believers into the kingdom as it is to show up at church each week, or read our Bibles each day?
(Guys, I’m not saying we should not be reading our Bibles, and pursuing our individual intimate relationship with Christ. I’m simply asking why we put more emphasis on those things than we do on the growth and spread of the kingdom through new disciples being Baptized by ALL OF US.)
In case you were wondering how this got conjured up in my soul again: I spent the entire last week teaching a group of students about Simple Church Planting. I taught on Baptism briefly…and here is what happened:
Above is Beth, one of the D.T.S. students who had made a verbal decision to follow Christ some time ago, but never followed the Lord in Baptism. Above are also students who had all made decisions for Christ, and followed Him in Baptism, but up until this point had never Baptized another. On Wednesday they Baptized their first, but NOT their last. One student said afterwards, “Now that I’ve done it before I can, and WILL do it again!”
I am anxiously awaiting your feedback, and hope that we can all move forward with a new fervor to obey the Great Commission…ALL of it.