Every church I’ve ever worked in or consulted has as her goal to make mature disciples that makes mature disciples. After all, this is what Jesus declared the church was to do. (Matt. 28:19) But, while all churches talk about this as being her primary responsibility, few churches actually do it. Okay, okay… I realize this is a strong statement. But, in my experience, few are truly making mature disciples and even if they do, very, very few are making mature disciples with the expectation of those who have been discipled discipling others.
There are five church types that, while they believe they’re making disciples, really aren’t.
The “I Have a New and Creative Way” Church – I often come across a church that has determined she is going to do something new and different in almost every area of church life. The worship experience will look like no other. The group ministry will have a twist to it that no on else has ever considered. The student ministry will do new and outlandish things that will draw kids like nothing the city has ever seen before. In most instances the “I Have a New and Creative Way” church is led by an extremely creative person or a pastor longing to be the next Bill Hybels. When it comes to making disciples, the leadership team of this church will have a new and creative way of doing it. And, in most instances, they either totally ignore or pervert Jesus’ way of disciple making which is the most effective way.
The “I Read the Latest Thoughts on Disciple Making” Church – Because making disciples is the hot topic right now, there are a plethora of articles and books that have been released by impressive church leaders telling other churches how their church is making disciples. I find that many of those church leaders aren’t actually expecting those they say they’re discipling to live up to the biblical expectations of a disciple. In fact, they seem to be downplaying God’s expectations for the people they’re discipling. If the truth were known, some of them are describing their assimilation into church life process not a disciple making strategy. While it’s always good to hear from other church leaders, when you read a book written by other church leaders and their plan contradicts the principles and/or practices Jesus requires of one of His disciples, you may have wasted twenty bucks.
The “It Must Be Done in My Context” Church – One principle that will always remain true, if it’s a biblical truth, it’s a universal truth. Many churches are rewriting the book on disciple making so that the strategy they’re using fits into the lifestyle of their congregants. They may have a lot of commuters, home school moms, or be in a community where there are a massive number of outdoor types. Their people tell them they just don’t have time to be discipled or to spend time doing the spiritual disciplines. The “It Must Be Done in My Context” church starts with the question, “What are our people willing to do?” instead of starting with the question, “What sacrifices must be made by anyone who wants to become a mature disciple?”. According to Jesus as He speaks throughout the Gospels, sacrifice is a non-optional part of the disciple’s journey. The “It Must Be Done in My Context” church may need to determine if the context of Scripture is more important than the cultural context where their church is located.
The “I Can Do It In a Classroom” Church – This church has determined that they can put people in rows and teach them the expectations of a disciple and that those people will then go do those things. The “I Can Do It In a Classroom” church is most often led by a team of church leaders with a passion to teach or a team of church leaders who were never discipled. Because no one ever took them under their wing and discipled them, subconsciously, the most potent learning method in their minds is a proclaimer espousing information from behind a pulpit. Nothing could be further from the truth. The most potent teaching method is the one Jesus modeled when making disciples of His 12 (or 3). They walked with Him, He taught them up close and personally, He answered their questions, modeled the lifestyle He wanted them to live, demanded more of them than they were comfortable with, and transformed them through a very intimate relationship with them. People do what they’ve seen done, not what they’ve been told they’re suppose to do. And they will only do those things for a lifetime and disciple someone else to do them when they have been discipled by someone who truly knows them, has proven their love for them, has sacrificed much for them, and is intimately involved with them throughout the discipleship process.
The “I Can Create the Right Environment” Church – This church has concluded that disciple making happens when people feel like the environment is right for it. In some of these churches the right language is verbalized, group leaders are enlightened as to what it takes to make disciples of the people in their groups, and there is talk about disciple making in almost every training experience. But the truth is, this is all a façade. Disciple making doesn’t happen until people are, 1) journeying with a disciple maker, 2) have counted the cost of being a disciple, 3) have accepted their role of disciple in process, 4) consistently engaged in the spiritual disciplines, and 5) held accountable (in a palatable way) to do all of the above, and these expectations must be in action, not just made known. The “I Can Create the Right Environment” church may create a disciple making environment without ever making a mature disciple.