Every Day Disciples for an Everywhere Mission
How making disciples for the church is unmaking disciples for the mission
I was keeping track of the Exponential Conference via Twitter. I couldn’t watch any of the live streams due to the time difference between Florida and New Zealand, but following the trending Tweets was the next best thing.
I particularly liked what @RobJacobs_ had to say in this Tweet. Perhaps he had everything in mind that I was thinking (and have thought) on the subject, but I wasn’t there. Who knows.
Either way, I’ve been wrestling with the clash of cultures in church my entire life. Maybe it wasn’t always spoken, but our tradition (and traditions) did speak, and loudly, but without any words. I didn’t always like what I was hearing (or seeing) in our congregations and I have wondered if Jesus felt the same.
Actions speak louder than words.
Our traditions and our overall congregational culture speaks through its actions — its deeds. And they’re terribly noisy. Not noisy in a bad way so much (though always potentially), but in a near deafening/drowning-out-all-other-noises kind of way. No matter how loud you speak, no matter how great you preach, no matter how clear you are…actions always speak louder, greater and clearer to your congregation than your words — your voice.
And @RobJacobs_ reminded me to consider how much our traditions and congregational culture actually teaches new and young disciples not only what to do, but also how to do it — what matters most. But… I’m not so sure our churches are always saying what really needs to be developed in the life of a disciple — what really matters in the life of a disciple.
So strong an influence are these embedded traditions and cultures in our congregations (as well as the popular opinion on what a church should look like) that for many people, they naturally conclude they will be evaluated by their uptake of them. That alone shouldn’t give us cause for concern. That they fear the evaluation of the church and their level of engagement in it more than the evaluation of Christ and their engagement in his mission (or somehow mistaking the two for the same) should. That we perpetuate this attitude… should concern us.
Who are we making disciples for?
The ‘Who’ of “who are we making disciples for?” is simple. The answer is Jesus.
Moving on? Not so fast.
If this is true (of course it is) then why is it that we primarily measure disciples by their activity and assimilation in the congregation (their behavior on Sundays at church) over their uptake of the life and teachings of Jesus (their behavior EVERY day and EVERYwhere?)
Take an honest look at how your own personal satisfaction in the growth and maturity of disciples is weighted in your congregation. Consider the value you attribute to the deeds and activities of the disciples in your congregation and consider how many of those activities (that you’re measuring) only apply to activities occurring soley in the church assembly. Then ask yourself, “would Jesus second my assessment of his disciples?”
In each of these areas we presume that success (or growing maturity) in any of these will most certainly show themselves in our assemblies. That, essentially, we can (and should) measure the quality of a disciple by their activity in just 90 minutes of their entire week. That we can actually walk away with helpful information in doing this.
And we wonder why the Christian West is looking less and less Christian every day.
That’s because we haven’t been making disciples for EVERY DAY and EVERYWHERE!
What exactly is the fruit of a faithful Disciple?
The life of a Church Planter or Pastor is spent primarily in and around the Sunday event (if not the office) and, in investing in the growth and effectivity of this Sunday event, we naturally measure those around us by how much they help or hurt this goal —simply: how much they look like us. And even when our conscious tells us that we mustn’t judge in these ways, we still tell ourselves that it’s at least an indicator we should consider as a gauge in the growth and maturity of a disciple.
It’s super easy to measure a disciple by their footprint (or buttprint) on Sunday, not to mention it’s way less cultish than peering into their faithfulness as a disciple the other six days of the week. It appeals to our love for statistics; our desire for quick and easy, clean and decluttered, feedback. We can’t be everywhere, so we just measure where we are and what we care about most (our job?) and call it a day.
That’s where we have it all wrong.
The fruit of a disciple isn’t a church. Period. It’s obedience, emulation, apprenticeship, Christ-likeness.
Jesus will build his church. That is the fruit of HIS activities. Not ours.
A fully formed, fully developed disciple will produce the fruit of looking like Jesus.
Which brings us back full circle. Are we preparing disciples for a job that isn’t theirs? Are we creating and growing a culture within our congregations that develops every day disciples for an everywhere mission, or just disciples who are only prepared for Sunday? We need to be developing faithful and fruitful disciples of Jesus, not the church, and for every day, not just one.
What are you measuring? What does your congregational culture inspire in others?