The Church is to be made up of disciples. These are people who have heard the gospel, believe in Jesus Christ, and seek to live as followers of his ways. The charge to make disciples is the key mission given to the Church by Jesus himself. Jesus came to earth, and ushered in the Kingdom of God. He taught and modeled the holiness of God, while highlighting the impurities of sin. In both religious and irreligious circles, Jesus clarified the issues with heavenly truth (Matthew 5-7). Jesus displayed compassion to the downtrodden and opposed the proud. Jesus also died on the cross, paying the penalty of sin for his people, and rose again to secure their eternal residence and fellowship with God. In all things, He obeyed his Father in Heaven, to “bring glory the Father.” In essence, these are the things a disciple should be doing.
The Kingdom of God continued to advance by the movement of the Holy Spirit, and the cooperation of Jesus’ eleven disciples. Jesus had supplied clarity to the mission of his disciples. Duplicate and multiply. Duplicate what I have done and taught in your own lives, and train others to follow this way. Fast forward nearly 2000 years, and the Global Church is still growing. Yet, growth seems stifled in some arenas, and discipleship is one of them. This is perplexing since this is the essential mission of the church. In America, participation in weekly worship is decreasing, the number of people claiming to be Christian is decreasing, and many churches are scratching their heads as to why things are turning out this way. So why is it so difficult to get a church to grow? Why is it so painful to get the modern “evangelical” church to fulfill God’s call for kingdom expansion? I believe it is because we have far less disciples than we think. Over the next several articles, I will provide a few thoughts to re-kindle the flame of disciple-making in the church.
Part One: Reorientation
Evangelical churches may have lost sight of our mission. Of course, we place discipleship as one of our core values on our websites and mission statements. But our words often stray far from our deeds.
One reason is that, as a church, we can tend to primarily focus on the “event.” Church has become, like so much in our culture, sensationalized. Exciting events, moving music, and special services become the focus of our mission. Like a young couple preparing for a wedding, we become infatuated with the events of church. We put a great deal of resources into planning activities to please and tantalize our “guests”. We publicize, plan, and strategize how we can impress people with our events, rather than impressing them with our Savior. We try to bring them to church, instead of bringing them to Jesus.
Also like marriage, discipleship is messy. You see one another’s strengths and weaknesses. You struggle together through the good and bad times. You spend time with one another, and serve others selflessly. In an increasingly self-absorbed culture, it is no wonder that the church struggles to make true disciples. We can introduce people to the idea of Jesus, but we struggle to help complete the picture. Like having a stain-glassed window with no color, it is nearly impossible to see what Jesus looks like without discipleship. It is the Church’s primary task to supply a disciple with the fuller picture, to fill in the colors with the instruction of God’s truth, supporting them in prayer, and empowering them in the mission. We need to begin the process of reorientation. Discipleship must return to its mission; introducing them to Jesus and teaching them to observe all that He commanded us (Matthew 28:20).