Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why Disciples Should Be the #1 Priority

Yesterday I sat down in a pastor's office to discuss his thoughts on discipleship. From the church website I could see that it was a big deal to him and the life of his church, so I wanted to meet with him and find out what that looks like. When he sat on his couch, kicked off his shoes and propped his feet up on a chair I knew this guy was comfortable in his own skin and was going to be real with me. If I were to write all of what we talked about, it would fill a whole string of blog posts, but I'll share with you one important insight from our time together.

Pastors should focus on making disciples. Too often we try to develop servants or givers or people who will share the Gospel. We may succeed in developing all those things in our people without ever really making disciples. A person can be a giver without being a true follower of Jesus. A person could serve the needs of the community without being a disciple. Someone can even witness to others without being truly a disciple of Jesus. How do we know this? Just think of what people in our churches would do if we took away the nursery, the youth group time, the padded seating, the flashy lights and rock star worship performances...what about the air conditioning or heat? True disciples are there for Jesus--not for any of these other reasons. True disciples are consumed with Jesus (what a novel idea!). However, if we spend our time growing and cultivating disciples, then we will have churches filled with givers, servants, evangelists, teachers, etc. etc. because true disciples do all of those things.

This is an interesting thought that rings true. We often get consumed with getting the fruits on the tree and we spend our time on the fruit rather than cultivating and feeding the tree itself. Can you imagine someone going throughout an orchard stapling apples to sick or dead trees?
 "Why is this fruit rotting on the tree?"
 "Wake up and smell the coffee, Einstein, the tree is dead. Start growing trees that bear fruit in keeping with repentance."

So let me finish by asking some logical questions:

Why are many (if not most) of our churches focusing on life enhancement, like some late night infomercial, rather than getting to the core of discipleship?

Why do we work so hard to attract people to our churches based on self-gratification and materialistic pyrotechnics, when following Jesus (you know...the Guy who said to people who thought they were ready to jump on the band wagon, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head," or, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.") is ultimately to lead them in the opposite direction? How many people would still show up to church if they knew that they might be arrested?

Why are we building our houses on the sand of feel-good-
fluff and superficial community? (Matt 7:26-27).

Why shouldn't discipleship be every pastor's number one priority?


  1. Making disciples is a lifelong process that requires sound doctrine. Many current "Pastors" (I use that term loosely) are fixated on being relevant, proof-texting to make their point, isogeting themsleves or their congregants into the Bible instead of properly focusing on exogeting the text. The almighty "I" gospel fills seats a lot faster then the "Saved by grace through faith and repentance" gospel. The part that perplexes me is why? Sure, some do it for the money it brings. Others do it for the fame and power. What about the rest? I truly believe that others do it because they sincerely think they are doing what scripture teaches because that is what they have been taught by so many false teachers that are praised in modern Christendom. Many pastors teaching now have sound doctrinal points in the "What We Believe" section on their website, even though they couldn't explain the doctrine of the trinity if you asked them face to face (side note - i would venture to say that if you went to many evangelical churches and asked for an explanation of the Trinity, you would discover that an obscene number of the visible church are modalists). It is rare to find churches that preach true discipleship through proper doctrine and exogesis of scripture and it will be their uncompromising faith, that will carry the word of God through this sad, dark time.

  2. Thanks for sharing! Very true. Lately, I have been visiting a lot of church websites. You could call it research. Doctrinal statements, by and large, are Biblically orthodox, but how often do the topics of "What We Believe" sections make it to the pulpits or the classrooms?
    I think the reasons are many: church growth models based on homogeneous unit principles can cause spiritual inbreeding; churches trying to maintain or grow numbers decided to concede previous priorities in order to give people what they wanted (you can see numerous examples of this from gyms to better youth group activities) then the they have to keep the whole system running; our American work ethic is centered around fast results and numbers and profit; we have allowed business principles to dictate how we run church structures, rather than the Bible; etc, etc.
    I think you are right in saying that churches that preach discipleship are rare. That's why we have to do all we can to help fill in the gap.