Maybe it's just me, but lately, I've noticed that many people confuse or blur the difference between DISCIPLESHIP and SPIRITUAL FORMATION.Read More
by Will Mancini The discipleship results of your ministry are not defined by content of your preaching alone. One significant factor that impacts disciple-making is tool-making. Unfortunately, you might not recall any seminary classes or conference breakouts on making ministry tools.
Why not? The simplest explanation is that we rely too much on teaching. As a result, we as pastors, do not become good at training and spend little time on toolmaking. In fact the average pastor rarely pursues improved competency as a trainer. But pastors go to great lengths— attending workshops, digesting sermons, and reading books— to become better preachers.
Think about it for a minute: Is your church better characterized as a teaching center or a training center? Do you consider yourself more of a bible-communicator or a people-developer? When is the last time you thought about finding or making ministry tools?
I know what you want to say— "It's both Will, why would you separate it?" Of course your intent is both to communicate well and see a disciple form as a result. But I want to separate the two so that you can double check your assumptions and expectations about how people change and grow. Does your teaching provide the pathway toward the modeling, practicing, and evaluating of new life skills? Are you really helping people develop new life competencies in the way of Jesus? Or are you just preaching?
One proof that you are good at training is the presence of ministry tools. What tools have you given to people lately through one of your sermon series? When was the last time you brainstormed with your team about a new ministry tool to create? If you have small group leaders in the church, what ministry tools have you provided for them in the last year?
HERE'S THE BIG QUESTION: Is your church better characterized as a teaching center, or a training center?
The bottom line? If you are not adding ministry tools to the lives of your people, you are not close to maximizing a disciple-making culture. You are probably not equipping people that much.
Before explaining why, let's define what we mean by a tool. One definition reads:
Tool: A handheld device that aids in accomplishing a task. The basic definition brings to mind a hammer or screwdriver that you hold in your hand. The definition may expand if a tool doesn't have to be literally handheld. Another definition reads: a device or implement used to carry out a particular function.
The term "device" broadens the range for disciple-making purposes. For example, the model prayer of Jesus was a device to train the disciples how to pray. Jesus used questions, metaphors and parables as devices or tools of disciple-making that weren't "handheld" per se. So what are examples of ministry tools? Here are five:
- A church does a sermon on praying and provides a prayer journal (ministry tool) as people walk out the door.
- A pastor preaches on missional living and creates a table tent (ministry tool- a triangle-shaped brochure that stands in the middle of the dinner table) for family conversations designed to encourage the application of being better neighbors for the sake of the gospel.
- A team codifies a definition (ministry tool) of what kind of disciple their church is designed to produce and then creates a self-assessment (ministry tool) to use in small groups.
- A pastor uses a 4-question, gospel fluency matrix (ministry tool) –drawable on a napkin–to help the congregation apply the gospel to the daily fluctuations of sinful emotions and actions.
- A bible study leader passes out a business card (ministry tool) with a daily bible reading schedule and three applications questions to ask for every passage of scripture.
This is a short list that begins to illustrate the endless possibilities of ministry tools. Keep in mind that I didn't even reference the internet or digital devices that really explode the possibilities ministry tool-making.
by Jessie Cruickshank Thankfully, there is new wave of impetus on discipleship in the church. Because of that new recovered interest in the subject, many rush to publish books on the best methods and curricula. While these are helpful and a great place to start, it is very important to think about the historical background and current cultural paradigm that implicitly informs and under-girds our concepts of discipleship – and discover how they are hindering our fulfillment of the Great Commission.
To draw the best picture, it is important for us to consider how discipleship has changed over time. First, we need to consider some of the history of education because how we have made disciples is directly and intimately correlated with the types and methods and ways we have thought about education. Because the church is not that much more creative than the culture, the way the culture has thought about education becomes the same way the church thinks about it as well.
Neil Cole (and others) have written about how Paul thought about and made disciples. An examination of those methods is beyond the scope of this paper other than to identify that 1) it was done as a community or town, and all persons participated; 2) apprenticeship was the main method of education; and 3) the purpose of discipleship was to increase one’s union with God in all aspects of life.
These foundational characteristics remained intact up until about 300 AD when, as we all know, Constantine entered the storyline and created the separation between clergy and laity. Suddenly and catastrophically, we abandoned the concept of equally discipling everybody and equal standing as disciple-makers. It became Clergy’s responsibility to be educated and trained, and everyone else’s responsibility to follow them. It is a concept that has only seldomly been challenged in the last 1700 years.
To pick up our historical thread, starting in 300 AD, people are being trained for clergy status and there is a very specific process for that. Additionally, because it’s also an illiterate society, there remains an enchanted aspect to discipleship. People are not really able to learn through text, so they are being discipled through stories and encounters with the spiritual realm. The world is enchanted, much more magical, much more mystical, full of angels, omens, relics, and supernatural encounters. Apprenticeship as a means of education remains, but it is an isolating experience. For example, if one became interested in ministry, wanted to learn more about God, or had an interest in the spiritual, they would leave and attend a monastery. There they would learn how to read and write, but they would be taken away and secluded from the rest of society in order to be trained. Moreover, their practice is not for everybody and there are few to discuss the ideas with. So essentially it is fairly isolated process of education. Essentially, discipleship as Jesus spoke of it doesn’t exist. Rather, individuals are being trained in a mystical profession.
Then comes Martin Luther into the storyline, and the Age of Enlightenment in the 1500s and 1600s. As people are beginning to learn to read and literacy is increasing, the value of individual bible reading strongly takes hold. Yet there remains the clergy-laity split, the clergy wielded great power over people’s lives in how they read the bible. Many, many people were killed for reading the same scriptures and coming to alternate conclusions. Massacres of different Christian sects were common. Yet, because of this sectarian violence that dominated the first 200 years after the Protestant Reformation, and until about 1900, there still remains little to no value in making disciples for every person. As the varying Christian sects articulated their differing theologies, theology itself became an academic pursuit. This means that to gain clergy status, one had to read, study, and become an academic. The faith life and discipleship loses its mystical quality. It loses it’s enchantment and becomes very rational, very western, very Aristotelian. Instead of mystery, we gain knowledge by measuring and defining. In the Enlightenment era, society doesn’t believe something exists unless it can be measured, defined, and explained. People believed they could know the quality of what exists by how they measure it. This includes God, and faith, so society develops a new science: Theology.
The Western world begins to build schools, seminaries and universities where people study theology, hermeneutics, and exegesis. In this era, the purist of God functionally takes the shape of looking at one’s own understanding of scripture in order to discover the truth. Different people come up with ways to interpret the Bible. The study of theology comes to include learning the languages of Greek and in the Hebrew. And at its foundation, the pursuit of God is an academic one. Because in the Enlightenment, we realized that man was smart and could study the things of the past, building on previous knowledge. We also learned we could interact with our world to measure and analyze it. People were determining how the heavens are made with the ways the stars are laid out and the celestial bodies. They were discovering and inventing the sciences of physics, calculus, and many mathematical means. The result is that the spiritual components dropped out of the development of clergy, and it becomes a very academic pursuit.
The corresponding result in society is that disciple making also became an academic pursuit. Disciple making became educating people in the book of the Bible, becoming educated in what we knew of biblical times and culture, and becoming educated in the languages of the Bible. But again still, there is little value for the discipleship for every person beyond that “Christian Education.” Clergy status becomes less of a calling, and more of a vocation, like being a physicist. It losses that enchantment quality.
Then, something very interesting happens in the early 1900s. The Pentecostal Revival breaks out, including the Azusa Street Revival, and the enchantment comes back to our spiritual quality. Through the revivalist era, there is a desire for every person to have an authentic encounter and an authentic relationship with Jesus. There is now a value of every person being involved in a personal relationship with Jesus, as opposed to a state church or social religion.
But interestingly, at the same time as the spiritual life is becoming re-enchantment and there gains a value for authentic discipleship, you also have the Industrial Revolution and this idea of schooling for everyone. The reason for creating schools for everyone, for establishing public education, was explicitly to create a labor force. The educational architects at the turn of the last century decided that society needed to make an every man a quality worker. This quality worker was defined by specifically identifying the “normal man” or “average man.” This created by the effort to “normalized” or to make every person the same so they could work a job in a factory interchangeably. People needed to be able do the same job the same way because they were working with the same machines or they were working with the same components. It didn’t really matter who an individual is, how tall they are or how long their arms are. Schools were also designed for everyone to be trained in the same skill set, to a very detailed level of specificity. For example, it should take 3 seconds to grab the milk and it should take 2 seconds to pour the milk in the vat, and it should take 1 second to discard the empty vessel over here. Labor skill sets were program-ized. By design, schooling worked to eliminate qualities of individuality. The goal of school was to create uniform persons who could fit into the work force like identical cogs in a wheel. Ford, the automaker, was very intentional and influential in designing American schools this way. It was not just a philosophy of creating a labor force; it was his philosophy for how society worked best. He believed that every person should be average, every person should fit the same mold, every person should be exactly the same, and it was society’s duty to help individuals conform to the average as much as possible. Any deviation from the average was a problem; was something that was mal-formed. Today we have taken that so far that we diagnosed things outside of the ‘norm’ as a disease. The physicians’ reference is huge because everything outside of this very narrow ‘normal’ is now named and often medicated. We sacralize the “widget-making” by saying we want to help everyone be “like Jesus,” rather than helping people become who Jesus created them to be.
As we enter into the 1920s, those who envision a “normed” society become influenced by those who believe in the class system, and that some people are inherently better than others, and “average” becomes something that is “less than.” As America is evaluating its military there arises the need to separate common soldiers out from potential military leaders, so the IQ test is invented to rank people. Society has fully embraced the ‘normal’ bell curve, and people are ranked across it. The ideal is no longer the normal or the average; the ideal now is the above average. The ideal becomes the thin part of the bell curve that says you are better than everybody else. This is literally why we have grades in school. The purpose of grades is to rank. First, you normalize everybody along the bell curve, and then you rank them.
But how does this influence our understanding and practice of discipleship? If you take the concept of the ideal as being above average, and layer in the clergy-laity split, the resulting conception is that a person is called to ministry if they are above average in reading the Bible. Or one is called to ministry if they are above average in their spiritual encounter. Or one is probably called to ministry if they are above average in their passion for the gospel and sharing it with others. Our philosophy of discipleship has and continues to follow the same paradigm of schooling.
Today we have the value of educating everybody in the Bible and every person having their own relationship with Jesus, but we have an implicit normalized bell curve of discipleship, and we still have the same process for everyone. Ford’s goal was to create uniform widgets out of people and our philosophy or paradigm of discipleship has not gone beyond that. We are still trying to uniformly create widgets of disciples. And the resulting widget it not a disciple in the rabbinical sense as much as it is a person who is educated. Because if we look at the trajectory of history, a disciple is still defined by their education, as defined by the Age of Enlightenment. And because of the Industrial Revolution, we want to mass-produced them. In our process of mass producing widget-disciples, we have the form of church that we have, where they are laid out like school and have big sermons. Churches are often designed and laid out the exact same way as a school, with a teacher up front with everybody sitting in their own happy, little rows to be uniform, to be controlled. That is an atmosphere and a layout that is intentionally designed to control behavior and create conformity. That is how many churches have envisioned making disciples.
In the last 30 years, we have gotten a little better. We have gotten more creating and developed different paths and methods of discipleship. But we still hang onto the implicit goal of the uniform widget disciple. We still do not see the individual. We still do not see individual calling, and our discipleship has not yet embraced the biblical call for everyone to be a disciple-maker. We haven’t gotten there yet, but hopefully this is somewhere we can start to turn the tide.
Currently, most churches are using one of three basic processes of making disciples. The first one is the mass-produced member, where the discipleship process is really a membership process, focusing around membership classes including more about the denomination of the church and discipleship is ‘process’ of becoming part of the church. This is extremely common method.
Another very common method is what I call the HR-recruitment strategy. This is where you may or may not have membership, but you need people to staff and volunteer all of the roles within a church. You need ushers, you need hospitality team, you need Sunday school teachers. So the discipleship process looks like inviting people to connect, giving them a ministry gifts test, and then plugging them into the church ministry that seems like the best fit for them. And that is what that church calls discipleship. Most churches that do not have membership and if you ask them their philosophy of discipleship, it involves plugging a person into a ministry team and letting them serve. Because in that paradigm, service is discipleship. That’s a very shepherdy kind of paradigm. This is not a derogatorily statement; shepherds can make disciples. But they know how to do that by being in proximity with people. The basic paradigm is that when we are all each other doing something, then we are disciples. The limitation of this is that it is just one fifth of what it means to be a disciple and one fifth of what it takes to make disciples. The HR-recruitment strategy is the shepherd’s version of making disciples.
There is another method that is less common, but definitely employed, which is the curriculum strategy. It is usually a book, which is often paired with a workbook with some great teaching videos. In this paradigm, disciples are made by reading the book together and discussing it. This is a very teacher-esque philosophy of discipleship. Again, that’s just one fifth, and it doesn’t meet everybody’s needs. Personally, I read near 100 books a year.
My husband reads 100s of articles on the web, but he does not read books and does not learn well from them. So the teacher-paradigm of using curriculum to make disciples does not work for him. Also, he is an introvert. The worst thing I did for our marriage was make him volunteer on the usher team with me. That did not go well. So if you are asking him to serve other people publicly, he is not going to fit. And if you are asking him to read book, he doesn’t fit in that. So how does my husband be a disciple? How is he being made a disciple of Jesus, when 2 of the main strategies completely miss who he is as a person, and miss the way God created him? It is not a character flaw that he doesn’t learn through reading a book. It’s how God made him. So there has to be a different method of discipleship in order to reach him. He is not a widget. He is not a blank slate. Disciples are not blank slates either and yet we treat them like that. They come into church and our discipleship process, they come into a small group, and we think of them as a blank slate of having never encountered God’s truth, having never heard God speak to them, until He did so through us or our discipleship process. And that is not very acknowledging of the sovereignty of God and that’s not very acknowledging of the passion of the Holy Spirit to lead us into truth. Because that’s the way culture thinks about education, that’s the way the church thinks about education. And the church has not been more creative than culture in leading people into truth and walking with them on their journey of discipleship.
Something that is very important to me whenever considering discipleship is that a true philosophy of discipleship or a true method of discipleship needs to be employable by every person, every place, every time. If your philosophy of discipleship or your method of discipleship focuses on everybody coming to church, then it is not movemental. If your philosophy or process of discipleship involves everybody going to specific home group or hearing from a specific teacher, then it is not movemental. If your philosophy or process of discipleship cannot happen from any person to any other person, then we have missed it. We have missed the mark. If you require your disciple-makers to have a seminary degree or really have amazing theology in order to make disciples, then it is not movemental.
We have missed the mark. And we have thought too highly of our own theology. All of us have broken theology. All of us have things when we get to heaven and say, “Oh, I didn’t know that. I totally messed that up.” There can’t be this level of exactness. There can’t be the requirement of coming to a specific place. There can’t be this level of maturity even that’s required in order to make disciples. Because, if we do that, we have missed the beauty of Jesus promising to be truth incarnate in our midst. And we have missed the threshold of what is means to be a disciple-maker, which is not a call to specific level of education or to a specific power of calling, but to everyone.
Our discipleship process has to grow beyond our concepts of education in our society. It has to be something that becomes much more viral, much more movemental, much less rigid, much more enchanted, and much more dependent upon the Holy Spirit to lead us, to guide us, to speak through us. Only the Holy Spirit can actually make a disciple through an immature believer and it’s exactly supposed to be that way.
A Rabbi of mine once said to me, “You can have anything I have, but it will require proximity and pace.”
We know the kingdom of God is often better caught than taught. Why? Because it’s the way we’re wired to learn and grow. From our earliest hours as infants we spend most of our time attached to a family member absorbing, through our five senses, the world around us and we catch the basics of human behavior. First, by experience and then later by explanation. In fact, the reference point for the Rabbi-Disciple relationship is the parent-child relationship. For this reason, Jesus invited His disciples to ‘be with Him’ in His life and mission instead of trying to set aside extra time to disciple them. He integrated the disciples into His life, rather than making them an extra appendage to His schedule. Jesus made a massive sacrifice to create this space for the disciples, but they would have to make an equally significant sacrifice in order to be with Jesus. If they wanted what He had, they would have to leave everything behind and be with Him. This is the nature of a discipling relationship. It requires significant proximity.
I often hear leaders lament about how their people won't commit more of their time. Here’s a simple interpretive grid - either they aren’t ready to become disciples or they aren’t ready to be your disciple. Either way, it is a waste of valuable time and energy to spend lamenting about what others won't do. I’ve never seen a great response from beating the sheep. Instead, pay close attention to those who are showing signs of wanting more. They may not be the ones you expected, but you can only disciple someone who wants to be discipled, and a great early indicator is their willingness to make sacrifices to be with you. It’s important to make the distinction between those who ‘want’ to be disciples and those who are ‘willing'. The willing will make proximity possible. This goes for both Rabbi and disciple. We must offer them access to our lives and they must enter in.
God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. Moses took Joshua with him into the tent to meet with God. Samuel lived with Eli in the temple. Jesus did the same for His disciples.
Proximity allows us to move beyond the investment of good information to an opportunity for imitation. Our disciples need to watch how we follow Jesus in every area of our lives if they are to learn the way of Jesus in our life.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This African proverb highlights an important aspect of the discipling culture Jesus demonstrated for us - pace. We’ve already talked about the importance of integrating our disciples into our life and mission, but what of the pace? I often think that Jesus could have done everything more easily and quickly had He not been dragging twelve knuckleheads around with Him all the time, but then I remember that Jesus’ mission wasn’t just to redeem us from death, but to reteach humanity how to live. As in parenting, this takes time and patience. Jesus chose a pace that would both allow Him to deliver on His personal mission as well as develop others who could operate in the same way. Too often we choose 'either or' instead of 'both and', therefore finding ourselves sacrificing one on the altar of the other.
The Rabbi’s pace will determine who can follow them. A faster moving Rabbi will require faster moving disciples. The opposite is true too. Our work as leaders is to pay attention for those who are both willing to sacrifice for proximity as well as keep up with our pace. We aren’t meant to disciple everyone and so we must resist the temptation to be all things to all people. Instead, we must trust, like Jesus did, for the Father to give us those who are ready to follow us and we are ready to disciple.
"All those the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never drive away." John 6:37
There are no shortcuts to discipleship. Like raising children, it will require everything from us. It has as much to do with our leadership as their followership, but as leaders we can only take responsibility for our part. Learn how to integrate your disciples into your life and mission, demanding both proximity and pace, giving them a living example to follow. Let them apprentice you by seeing your marriage, how you budget finances, how you resolve conflict, your successes, your failures and struggles, and how you follow Jesus in the midst of it all. Only in this way will they have a chance to learn the character and competencies of Christ in your life. This is discipleship.
Being a disciple requires we deny ourselves, lay down our life and follow in the way of Jesus. So does making disciples.
Is this journey easy? No, but it is definitely worth it!
By Neil Cole
Jesus defined success differently. For Him, success could be summed up in three words: Faithfulness (Matt 25:21; Heb 11:6) fruitfulness (John 15:8) and finishing well (Matt 25:21; 2 Tim. 4:6-8).
If these three things are what Jesus is looking for to determine our success then perhaps our priorities should reflect them. Christian leaders put so much emphasis on tasks at the expense of relationships, but actually, it is our relationships that will ultimately reveal our success or lack thereof.
The diagram below reflects a variety of roles that a typical Christian leader can feel obliged to fill. At the top of the chart are the roles and at the bottom are the numbers of people he or she can expect to influence in each of those roles.
As you look at the circles above imagine them on a potter’s wheel spinning fast. The Christian leader feels the pull of centrifugal force to the outer roles. The crowds beckon. The demands of the consumer Christians call to us endlessly.
Leaders who perform well on the outside tasks get the most accolades and affirmations. But the tasks that fuel true success over a lifetime are found at the center of the circles. The greatest demand and the least significance are found in the roles on the outside of the circles. The least demand on your time, yet the greatest significance for your life investment, are found in the center of the target. Aim for the bull’s eye if you want to die without regrets.
We simply must realign our priorities to reflect what is valuable in God’s kingdom. The greatest leaders are not those who win the most followers. The greatest leaders are the ones who produce leaders.
Follow Jesus to True Success
This was Jesus’ pattern; he fulfilled all the roles. He preached to, healed and fed the multitudes (Matt 13:1-34;14:13-21). He cast vision to five hundred at one time (1 Cor 15:6). He shepherded a congregation of disciples that numbered 120 (Acts 1:15). He coached and facilitated the training of 70 (Luke 10:1). He discipled 12 (Matt. 10:1) and of those 12 He invested Himself in 3 to reproduce His leadership (Mark 5:37; Luke 9:28; Mark 14:33). The 3 were part of the 12, who were numbered in the 70. The 70 were counted among the 120 and of course the 120 were part of the multitudes.
Jesus was not enamored by large crowds. Though He obviously had the ability to draw tens of thousands to attend an event, it was not his purpose to gather a large crowd, and that was not success to Him. He frequently tried to get away from large crowds (Luke 5:14-16), and even intentionally offended them without worrying about loosing His popularity (John 6:41-71).
It is the lives you touch, one at a time, which will be the fruit of your life. To focus on the true priority of making disciples we must at times neglect the distracting but less than significant demands that come from the masses.
By Neil Cole Perhaps the single most consistent need in churches is more leaders––more children workers, youth workers, worship leaders, musicians, bean counters and technicians. It doesn’t matter how big the church is, leaders are still in demand, in fact more so in larger organizations. There is always more ministry than leaders.
Our big problem is that we are constantly searching for leaders and trying to entice them to join us. Recruitment is when we search for a leader from the outside to fill a need on the inside. Most churches immediately take to recruiting people; it is our default and constant practice.
Leadership recruitment doesn’t help. It contributes to our poverty. Churches that recruit can never find enough. Recruitment is a consumer-oriented paradigm and is symptomatic of our most serious and lethal affliction.
Recruitment is much like picking out produce at the grocery store. Someone else did all the hard work of cultivating soil, planting seeds, growing and harvesting the fruit so that you can conveniently pick it up and take it home for consumption. If everybody was only consuming the fruit, and no one was farming, we would quickly have a lack of fruit. That describes the stark and desolate drought we are experiencing now in the kingdom. Having too many consumers and not enough producers has created a shortage of fruit. We all desire fruit. Jesus wants us to bear fruit, not buy it. Recruitment is an endeavor that is never satisfied.
Occasionally a quality leader is found, and they work well for a while, until they get recruited somewhere else. Like some cruel joke, the leaders we wish we didn’t have to keep stay, because no one is recruiting them.
There are never enough leaders for the demand. We start with a ministry need, and then work to find someone to match the task. This is actually backwards. We start with our eyes on our gaping needs and we are never really able to see anything else. It seems that once you start down the recruitment path you find yourself in a world where you are acutely aware of all that you do not have. There are not enough leaders to fill the current gaps let alone start anything new.
I used to think that recruitment was a strategy that only added ministry to the Kingdom and can never be a multiplying strategy. I have come to see that it is not even an addition strategy. Recruitment is actually a subtraction strategy. It doesn’t add anything to the kingdom. It simply takes from it. It is a strategy that uses the kingdom for its own good rather than contributing to the kingdom.
When everyone is taking and no one is contributing, soon the pool sucks dry and we are all left with nothing. The vast majority of churches are sucking up what little resources are left in the kingdom and contributing nothing. The results are a drought. Our pool is shrinking daily and in the end all we have left to us is the muck at the bottom of the pond.
This explains why so many churches are dying of thirst. Quality diminishes. Needs are left unfilled. Our thirst for more resources increases with no hope of satisfaction.
There is a solution all around you. There is an oasis available to all our churches with enough resources for everyone––if we can shift our minds to a different paradigm. We must lift our eyes (off our own internal needs) and look to the fields that are white for a harvest (outside ourselves).
We need to increase the capacity for production. Churches need to start farming and contributing to the kingdom rather then simply consuming. So many churches are more enamored with finding golden eggs rather than the goose that lays them. Having a golden egg is nice for a while but soon you want and need more; it is a limited resource. Having a goose that lays golden eggs means you will never want for more.
The few churches that do not lack for leaders have taken to a farming mentality. They are doing the things that God told them to do. They are making disciples from those who do not know Christ yet. Disciple-making is more then merely teaching the saints from a pulpit or curriculum. Making disciples starts with the lost and broken that are not in the church. We need to begin to see the great resource all around us. Our greatest hero for tomorrow’s harvest woke up this morning with a hangover in the wrong person’s bed. He or she is ready for transformation, and looking for it. Churches are not accustomed to seeing the lost and broken around them as a resource. We suffer poverty in a sea of wealth.
You see there are untapped and almost limitless leaders all around your church. As Jesus said to Paul while desperate and alone in Corinth: “I have many people in this place.” Jesus helped Paul to see the wealth around him. These future leaders are not in the kingdom of light…yet. He is telling us, “Get busy outside your own doors where the true riches lie.”
Jesus gives us a simple formula to discover the rich wealth of workers all around. First He identified the problem I’m speaking about. He said, “The harvest is plentiful (there is much fruit all around you), but the workers are few (we suffer a shortage of workers).” His solution? Not recruitment, but passionate prayer for workers to come from the harvest for the harvest.
The leader is the fruit, not the means to it. We need to see our role as producing fruit-bearing people rather than just using them for other ends. Disciple-producing from those out in the fields is our mission, given to us by Jesus. If we just did that we would see that we lack for nothing. It doesn’t cost a dime to make a disciple; it only costs your life.
If more churches would get their hands dirty in the good soil around them rather than dipping their hands into the pockets of other ministries they would find a source of golden eggs that never runs dry.
By: Alan Hirsch Instead of giving you more theory about the why and the what of discipleship, this week I thought I’d show one of the great benefits that arises from thinking differently (more movementally) about something that we think that we Evangelicals think we already know pretty well…evangelism. Here is evangelism as understood through the lens of the Great Commission which lies at the root of the Jesus movement.
I want to propose that the reader try to put aside what you think you already know about evangelism and simply (and quite literally) adopt the Great Commission as your guide to how we might prioritize discipleship. I suggest that following of the logic of the commission itself, we should all simply disciple people anywhere and everywhere. Furthermore, that we should learn to see discipleship as a lifelong process that includes our pre-conversion experience and, if God does his thing, extends into the lifelong experience of the disciple of Jesus.
In other words we need to reframe evangelism within the context of discipleship rather than the other way around. This is what it means to put evangelism back where it really belongs, as part the Great Commission given to the church to make disciples of the nations. If we fail to practice discipleship from the get go, then as experience has taught us, discipleship as a lifelong pursuit of becoming more like Jesus, simply drops off the agenda. Instead we now become the preachy Bible pushers and guerilla evangelists that everyone seeks to avoid. Discipleship (as the famous Engels Scale indicates) starts way before people are fully converted or born again.
Pre-Conversion Discipleship to Post-Conversion Discipleship Jesus
Now, before you dismiss this as a tad weird for your liking, I suggest that in fact this was precisely the case with Jesus and his followers. The question scholars argue over is when the disciples were actually “born again” or what we might consider “truly converted to Christ.” Some say John 20:22, where Jesus breathes the Spirit on them, and others say that it was actually at Pentecost (Acts 2). I know of none that would say before that! So, even “the Twelve” (and “the Seventy”) were for the most part what we would call “pre-conversion disciples.” What is more, the standard practice in the church in its first three centuries was that people had to prove their adherence to Jesus in discipleship before they were allowed to become part of the church! This was the original purpose of the catechisms. In other words, discipleship started long before a person became a convert. In movements that change the world, discipleship is an ethos—a way of life—not just an optional extra for the more dedicated Christians.
This is what it has to be prioritized and coded into the very life of the church if it is to become a movement. Join the disciple-making track to enhance the church’s potential in the critical task of fulfilling the Great Commission…authentically.
Explore this idea further by viewing my free ebook, DISCIPLISM.