“Leadership is not merely personal sanctification but the multiplication of disciples.” – Mike Breen
The majority of churches in America are not growing. It is a well-documented fact. The number one reason for this is that churches have become institutions instead of missionary movements. Institutions tend to be inward focused, intent on preservation rather vision. Movements figure out what God is doing and where He is going and join Him.
In many ways we have succeeded as a church–but succeeded in matters that are contrary to the metrics of the Kingdom. We make the pastor the chief discipler but insist on most of time being spent on the wrong priorities. We want him present in programs whether there is a discipleship purpose or not. We want him to attend to our every need instead of focusing on the work that God is clearly calling us to do. We allow ourselves to be recipients of services instead of providers. In many cases we resist his allowing or equipping others to do what he does for fear that he will stop making our needs his highest personal concern.
And yet at the same time we want to see the church grow. But again, we focus on the wrong metrics. How many people are in the pews and how many dollars in the plate? (Some pastors refer to this as counting nickels and noses.) Because we are not really concerned with doing the work of Jesus ourselves, or that even the church as a whole does the work of Jesus, we never ask whether these additional people represent persons who will be a part of the ministry or simply more consumers of the ministry’s services.
In that scenario, the church is only growing at the expense of the pastor’s exhaustion or lowering the expectations of people who are part of the church. And in that scenario, we have a whole lot of people who are sure they are going to heaven but aren’t insuring that they are taking anyone with them.
Have you read the Great Commission lately? “Then Jesus came to them and said, `All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
Permit me to highlight two phrases: go and make disciples and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Jesus defined his mission as making disciples who would share the Good News of the Kingdom of God. He did not say, “Once you’ve got it made as a disciple” you’re finished. Nor did he say, “Once you have learned my commandments” just hang in there until I return. And he did not say the pastor takes care of the disciples and the rest of us watch.
People on mission for Jesus know that what Jesus counts is how many disciples we have made and disciples are measured by their obedience to the will and purpose of God.
The church is not growing because it is not making disciples, just highly savvy religious consumers.
It’s time to change that. Jesus IS returning.
(C) by Stephen L Dunn