“Building a crowd or equipping an army?”
I don’t remember where I first read that statement, but I feel it represents a good picture of how we approach church in the 21st century. Of course you can do both which is the desired end. But, often the temptation is to short change the equipping stage if it isn’t resulting in growing attendance at the rate that we would like.
Human nature being what it is, we are more likely to respond to something which doesn’t challenge us to think deeply, work harder, or make sacrifices. We are tempted to play to the culture which is mesmerized by the “what do I get out of it,” mentality.
I recently heard a pastor say, “You can’t escape the New Testament concept we are called to be disciples and in turn to make disciples.” As one writer described it we can be either a “fan” or a “follower” of Jesus. A fan is content to set on the sideline and cheer. He gets excited when his team gives him the thrills of winning.
But there is really nothing he does to make that happen. A fan of Jesus might be one who enjoys going to concerts or mega church settings; he loves to be involved in the ecstasy of praise and worship settings, but rarely gets involved in the messy stuff of the human dilemma, like visiting in a nursing home or investing his life in someone who has nothing to offer in return.
A true follower of Jesus says, “Yes Lord, I’ll follow you into the inner-city when my flesh longs for the suburbs. I’ll invest my time in that trailer park, even if their lifestyle makes me sad. I’ll become informed so I might serve more effectively even though I’d rather watch NCIS, the Red Sox, or go hunting.”
It is not that God calls his disciples to a dry, humdrum lifestyle without any fun or joy. It is that He knows where lasting satisfaction and deep security resides; in the joy of obedience, in investing in things that last for eternity.
Disciple-making is the next and often the most neglected sphere of the Christ-life. But the last time I checked it was still included in Matt. 28:19. Too often we think in terms of conversions, baptisms, members or attenders.
Disciple making is a bit abstract and it not easily described or defined. But essentially it means being transformed to become like Jesus — to see people as he does, to learn to love sacrificially like he did, and to join him on the cross in dying to our own selfish desires and ambitions.
It is seeking to know Him more intimately and finding the treasure that would call a man to sell all he has to purchase it. Then how do we as disciples learn how to be real disciple-makers, that is helping new believers see the big picture of the Kingdom?
It is more than sitting in a pew Sunday Morning, as important as that is. Most researchers say greater growth comes in small group settings of interaction, doing servant related projects with other believers, one-on-one mentoring sessions, and learning how to feed yourself in study and solitude.
Likely, it boils down to developing a hunger a thirst for the knowledge of God which leads to a life of service. Can we sincerely pray, “God give me a heart that longs to know you more deeply and love you more completely.” Then ask God to lead you to someone in whose life the Spirit has demonstrated a hunger and thirst. The doors will open and the Spirit will lead.
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