It’s confession time. Here is why I have been susceptible to chasing corporate markers of success and following the latest fads flogged by Christian leadership gurus:
- I want the church to grow in our region as it has in other locales
- I want to be a ‘success’
- I am not patient by nature
- I have a background in ‘para-church’ ministry (where progress often is more accelerated than in a local church context)
- I have sought to emulate the strategies of larger churches because if they are successful numerically they must have insight into the ways of God
We want the Silver Bullet- a quick and easy passage into the fulfillment of our ministry goals. We want a quick prayer to make a disciple rather than walking with people towards a long obedience in the same direction.
Enter the ‘Radical’ series our church is currently in.* In our Sunday morning services and in our small groups we are asking some difficult questions inspired by the ‘Radical’ book by David Platt. Here are some unsettling questions that are moving us from our assumptions about ‘church-ianity’ towards discipleship:
- Why does Jesus always seem to be thinning the crowd out and looking for those who will truly lay down their lives for him?
- What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus in an affluent nation in light of the reality of millions of unreached and poverty stricken people around the globe?
- Are we really making disciples through our church activities?
- How can it be that we have people who have been in our churches for decades and have never made a single disciple?
Here are some things we are learning and observing in the midst of this process:
- The less we ‘soft sell’ the call to discipleship the more we are being authentic to the words of Jesus.
- One fully committed disciple has more impact than a church full of marginally committed consumers.
- There is now a buzz in our church about what it means to be a disciple. Good people who have bought into the ‘American Dream’ are now rethinking their accumulation of toys and reworking their retirement plans.
- On the other hand, some people are oblivious to what God is saying to the church and continue to be rather ‘undisturbed’.
This reminds me of a parable. The seed of the word didn’t ‘take’ with many people. However, with a smaller group of people the word ‘took’ and the resulting harvest was bountiful- even to a hundredfold. The people who are willing to suffer and sacrifice- to lose their lives for the sake of Christ and the gospel- will have a disproportionate kingdom impact for the glory of God in the nations.
Perhaps I am a greater success in God’s eyes if I make a few genuine disciples than if I fill a building with consumers.
*NOTE: This article first appeared in the ‘Mid-West Messenger’ (Nov. 2011) when I was serving a church as lead pastor.