Is “doing church” making your mission impossible?
Jesus said it was His job to build the church, and ours was to make disciples. In trying to do His job have we made our own unattainable?
Our mission is to make powerful and healthy disciples who go and do the same. But the black-hole-like gravity of keeping people turning up to our services and programs ensures many leaders are in permanent mission-drift.
Who has the luxury of ensuring their people are spiritually healthy when there is already so much to do in keeping a church going? We need roles filled, the tech system up to date, the worship leaders trained, and a social media strategy owned by someone.
Matthew 28:19 is an inconvenient call … one that gets drowned out by the relentless noise of other activity in our complex church machinery.
And no-one is going to let us off the hook any time soon from all the urgent and visible work required to just do church every week.
And so, we inevitably feel obliged to exclude from our reporting system any meaningful metric of discipleship or spiritual health. We possibly have no real idea how to strategise for it anyway, let alone measure it.
Is it impossible to make disciples?
Over recent years a lot of clever people have had a lot to say about all this.
We now have missional church, house church, cell church, and simple church models out there, trying hard to get back on mission, with various levels of success.
But what about the rest of us?
Maybe you don’t have the option of going to a radical new model of church. The people you serve may like things pretty much as they are. Maybe you like it that way too! And there is still a lot to be gained by meeting people’s legitimate needs for a weekly service run well by gifted leaders in a comfortable space.
Can a conventional church like that fulfil its mandate to make disciples?
Absolutely, it can. And it must.
The ideas and resources on this site are dedicated to doing just that and have proven successful in many and varied settings. People aren’t just gaining biblical knowledge, they are transforming comprehensively and enthusiastically. What’s more they are going out contagiously and transforming others.
Sure, you may need to take a look at the busyness and fruitfulness of your existing programs – being prepared to minimise what is drawing energy from the real mission. But, in reality, I have found that if the discipleship framework is right, it produces its own form of gravity and people begin to enthusiastically get involved in what is legitimately changing lives.
Fruitfulness and spirituality can be difficult to adequately measure, but we can measure what we do as leaders. Our role is to provide the very best of inputs, and if we do that well the outputs tend to take care of themselves. Fruit comes when the roots and soil are healthy. That’s our job as leaders, to plant and water seed, which God then grows (1 Cor. 3:6-7).
The need for a Discipleship Framework
We need to know the big picture of what primary elements and ideas need to be in place if this mission is to be successful. We also need to define a win, knowing what the ultimate goal is for discipleship, and how we ensure we focus on that.
The rest of the articles in this series are dedicated to explaining that framework. It gives you the big picture, an outline of sorts, that you can colour in for your own situation. I will give some examples of how it has worked in practice. I will also give you some tools and show you how to use them.
Take what you need, and discard what does not apply to your context. And I pray that you too will discover what it means to get back on mission and bear great fruit in the deeply challenging age we live in.