If reproducing leaders - making disciples - is the "One Thing We Can't NOT Do" in the church and in Christian leadership, why do we suck at it so bad?
Seriously! How are so many churches apparently growing - numbers of attendees and even people coming to membership classes going up - and all the while, lives are not being transformed, souls are not being eternally brought from death to life, and the Great Commission remains absent from most Christians daily lives? WHY is this happening? HOW did we arrive at this place? WHAT can be done about it? For starters, I think we've got to stop trying to pull the horse with the cart. Let me explain.
If we broke this down on a molecular level (which is a hilarious idea coming from me, I know) - asked ourselves, "What actually makes a church?" - what living, active ingredients must be present to qualify the use of the word "church - what would we find? If you examine this from a biblical perspective (which, by the way, is the ONLY foundational source of definition and description we have) what we find is that 1) lives were being transformed, 2) people were being baptized, 3) the PEOPLE were taking care of and ministering to one another, 4) and Ephesians 4:11-16 was being actively lived out. They were making disciples. And because of this...it was the church.
But here's the contrast: Today, we get that last part backwards. On an unthinkable, almost rampant level, "churches" are started and built on a few key ingredients: sermons, music, and buildings. And making disciples is like an unexpected, interrupting afterthought. And leaders, pastors, church staffs, and leadership teams spend countless hours racking their brains trying to figure out, "Why are the numbers going up, but lives aren't being changed? Why are we killing ourselves trying to find people to serve and volunteer?"
[And this is where the church staff typically loads in the van, heads to the Catalyst Conference or the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, drinks from a fire hose of hyped-up megachurch ideas (that have no context or place in their church of 250), comes home, and tries to ram those ideas in place into their church. And it's disastrous. It's like that moment when Elaine would start dancing on an episode of "Seinfeld". It's just not good for anyone.]
Here's why: A church is ONLY present if we are making disciples. Period.
In his book, Transforming Discipleship, Greg Ogden speaks directly to this calling. He says, "...we have not made disciples if we only help people grow to maturity without also seeing them reproduce." And he goes on to say that "most churches have no clear, public pathway to ministry. We have no destination in mind, and so therefore no road on which people can walk even if they want to understand the implications of discipleship." And this - I believe - exposes one of the major reasons WHY and HOW so many churches have unknowingly wound up wandering down this path: "Programs can make it look like we are growing disciples, but that is more illusion than reality, and we know it." (Ogden, p.43)
Let me make sure and be clear about something: This is NOT every church. There are amazing churches out there today, growing, equipping, and raising up disciples of Jesus Christ - reproducing disciples - the ONLY kind of disciples. That said, a great number of churches in existence today are caught in this cycle of putting the cart before the horse and wondering why their wagon winds up arriving at a destination they hadn't planned or charted. We MUST turn back to the Lord's definition of what it means to be HIS Church! There is no gimmick, new idea, conference, technology, 6-week study, or church growth consultant needed for this. It begins with pastors and leaders getting on their faces and seeking the face of God, and being consumed by His Word - the blueprint, foundation, and life-giving Gospel-plan of making disciples. One at a time. Reproducing disciples. Disciples that MAKE DISCIPLES of Jesus! There are no other kinds.
This is our mission.
HOW should this look at your church? If you don't know, seek His face relentlessly and cry out for His wisdom. And don't stop seeking and asking until He delivers. He has promised us He would!