I would like to share some important things about the command of discipleship and why it is the only real option for you and your church. (Note: I will be quoting some from Stephen Lim and his article found here.)
The Command of Discipleship
Jesus clear said in Matthew 28:16-20, “16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 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,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Please note the following about the above passage:
- Jesus made disciples
- Jesus commanded His disciples to make disciples
- Jesus commanded the new disciples to be taught everything He taught
- Therefore, new disciples will make new disciples because making disciples is a command of Jesus.
The American Church Has Failed at Making Disciples
Lim, “Presently, 46 percent of Americans claim to be born again. Gallup, however, found that only 13 percent evidenced behavioral and attitudinal differences compared with the general population. Barna found that only 5 percent of adults — and less than 10 percent of churched youth — possess a biblical worldview. Dallas Willard bluntly states, “Nondiscipleship is the elephant in the church.”
Please note the following about the above stats:
- Only 13 out of 100 Christians in the US are actually living a different moral life than unbelievers!
- Only 15 out of 100 Christians (both youth and adults) know what the Bible teaches concerning “right & wrong,” i.e., “they have a Christian world view.” Thus, the other 85% have more in common with Oprah than Jesus!
- According to Dallas Willard, “Non-discipleship is the elephant in the church.”
The American Church Thinks Big Churches are The Answer
Lim, “As a pastor, even when I knew better, I was tempted to use growing attendance as a measure of success. In a culture that prizes size, ministers and churches strive for this visible sign of accomplishment. Barna’s studies consistently indicate that churches measure their success by attendance, income, building size, and satisfaction of members.
In this age of residential mobility and consumer Christianity, however, 80 percent of church growth results from believers changing churches. Churches become adept at collecting crowds by offering desirable ministries. Through this means — especially in large or growing population areas — new churches can reach an attendance of hundreds and even thousands within a few years.
While outstanding exceptions exist, Carl George concludes that megachurches generally sustain growth by being receptor churches for believers from smaller feeder churches.”
Note the following:
- Barna’s studies consistently indicate that churches measure their success by attendance, income, building size, and satisfaction of members.
- 80% of church growth results from believers changing churches.
- Carl George concludes that megachurches generally sustain growth by being receptor churches for believers from smaller feeder churches.
- As a result, we are losing ground in the US while secularism, Islam, and cults like Mormonism are growing.
No Discipleship Means No Transformation
Lim, “Serious evangelists and disciple makers need to emphasize the lordship of Jesus. Otherwise we continue the scandal of millions professing faith without living it. In his book, Mere Discipleship, Lee Camp bluntly asks, “Could it be that ‘Jesus is Lord’ has become one of the most widespread Christian lies? Have Christians claimed the lordship of Jesus, but systematically set aside the call to obedience to this Lord?”
Consider the following:
- “Without true discipleship…” we continue the scandal of millions professing faith without living it.
- We have made more emphasis in “believing” than “being.”
- Jesus did not just say just “believe in His teachings” but He also said “hold to His teachings.” John 8:31-32, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Discipleship Test for Your Church
- Does your pastor show consistent discipleship in his life? It has to start with the head.
- Does your church have a “start and finish” discipleship program? Not membership or just bible classes, does it possess a structured plan for individual spiritual growth?
- Does your church require all to be in the discipleship process? Or is it optional, just for the “spiritually elite” or those who think it is important?
- Does your church have a way to keep everyone accountable to the discipleship process and Christian living? Or does everyone do it as they see best- whatever is right in their own eyes?
- Does your church require discipleship before ministry positions? Or can anyone be a leader with a few “training classes,” i.e., “greeter training?”
- If you have small groups, are they mostly social or spiritual? Are they based in having fun or growing in discipleship?
- Does your church have a way to make disciples make disciples- everyone involved? Or does it just depend on the leadership on Sunday and midweek services from the pulpit.
Two Excuses Not to Do Organized Discipleship
EXCUSE #1: Discipleship as stated above is legalism- i.e., “man’s way of doing things.” Jesus did not have a “process” He just lived with His people and by teaching them they eventually got it. I am making disciples by preaching on Sunday and having small groups.
Discipleship as stated above is legalism- i.e., “man’s way of doing things.” Jesus did not have a “process” He just lived with His people and by teaching them they eventually got it. I am making disciples by preaching on Sunday and having small groups.
ANSWER: (a) Jesus commanded His 12 to leave everything- do you command that? (b) Jesus commanded a rich man to sell everything- have you ever done that? (c) Jesus commanded His 12 to street witness- have you ever done that? (d) Jesus rebuked His 12 when they sinned, do you rebuke believers in their sin? If “no,” than you are not doing what Jesus did.
BOTTOM LINE: You do not do what Jesus did, thus, your excuse is not to be more like Jesus, but to be less like Him. Discipleship programs are currently the best representation to do what Jesus did- not seeker sensitive Sunday morning services, boring mid-weeks, or lukewarm small groups.
EXCUSE #2: Discipleship does not grow the church as much or as fast as “such and such method” by “Pastor So and So.”
ANSWER: (a) Jesus was a failure by your standards, (b) Paul was a failure by your standards, (c) Thus, your standards cannot be found in the Bible. (d) The largest churches in the world found in Korea, China, etc… are discipleship based churches! Click here for the largest church in the world in Seoul Korea that uses discipleship as a key component.
BOTTOM LINE: Numerical growth or pragmatism (how good it works) is not the basis of pastoring/leading, however, Jesus’ commands are. Do what Jesus did, let Him add the growth as He wills (Acts 2:47).
Correcting Wrong Thinking About Church
- If you think you could hide in sin in Paul’s church you are not familiar with his churches- Paul expelled “sinful believers” all the time (1 Corinthians 5).
- If you think spiritual sons/daughters were free from their spiritual fathers once they started ministry or joined another church, you are not familiar with 1-2 Timothy & Titus. Denominations, new pastors, or leadership cannot replace spiritual leadership and authority. (Note: This does not take away from the “priesthood of the believer,” or mean control or perversion of leadership, but it means to stay accountable with the leadership where you got saved to avoid wrong church hopping.)
- If you think discipleship is going to church on Sunday and volunteering as a “greeter” or “helper” you have not understood correctly Jesus’ definition of a disciple. Jesus’ disciples were rebuked, commanded to street witness, pray often, learn often, etc… this was normal, not above the norm.
- If you think American seeker sensitive churches are really the closest thing to Jesus and the early church, you have never taken a mission trip and seen the real Gospel in action in Christ’s church. Click here for “real churches” doing Christ’s work in China’s underground churches.
- If you think going to church and agreeing with radical preaching makes you radical, you do not understand the book of Acts.
- If you think the best times of the church are inside church meetings, conferences, and groups… you have never truly done street ministry.
- If you think Jesus’ ministry was mainly in a building you have not understood His time on this earth… over 85% of His time was on the streets.
Possible Slogans for Metro Praise or Any Discipleship Church
- “Metro Praise: Seven years old and still offending the lukewarm church!”
- “Metro Praise: We love you so much, we have to rebuke you sometimes!”
- “Metro Praise: If we haven’t got in your business yet, we apologize someone is making time right now to do so!”
- “Metro Praise: If you do not like it like this, trust us, there are a 100 churches in Chicago you will like!”
- “Metro Praise: You’re fleshy discomfort is our aim!”
- “Metro Praise: We left the churches, you now left Metro Praise to attend, so we could do this!”