- Death (Luke 14:27)
We read in Scripture of the sacrifices Jesus' disciples must be willing to make, but when we compare those expectations to the selfish desires of our own parishioners, we realize that we're leading congregations of spiritual babes.
Getting a Redirect from God
Discipleship has become the primary conversation in churches and those who serve them. It seems God is creating a movement. It shouldn't surprise us that God is drawing our attention back to disciple-making. It seems we, the church, have given our hearts wholeheartedly to recruiting church members and assimilating people into church programming, and we've confused this with making mature disciples. A redirect from God is more than appropriate at this time in Christian history, especially in the Western church.
Thankfully, as church leaders become aware of this disconnect, many are discussing how to focus on disciple-making. Beyond that, many denominations are beginning to have these conversations so they can better serve the churches in their care. There is also much conversation about disciple-making taking place in the parachurch world. For instance, the Navigators have created a division solely for aiding churches that want to make disciples.
Likewise, several Christian publishing companies are giving much time and attention to disciple-making. I work for LifeWay Church Resources, and our purpose statement reads, "We serve churches in their mission of making disciples." Disciple-making is so important at LifeWay that we led the way in researching the topic and completed a groundbreaking book: Transformational Discipleship. Our hope is that this book and our many other resources are aiding churches as they strive to make mature disciples.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Discipleship is an important topic for small-group directors, coaches, and leaders because the goal of biblical small groups is to make disciples. This is what Jesus commanded.
It seems that we need a redirect in the small-group world. In many churches, we're giving our hearts to building community, but we're going about it backward. If we work simply to build community and develop friendships, our group members may never become mature disciples. On the other hand, if we work to develop disciples, our group members will develop friendships along the way, and our groups will experience true community as a result.
Small-group directors, coaches, and leaders need to understand what's necessary in the disciple-making process, and then build their ministry around that process. Otherwise, we may simply get people to stick around and make friends, but never become mature disciples of Jesus Christ.
The Western church is in decline. Soothsayers are repeating again and again that the church is dying. But those churches making mature disciples aren't dying. Instead, they're growing. These churches focus on transformational relationships, not just well-attended Bible studies. They unapologetically ask their members to be involved in spiritual disciplines instead of trying to figure out what their members are willing to do. Churches that are about making mature disciples realize there are levels of spiritual maturity, and they evaluate where people are at so that group leaders can aid them in moving to the next level. And finally, churches that are making mature disciples are setting the bar high, expecting and anticipating that the majority of those they're discipling will someday disciple someone else.