Disciple Making

In my last post I mentioned that I had started another podcast called Disciple Making and I thought what I would do today is simply share the first episode of that with you. What you’ll hear is a bit of the story of my co-host’s journey of disciple making, which I think you’ll find interesting, and will give you an idea of what the Disciple Making podcast is all about.

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Prolific Quality Output

This post is commemorating the 300th episode of my podcast Priority Pastor. I was toying with several different options and I’ll explain all the different factors in a while. I was considering making this the last one of this podcast, making a big shift in the podcast itself, just mixing it up in some way, or just continuing as I have.

The reason I started this podcast was due to a course I was taking that really challenged the idea of publishing content regularly. I actually initially started publishing a blog post pretty much every day, which is a bit of work for me. I love writing and think I write fairly well, but you’re moving towards perfectionism when you’re writing (at least I am) and it was a lot of hard work.

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It’s Not Your Job

Just the other day I was listening to a pastor who is a Christian leader who I respect greatly, but he said something that made me kinda sit up in my seat and question what I heard. I came to the conclusion that I had to disagree with him, and in disagreeing, I realized what this man stated explains a lot of challenges that we’re facing in the church right now.

The statement had to do with this fellow expressing his call to build the church. When he said that, I stopped and thought to myself that Jesus is the one who builds the church and that our call is to make disciples that as we make disciples. The church grows and Jesus puts the body together and builds the church.

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Measuring Ministry Success

Today I’m just going to read the table of contents of an old book. I’d be surprised if I’ve never referenced this book in the past because it’s a classic, incredibly helpful, encouraging book in all areas and all times and places for pastors. It’s a book called “Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome” by Kent and Barbara Hughes. It came out in 1987, with a rework in 2008.

I came across this book early in my ministry life. In fact, it may have actually been on internship where someone recommended it to me or in my pastoral training before I was a pastor. I became a pastor in 1990, so it would have been out by then.

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Is Church Broken?

The question of the day this, is the way we do church broken? Is your church broken? And by broken, I mean, is it accomplishing the purpose for which it is intended or is it doing something else?

I had a call the other day with a coach/consultant and I was talking about the challenges of pursuing alternative models of church life in such a way that wasn’t unnecessarily subversive, damaging to existing churches, Christians, pastors and didn’t discourage and undermine them.

I will share more in the future, but I’m currently pursuing alternative models of church life and have been working on an alternative model of church that you might categorize as house church, though it’s not. You might categorize it as missional community, though it’s not exactly that, though it probably leans more towards missional community than house church.

Actually, there’s a church that has agreed to partner with us in that in a kind of oversight way, which we’re so grateful, and our denomination, as well, is looking at a partnership that way. As I’ve been looking at what it means to pursue, to aggressively seek, to build a different kind of church, I’ve been wrestling with that question: how do I do this without being a jerk? I refer to this as “jerk free subversion”, because in a way, any alternative model undermines or challenges existing models, and how do you do that without being a jerk?

Anyway, I was chatting with this consultant who I highly respect. and I asked the question, how do you do this? How do we go about this properly without unnecessarily damaging and discouraging existing churches and pastors. His response, and I’m paraphrasing, was this. “We know that the traditional way of doing church is broken. It’s a broken model. We know it’s a broken model. We have lots of data to show it’s a broken model and any objective person would conclude that it’s a broken model. Billions and billions of dollars are being spent on this model with very little return from a kingdom standpoint and very few disciples being made.”

That really was the metric we were talking about, making disciples. We’re called to be disciples who make disciples. His point was that the way we do church is not generally effective in making disciples who make disciples, I have to agree with him.

I have to look at myself and say, how much of a disciple am I? How much of a disciple maker have I been in my pastoral ministry over the years? When you dig down and do the heart introspection, at least for myself, the answer is not terribly flattering.

Looking back at the churches I pastored, even the most effective moments in the lives of the churches I pastored as a regular pastor saw some people being saved, sometimes a lot of people being saved. But honestly, very few became people who actually were passionately following Jesus as a way of life and brought others with them.

A lot of times in my most effective churches, a lot of people were coming to faith, and that was kind of the end game. Praying a prayer, and maybe even truly repenting, believing, and being baptized. A few of them got involved in reaching other people, but the true disciple-making reproduction really wasn’t happening.

The multiplication and reproduction was happening where some people were getting saved and becoming followers, but the multiplication where someone who becomes a disciple creates another disciple who creates another disciple wasn’t happening that well.

So my question is, if you look at your ministry or the church you’re involved at, or yourself personally, is something systemically broken? Is there something going on that’s interfering with making disciples or is it just not even on the radar?

A lot of churches we know are optimized or were optimized around the weekend event, and doing a good, what we believe a good service with good music and good teaching. Maybe some true interaction after or before the gathering and some vision casting. They were great events for what they were trying to accomplish. But in a lot of cases, maybe if we’re honest it’s most cases, disciple-making wasn’t happening.

So that’s really just a question the mull on right now. Again, I’m wrestling with the issue of how do we honestly discuss these things without becoming unnecessarily discouraging and unnecessarily subversive?

Another part of the answer this fellow made in the call was because we know it’s broken, he no longer walks on eggshells around the topic. He said we just need to address it head on. So I’m wrestling that through even as I look at doing alternative kind of church working in areas and regions where there are existing churches with good hearted people serving God often at great physical, financial, relational and health costs.

I’m wrestling through how do we do this without being jerks and if you have any easy answers to that, let me know. I think we, at least on the personal level, need to be honest and evaluate our disciple-making or not, and begin to shift our lives and our ministries toward that, because that is the call. It’s a high call.

I look forward to sharing with you more in the future about some of the steps we’re taking to build that kind of a ministry. Wisdom and grace to you as you keep on figuring out what it means to be a disciple who makes disciples.

God bless, press on.