Part 3 of 3
In the first 2 parts of our discussion of discipleship, we learned that few churches are willing to challenge members to endure the rigorous study and potential costly implications of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. We’ve also covered in past blog posts why so many churches are reluctant to challenge members to do what disciples should do – “go” and make more disciples.
Ironically, if churches would only do the former, members would naturally do the latter. In other words, if churches were turning more members into disciples, they wouldn’t need to convince them to step out of their comfort zones and follow Jesus’ model for evangelism (i.e. serving first, then teaching who He is). However, churches are increasingly cautious about raising the Great Commission bar to its intended, literal standard.
Today, let’s dive deeper into a key question – once members are disciples, what should churches do to maximize their usefulness for the Kingdom?
The “Go” in the Great Commission…
Seeing members as the Church and the community as the “customer” fundamentally alters the level of discipleship required and its emphasis. There’s a clear, compelling linkage between discipleship and local missions. Why disciple if they’re not going to send them out? Conversely, how can members be effective when sent out (to “care”) if they weren’t prepared well to “share”?
As you’d expect, churches who pull away from discipleship typically pull away from local missions as well. If churches aren’t highly focused on the one, they won’t be focused on the other. Successful companies train sales reps intensively before sending them out into the marketplace. However, most churches today don’t train (disciple) members well because they don’t view…
- Members as the Church – and therefore don’t think they have the right to impose on them
- Community as the “Customer” – How many pastors interact regularly with local charity leaders, city council members, mayors, executives, etc. in the “marketplace”? How many churches conduct weekly “relational” service activities?
This is one area where the Church’s redefinition of its “customer” really stings. Most no longer sense their latitude or urgency to train members to pursue the real “customer”. Without adequate discipleship, members lack the inspiration, motivation and preparation to impact their communities for Christ. So as a result, studies show that churches and Christians come across to society as distant and judgmental, not engaged and compassionate. Faith without works is dead. Jesus modeled the power of works in demonstrating faith. Yet society sees a church that talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk. We’ve largely separated words from actions.
We can’t “outpreach” Jesus. So if you can’t beat Him, join Him.
5 Steps to Maximize Your Church’s Impact
How do you build a discipleship program around Jesus’ model for evangelism?:
1. Convince…members that:
a) They are the Church – there to serve, not to be served
b) As the Church, reaching the lost and poor outside the “4 walls” is in their job description, not just the pastor’s
In other words, gear discipleship toward “growing” then “going”.
2. Confess…”break hearts” for those in need of help and hope
One pastor told me recently, “I’d love to have a church full of Nehemiahs who weep for the lost and poor in our community.” That should be our response too, but is it? You can’t study Jesus’ life for long without seeing His heart for those hurting and hopeless in the “marketplace”. However, it’s discipleship that convinces us to take on the attributes of Jesus. As we become more like Him, our heart melds with His, and compassion begins to outweigh comfort. Churchgoers will lack the impetus to radically shift their priorities if churches are afraid to challenge and train them to become disciples.
The equation is simple:
More discipleship = More broken hearts = More compassion = More service =
More opportunities to share Christ = More help and hope for the lost and poor
3. Coach… to prepare members to succeed in the “marketplace”
Next, teach them how to take advantage of the many additional chances they’ll have to share their faith once they start living out Jesus’ model for evangelism through service. Unfortunately, most church members today struggle finding both the courage and the words – they’re not sure what to say, nor are they bold enough to speak up when the opportunities present themselves.
If members are treated as “customers”, they’ve done their part when they’ve secured the “referral” – inviting someone to church. In business, after a customer makes a referral, it’s the company’s responsibility to close the sale. Today, churches typically don’t push members for much more than invitations. Frankly, most Christians don’t feel they have the theological background to do a lot more. If they can just get their friend to come to church, they can let the “professionals” handle it (evangelism, conversion and discipleship) from there.
4. Connect…to opportunities for On-the-Job Training (OJT)
People retain 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, 50% of what they see and hear, 70% of what they discuss with others, 80% of what they personally experience and 95% of what they teach others. In other words, the best way to fully absorb what it means to be a disciple is to live it out. As we discussed last week, companies understand that principle well, relying heavily on OJT.
It’s rare that a church, at least one not using Meet The Need, puts local needs in front of its members on a real-time, year-round basis. How can churches deploy disciples into ministry if they don’t help them see where their skills and passions can be best utilized? In the Confess stage, church leaders should share the stories and realities of how difficult life is for the handicapped, homeless, single moms, and for released prisoners trying to reassimilate – and then make them aware of what they can do to help. We can’t let lack of awareness be an excuse for not engaging.
5. Coalesce…identify common causes around which to rally the church body
Once a church identifies those pressing social issues, it has to decide (corporately and each as individuals) how it’s going to respond. As disciples, signing up for an occasional service event or mailing out a check is not the full extent of their responsibility to act.
Uniting around a common cause (outside of itself) revitalizes the culture of a church. On 9/11, a nation of seemingly (and increasingly) self-absorbed citizens pulled together to serve, love and defend one another. And it was hard to find a seat in church, at least for a couple months until the urgency of that common cause dissipated. Because churches don’t recognize the community as its “customer”, they are often guilty of making themselves (the institution and their members) the cause. Leaders in businesses, politics and all other venues know that an outside cause unites and motivates much better than an internal one. Without a compelling outside cause, unity and discipleship in the church will continue to suffer.
It’s your turn…
What would happen if you church fully implemented the Five “C””model? Would most members accept it, be excited or run to another church? Would the Church in America increase in growth, impact and influence if more churches followed the Five “C”s?