Therefore let us get past the elementary stage in the teachings about the Christ, advancing on to maturity and perfection and spiritual completeness, [doing this] without laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of teaching about washings (ritual purifications), the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. [These are all important matters in which you should have been proficient long ago.] And we will do this [that is, proceed to maturity], if God permits.Hebrews 6:1-3 AMP
This is a strange time for organized religion. Cultural change is accelerating the exposure of our motives. Are we trying to keep a business afloat? Or are we making disciples?
I’ve always said that if you focus on making disciples, the church will grow naturally. You don’t need a program, spontaneous evangelism will be the result if people are following Jesus. Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”
How well are we following? How’s the fishing? Do you go to where the fish are at? Or do you live in a Christian bubble that is inwardly focused instead of engaged with God in His mission to reach the lost with the message of salvation?
The American way of doing church is largely driven by generating new content to be consumed regularly. The theory being that if we give people more information, somehow they’ll come to their senses and start living for Jesus. How well has that been working?
Typically, only 10% of church goers actually follow Jesus. The other 90% are there to keep up outward appearances but they are not submitted to the Lord. Are we doing them a disservice by preaching a Gospel that doesn’t lead them into disciplemaking?
It’s easy to hide in the church. The bigger the congregation, the easier it is to be a fly on the wall. No one knows you. No one’s going to ask you to do anything that doesn’t fit the needs of the business model. No one will be curious enough about you to disciple you. Just show up, sit quietly, pay your membership dues and leave. Welcome to the American church, where content is king and nobody knows the real you, nor do they care to. Consumerism has taken over the building.
In the Internet age, content is being produced at such a clip it’s overwhelming. You can listen to messages from anywhere in the world at your own convenience. You can also watch and listen to skilled musicians give emotionally stirring performances at anytime, anywhere. There’s no shortage of good content to engage with.
And that’s the problem. We want people to engage with our content, not with us. We’re creating consumers, not disciples. We don’t have time in our overly scheduled lives to actually connect with people. We’ve got too much to do to be bothered with caring about other people.
The church, and most of the people in it, are indistinguishable from the world. We think like the world, we act like the world, we talk like the world and we use worldly ways to get worldly results. There’s more divorce in the church than outside. Addictions, especially porn, are quietly destroying lives and marriages. What gives?
A clear lack of vision for the mission is the problem. And it’s not the current leaders fault, they’re just doing what they were taught. It’s all they’ve ever known. Disciplemaking has largely disappeared in the last 5 decades. Church ain’t what it was intended to be.
I’ve asked pastors how they equip people for ministry. Most have no idea. They know they should, but they don’t know how. Send them somewhere else because we don’t do that. We hire outsiders with the proper credentials to attract the biggest crowd. We have bills to pay. This mortgage ain’t gonna pay itself. Let’s chase the latest trends instead of following Jesus.
What if the pastors of churches became the pastors of their communities? What if they became missionary leaders? Instead of spending all their time with a bunch of people who are set in their ways and are perfectly content in their sin, what if they went and shared the Good News with people who actually needed to hear it? What if we left the 99 who are already saved to go look for the one who needs to be rescued?
The need for disciplemakers is greater than ever. We need to get back to the basics and do things the way Jesus told us to. People don’t need to be entertained, they need to be equipped. The world can’t even hold our attention anymore. They’ve run out of ideas. Sin has lost its savor.
People are hungry for something real. They want to be seen and heard. We need more dialogue and conversation, not one way broadcasts. Technology is great for getting people information easily but transformation happens through relationships.
Leave the world behind and follow Jesus. That is the only way that leads to abundant life. Following Jesus means loving the people in your proximity. There is still hope for the church, but it needs reformation. As the head goes, so goes the body. If leaders aren’t obedient to Christ and making disciples, how can they expect anyone in their care to learn to do so?
Jesus said, “I will build My Church.”
We don’t need anymore church growth that doesn’t mature the people who attend. We need spiritual mothers and fathers who will take people under their care and teach them the Way of Jesus. One faithful servant can change the world. Playing to the crowds is what put Jesus on the Cross.
It’s time we examine our ways and get rid of everything that is a distraction from the call of God on our lives. A life lived for self is empty and fruitless. A life spent serving others enriches everyone. Be a faithful servant of the Lord, and go make a disciple. If we all did that, the church would double in size without even focusing on church growth. Something to think about.
Return to your first love. Return to Jesus. Repent from dead works for the Kingdom of God is at hand.
Lord, forgive us for following the world instead of the Word. Forgive us for being into the things of this world instead of the things of God. Forgive us for listening to the voice of this world instead of the voice of God. Lead us and guide us by Your Spirit. Give us wisdom to know the right thing to do. Open doors of opportunity to preach the Gospel and make disciples. Lead Your children to repentance from dead works and establish us in Your ways. In the Name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.Proverbs 1:32-33 ESV