Jesus was straightforward with his mission when he left. And he gave us the Spirit to accomplish it. He didn’t mince words; he didn’t hide it in the book of Numbers (knowing most of us wouldn’t dare read that). He was and is clear on our mission: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.
If it is that clear, why do we ignore Jesus and pursue other things so far down the list of “to-dos”?
Bottom line: we don’t know how to make a disciple and/or we ignore how Jesus made disciples.
I haven’t written an article in a long while. I’ve been honestly rethinking everything I know about the missional “movement” and asking why aren’t we seeing more missional community churches multiplying missional communities to saturate a city? To ask this question though, I couldn’t just point fingers. I had to ask this of myself. I have multiplied missional communities and trained many leaders to do so, but the number of disciples made now making disciples is embarrassing low in my life.
However, I have found a way to surround myself with some pretty smart dudes that don’t mind me ranting and being honest about the missional community movement and my own lack of disciple making. But, now, I think I’ve figured out in my head and heart why this is and am starting the process of working it out with my hands.
The Cart Before the Horse
Think about that saying for a second. How stupid. Why would anyone put the cart before the horse? The reality is that most don’t know that is what they have done, because (I hope) they wouldn’t purposely put a cart before the horse. I know I didn’t, but that is exactly what I did for the past 8 years in this missional life.
For me, the cart was multiplication. For others it could be a church building, a church service, prayer groups, budgets, people showing up to an event or some sort of service, etc.
Let me focus on my cart. Multiplication. Like most of the things listed above, multiplication is healthy and a good thing . . . but it’s not the ultimate thing. With discipleship you will get multiplication, but just because you multiply doesn’t mean you necessarily get discipleship.
If the focus is on multiplication, we will do whatever we must to raise up new leaders and send them out. The focus becomes on what they do, instead of who they are and what they believe. This is a huge distinction for discipleship.
Training and our lives becomes: “How can I quickly give information to someone so that they can go do this themselves?” instead of “How can I disciple people so that they are bringing every area of life under the Lordship of Jesus and go to show off how great our Dad is?”
What’s even more crazy is when we put the mindset of multiplication first. When that happens the one thing that will really irritate you is when people don’t get it, or when they question things. When multiplication is made ultimate what happens when major, deep issues that are lording over people’s lives come up that need you to stop and take time to work through? In reality, when multiplication (and many other things) become our primary priority, then people aren’t seen as the Imago Dei, but a tool that helps you “win.” When it’s not primariy, discipleship gets in the way. Some discipleship may still happen, but becomes shallow instead of deep and life transforming submitting every area of life to the Good News.
I believe this is exactly why we see Peter and the other disciples saying some very stupid things while living with Jesus. Jesus desired discipleship over all other things, knowing this is exactly how others would see who his Dad truly was. They knew they could say whatever they desired to Jesus. He was with them, one of them and desired the best for them. They didn’t feel like a tool to be used or a project to be converted. They felt they were a person to be loved. A person to be believed in. A person to be discipled. A person to be more like Jesus, so they could taste and see that the Lord is good.
Breakfast with a Beard
As I was downloading some of this information with a good friend of mine, Zac Gandara, over breakfast, he started to drop some knowledge on my head.
We’ve both learned a lot through our relationships with 3DM. Zach drew the familiar triangle with UP, IN, and OUT listed at the points:
He told me, the following. Seth, you will never have issues making friends with outsiders. You naturally have many relationships with many who are not yet believers. You will naturally have the “in” relationships found in community with like minded people who desire to make disciples . . . but what I don’t hear from your mouth is much of Jesus or Dad. Because you are so focused on the OUT portion of the triangle, you have really started to ignore the most important part of the triangle and the one that Jesus focused on primarily: the UP relationship with Dad. When that part is missing, true discipleship will not happen. Something is happening because you’ll always have many relationships, but the good news will not be at the center of these relationships. If that is missing . . . so is discipleship.
He then went on to show me the life of Jesus and how Jesus continually concentrated on his relationship with Dad (which informed his identity as God’s Son), which then informed his relationships with his disciples and the world.
When we focus on our identity in Christ (the “Up” relationship), the “In” and “Out” will be informed and formed by the gospel . . . the good news. If our “In” and “Out” relationships are informed by our “Up” relationship then discipleship will flow out of that.
Jesus’ Discipling Culture
Jesus wanted to fill the world with disciples who would show off his Dad in heaven. He did this by gathering twelve of the weirdest people he could have. Notice that he didn’t gather the smartest people, the ones with the most competency, but he gathered those that would actually follow him. He gathered the ones that would show up (a whole book could be written on this). What did he do with those twelve? He lived with them for three years before he ever released them on their own to multiply. Jesus knew that if multiplication was going to happen that would be like the original group, he would have to go deep with a few, instead of shallow with a lot.
To go deep with a few, Jesus knew the only way this was going to happen was to live life with his disciples and to teach them holistically where the gospel was hitting every area of their lives. In essence, Jesus knew he’d have to teach them head knowledge, heart knowledge, and hand knowledge . . . they’d have to know what Jesus was teaching, believe in what Jesus was teaching, and do what Jesus was teaching.
Jesus refused to put anything ahead of discipleship. He wanted those twelve men to have full access to him so they could see what he required of them. This meant these men were allowed into Jesus life at a very deep level, every day, and completely unchained. We see this was happening because of how comfortable these men became with Jesus. They yelled at Jesus on the boat when the winds and waves came. Peter said many things that got him in trouble. James and John asked their mom to make sure they could sit next Jesus in heaven. I could go on. Why do we see this? Because they were being discipled and when this happens all our muck and crap comes to the surface where the good news needs to be applied so we believe the good news and its power to set us free instead of being chained and enslaved to sin and guilt and shame.
Through 3DM and Launch, I’ve learned four stages of leadership development.
- I do you watch
- I do you help
- You do I help
- You do I watch
You can also use the MAWL method
Here’s the big difference between us and Jesus. Jesus was willing to spend three years of life with the few in stages 1 and 2. He knew if he did when the disciples were sent out they’d look a lot like him instead of a muddy image of the original.
We want to hurry through the first two stages so we can send out more people, or we want to spend all our time in stage 1 so that we become a functional savior for people and they are never released.
David Rhodes showed me that if you look in the book of Acts you notice something pretty awesome. Look at what the dispcles are doing. They are preaching, taking care of the poor, praying, healing, being family, and suffering. What you’ll notice is when you cover up who is actually doing it you’d assume it’s Jesus. The “copy” or the multiplication that happened, looks almost identical to the original.
Why? Because Jesus actually discipled deep with a few, instead of shoveling information down the throat of many.
To be continued . . .
Seth McBee is the adopted son of God, husband of one wife, and father of three. He’s a graduate of Seattle Pacific University with a finance degree. By trade. Seth is an investment portfolio manager, serving as President of McBee Advisors, Inc. He is also a MC leader/trainer/coach and executive team member of the GCM Collective. Seth currently lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife Stacy and their three children: Caleb, Coleman, and Madelynn. He is also the artist and co-author of the wildly popular (and free!) eBook, Be The Church: Discipleship & Mission Made Simple. Twitter: @sdmcbee.