If you missed part one in this series, check out “How to Ignore Jesus While Accepting Your Christianity.” We ignore Jesus because discipling takes a long time and it is very hard to measure. We’ve become a people who care more about measuring things rather than the hearts of Image Bearers. We have become a church that looks more like American Business, than the church found in Acts 2.
American business has to count things because that’s how we get more business. We count profits, employees, customers, etc. If I showed you everything I measured in my business it’d make you dizzy. I don’t see much difference in the American Church.
The church has a CEO (which isn’t Jesus) that puts out the vision and directives then has the employees carry that vision out. If the employees start to question those things or the CEO, or if they get in the way, or they are struggling in certain areas of their lives, they are sidelined. Why? Because we have things we must count—attendance to our events, the amount of services we have, money in our coffers, and the size of our staff and buildings. If these things are growing, we are a success; if these things are stagnant or going backwards, then we are failing.
The problem is discipleship is very difficult to measure. Not only that, but many of those things that can be measured within discipleship will take years to measure their effectiveness and don’t fit nicely on a spreadsheet. Because of this, many churches have taken discipleship from the mission of the church to a program of the church. That way, we can measure it in the way that makes the church in the West more comfortable.
Think of it . . . if you have a 12 week discipleship class, you can measure how many people are going through that class. You can determine success or failure.
Actual discipleship takes a lot of time and moves very slowly. Not only that, but people’s muck rises to the surface and might make the church look bad to many because of all the actual issues that are being dealt with. But, because the church is more like a business than the New Testament church, we don’t delve into those issues. We cover them up or just keep our church people at a surface level so that when you ask “How are you doing?” everyone answers, “Good.” Now we can move on to more important things . . . things that can be measured. This is why most churches like to count baptisms. Again. What’s interesting is that Jesus says, “Make disciples of all nations . . . baptizing them.” Baptizing is a byproduct of discipleship, not the other way around.
How Do We Change?
We are talking about a paradigm shift. We’ve been caught in this business mentality in church life for far too long. We are now attempting to u-turn the titanic, not a speed boat.
We must ask ourselves, “Is making disciples our very reason for being on this earth?”
Not only that, we must also ask, “Are we willing to be the first one to say ‘I need to be discipled’ and make our ‘Up’ relationship the primary in our lives and the lives of others?”
If we truly desire to make disciples who make disciples, then we have to . . . let me say this again . . . WE HAVE TO make it primary, no matter the cost, time, or sacrifice.
Are we willing to make everything else secondary to making disciples of selves, our family, our church, our neighborhood, our city, our nation, and our world?
To do this, we have to start asking, “What do I need to change to make this happen in my own life?” I need to lead change, not merely talk about it.
What in our lives, our churches should be kept, changed, or dropped for the sake of making disciples who make disciples?
For me. I have stopped putting multiplication first. I have stopped trying to put a timeline on when my missional community will multiply. Instead, I have decided to focus on a few and live a deep life with them until the Spirit releases them with his power to start another missional community.
I believe by doing this, I’ll be setting up a blueprint for what church life looks like and can say as Paul did, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”
By no means will I do it perfectly, but I’ll be doing it relentlessly asking how can I effectively be a disciple who’s primary reason to live on this earth is to make more disciples of Jesus. Period.
My friend Ben Hardman recently reminded me of this: What gets celebrated is what gets repeated. If we are going to try and change a paradigm so that discipleship is the central reason the church exists we have to change how we measure our “wins.”
I’ll give you one example that I’ve given before, in my article “Why I’m Tired of Church Planting.” Many of us know the parameters of success – the three B’s: butts, budgets, and buildings. If you measure the success of the church based on the fruit that only can be provided by the Spirit you will kill your church and its leaders. What do I mean? I think we should measure what we can actually control, standing amazed at the greatness of our God and the indwelling Spirit when we are blessed with witnessing the fruit that God allows us to see with our own eyes.
What if we measured the success of our churches by asking this question: How many people’s stories in your context do you know so intimately that you know exactly where they need the good news?
The reason that this is such a good measurement tool is that this gives everyone a fighting chance. This kind of measurement would require your people to be doing the work we’ve been called to do: to shepherd people to the only hope we have. It requires us to be involved with people. It requires us to invest deeply into a few people instead of too many on a surface level. In the end, if we have this as our measurement tool, we can see people being discipled instead of merely “making a decision” or just showing up to a church service.
We might see them actively bringing all areas of their lives under the lordship of Jesus by the power of the Spirit through the good news. This is discipleship! After this, you baptize. After that, you teach them everything that Jesus has commanded, but not before they have entered into a deep discipleship relationship with you.
The church could feel freed to do the ministry to which we’ve been called if we didn’t measure success through programs, conversions, attendance, and baptisms. These might all come, and we should be thrilled when they do, but statistics are not what we are primarily called to do. We are called to make disciples.
Here’s the question to end all this: How would you define yourself? What is your primary identity?
No matter how you answer this, anyone who is reading this needs to know, your primary identity that will never fail you is simply this: You are a son/daughter of the Creator God.
Whether you believe this or not is another question.
But, if we are sons and daughters of the perfect Creator God who loves us, is patient with us and has literally done everything in his power to show off who he is then there is only one thing we are left with: We GET TO show off who Dad is like to others around us. In other words . . . we GET TO disciple others.
That’s what we get to give our lives to. Everything else in our lives should pale in comparison. What in your life is above your identity as a son or daughter of God?
What do you need to start/stop believing about God so that you can be freed into the life of discipleship?
What needs to be added to/taken away/enhanced in your life so that you can make disciples who make disciples?
Who is discipling you and who are you discipling? Meaning . . . who are you living with so closely you know exactly where their idols are and where they need to hear the good news of redemption? And they know the exact same things about you . . . and you both speak up in these regards and are actively pursuing the power of the Spirit to bring these under the Lordship of Christ so you can be freed of them into the good news of Jesus.
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.