“How do you make disciples?”
I love asking pastors that question.
The Local Church
I have to confess, I have a personal frustration regarding this issue. Most of the finely-tuned disciple-making ministries are found in the para-church world, not the local church, and that really bothers me. Great organizations like The Navigators, Campus Crusade, Youth with a Mission, Student Mobilization, Christian Businessmen’s Committee, and others have a laser focus on making disciples and producing disciple-makers.
They have boards and leaders committed to making disciples. They have staff that spend every waking breath leading people to Christ and helping them grow in their faith. They see rapid rates of multiplication and they deploy people into other campuses, cities, and countries to make disciples for Christ. But when I look at the average church, I don’t see any of that. I see churches gathering for worship and running programs with little thought or intentionality other than for numerical growth.
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Jesus loved the church.
Jesus started the church.
Jesus gave the Great Commission to the church.
The early church was a disciple-making machine. Yet the local church today has almost abandoned Jesus’ heart for disciple-making. Like Esau, we have sold the birthright Jesus gave us of building disciples for the promise of church growth and immediate success.
We are now discovering that those methodologies are porridge, ineffective to reach the next generation. We have been duped into thinking that large numbers equate to successful ministry. We have failed to play the role of the farmer who cultivates, plants, and waters, patiently praying until the fruit comes.
My heart’s desire is to see pastors in the local church reclaim their God-given legacies of disciple-making. Call me crazy, but I think God designed the church to be the perfect place for making disciples. And I do think that as the church makes disciples, it becomes the hope of the world. For that to happen, we have to go back to the example of Jesus and replicate Jesus’ disciple-making model.
By Craig Etheredge