The following content is an excerpt from the eBook Fill Your Seats. Download your free digital version in your favorite format here.
Every church wants to be a disciple-making church. But when you define a disciple as someone who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and engaged in the mission of Jesus, you’ll realize how short we’re falling. When a church wakes up to its inertia (or worse to its negative momentum), their boards (elders, deacons, vestries, etc.) want the situation changed—and fast!
But the reality is that authentic disciple making is slow. It doesn’t produce big numbers; in fact, it can actually bring smaller numbers. In a panic, we try to turn discipleship into an event or a course. We can put it on the calendar and make it happen. We think we can measure our success by counting the number of people who show up and we deceive ourselves into thinking we’re successful when they’ve simply completed the course. Even Google couldn’t tell me who first said this (but I know it wasn’t me):
You haven’t made a disciple until your disciple has made a disciple!
Sometimes, I think we forget to be about multiplication, not about addition. I can argue that Jesus’ disciple making moved from big to little, at least in the near term. We have snapshots of Him with 5,000 people, with 200, with seventy, with twelve, and ultimately with eleven. But through multiplication, over two billion people identify themselves with Him.
As is often the case, looking back can help us move forward. A little history to help us think through this: Jesus came along at a time when Faith was an “us” versus “them” situation. “Us,” the insiders, the Pharisees, and Sadducees, the pure and holy ones vs. “them,” the regular people, the unrighteous, the impure outsiders. Jesus leveled the playing field and engaged everyone in His kingdom work.
After Jesus ascended, everyone in first-century church was in the game. The line between clergy and laypeople was blurry (if it was one at all). The apostles? Yeah, they were different: they had been with Jesus, they were there at Pentecost, they had a special job—to tell the world what they saw with their own eyes. And they were killed for doing it:
- James was executed by King Herod
- Philip was crucified
- Matthew was executed
- James (Jesus’ brother) was stoned to death
- Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross
- Peter was crucified upside down
- Paul was beheaded
These guys weren’t killed for teaching what Jesus taught. They were killed for testifying about Him—for telling people that Jesus, a human being, lived, died, and came back from the dead. That truth set Jesus apart from any and all religious figures past, present, or future. Jesus’ divinity is essential if His teachings are going to matter to the world for the rest of time.
Early on, we see the church as a flat organization with minimal hierarchy. Every person was a “doer of the Word.” That was the power of the early church. So many people were committed, involved, evangelists, servants—disciple makers.
But somewhere along the line, things changed, and I don’t know whose fault it was.
This comes from the free eBook Fill Your Seats, which you can download here.
Because certain people were “called” into ministry jobs, all the rest of us laid down and went to sleep, saying to ourselves, Let the pastor do it, let the church do it. They have special gifts; they’ve been trained; they’ve been to seminary. I’m a plumber, or a school teacher, or a business guy. What do I know?
The other side—the clergy—subconsciously welcomed it. It made their calling feel much more important. After all, they were chosen, set apart for vocational ministry. They got paid to make disciples! So they jumped in with both feet to “do the work of the gospel.”
Years go by, and church leaders take on more and more, letting lay people off the hook for anything more than volunteer service (and that, mostly on Sunday mornings). Lay people compartmentalize their faith, thinking Sunday is the only day being a Jesus follower matters. Church leaders strive, giving it all they’ve got. But participation without involvement breeds cynicism. And little by little, lay people began to think, Well, let them do it. I give money to the church. They get paid and after all, what else do they have to do between Sundays?
And thus, they disconnect. We leaders have made it easy for people to withdraw from disciple making.
We must change this.
Although the world is very different now, we must get lay people off the bench and into the game. We must create curiosity by disrupting their homeostasis and calling them to a higher bar! We must start with the few, handpicked people who embody Jesus. These few should be the first intentional disciple makers you call. We must raise the bar for those who are willing to step up and into discipleship. We must get messy and model disciple making personally. We must be patient and satisfied with small numbers: first to make sure we get it right and second to create exclusivity into our process. We must choose “season-of-life” appropriate methods that connect with our people because they’re relevant to their life and language. When that’s all done, we must confront the crowd; we must inspire and challenge them; and we must be willing to create disruption as we call out people for their lethargy, asking the Holy Spirit to convict people of surrendering to fear instead of surrendering to the Father.
Making disciples cost Jesus His life. Are you willing to let it cost you your job?
Written by Regi Campbell
Regi Campbell grew up in a small-town church. He’s belonged to congregations in multiple cities and gotten to know a quite a few pastors and churches. For the past twenty-three years, he’s been a part of one of America’s largest churches, Andy Stanley’s North Point Community Church serving as an Elder twice and in other leadership roles. His first three books—About My Father’s Business, Mentor Like Jesus, and What Radical Husbands Do—speak to business people, mature men, and husbands respectively. Campbell now speaks to Senior Pastors, Staff Pastors, and leaders in the local church, sharing what he’s learned about creating interest in discipleship and disciple making.
Regi is the Founder and Chairman of Radical Mentoring, a nonprofit focused on equipping and encouraging churches to build disciples and disciple makers through intentional men’s small group mentoring. Regi believes the future of the local church is intimately connected to the development of strong Jesus-following lay leaders who will lead their wives, children, businesses, neighborhoods, and churches with God at the center.