No one likes to be told they are doing something wrong, especially leaders, pastors and church planters. We’ve devoted our lives to growing the Church but have we been doing it all wrong? I hate it when I’m wrong. My pride always says that I am right. But my pride can’t argue with results.
The results say that more churches have been started in the last 50 years than in all 2,000 years of church history combined. The results say that in the last decade, God used a humble Asian-American missionary couple to launch a discipleship movement of more than 140,000 new churches and more than 2 million baptisms in one Chinese city. There are dozens more examples from all around the developing world.
For us outsiders in the West who are looking in we’re saying, “That ain’t right! How can this be? Let’s analyze this until we are blue in the face.” The Spirit of God is passing us by like a bullet train and all we can do is argue about the numbers, methods, semantics and systems. We have a genuine desire to promote our faith but our actions show that we have settled for religious consumerism. We know how to create a comfortable spiritual experience but we don’t have an inkling of how to make disciples. So we hold on to our professional clergy, our traditional ways of attracting new members, our church programs and our practice of filling brains with un-applied Biblical knowledge.
I am not speaking as someone who has been burned by Christians or disillusioned with the Church. I am speaking as someone who was an unchurched, Buddhist, ex-gang member but now serves as a pioneer missionary to an unreached people group. Simply put, I am speaking from 1st hand experience and out of a genuine love for the Bride of Christ.
We in the West are NOT making disciples and planting churches the way Jesus intended. A new way of thinking is needed. A new paradigm for making disciples must occur in our hearts if we are to see the glory of God fill the earth. We must train people to train others in the same way that Paul taught Timothy and Timothy taught others who taught others (2 Tim. 2:2). In a manner that is comprehensible, applicable, and reproducible.
The next time you are sitting in church, imagine this. Imagine that everything around you disappeared and the only thing left was of eternal value. What would be left? After the pulpit, guitars, walls, degrees, denominations and icons have all disappeared what would be left? It would be the People of God, the Spirit of God and the Word of God. These are the only “tools” Jesus left us with when He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations”, and these are the only things that will remain when He returns. This is the exact scenario faced by the early Church. They didn’t have budgets or marketing plans but massive Kingdom movements still occurred. This is the situation that we pioneer missionaries face in the field. We have no buildings or trained believers to start with but Kingdom movements still occur. In our attempt to make disciples and plant reproducing churches, we need to think in the same way. We need to plant churches as if the institutional church did not exist.
What is better? To preach a sermon to 500 zombies every Sunday or consistently train 5 people how to interpret the Scriptures who train others? To share the Gospel with 5,000 people in a stadium or consistently train 5 people how to share their faith who train others? To meet in a 5 million dollar building every week or meet in 5 homes that can expand to 5 bars and 5 motels?
It’s not about emergent church rhetoric:
-I’m not asking you to be anti-institution. I’m asking you to pursue the institution of the church with every fiber of your being. Make it your goal to plant many healthy churches that multiply.
– I’m not asking you to be anti-clergy. I’m asking you to invest every fiber of your being into Spirit-led leaders who obey and train others to obey.
-I’m not asking you to be anti-building. I’m asking you to meet in multiple locations that reflect the culture and context of the people you were called to reach.
-I’m not asking you to be anti-program. I’m asking you to get involved in the lives of real people and walk with them through real problems.
-I’m not asking you to be anti-preaching. I’m asking you to train many people who train others in how to listen to the Holy Spirit, interpret the Scriptures, do what it says and be accountable.
-I’m not asking you to be post-modern. I’m asking you to devote your entire existence to modeling a life on mission, living a counter-cultural lifestyle, and sharing unabashedly the highly intolerant message of the Gospel.
It’s not about being simple, organic or postmodern. It’s about being disciples who obey Jesus and train others to do the same. Jesus left us with everything we need to change the world and accomplish His mission of global fame. The hard part is convincing ourselves that it’s really that simple.