After reading my last post, one could draw the conclusion that when I say, the church still matters, I believe the current form of the church is spot on. However, that’s not the case. As mentioned in my last post, I’m not down with slamming the church or throwing it under the bus because I do believe that the church still matters and has a significant and important role in our current cultural landscape. However, I’m left wondering if the current form of the church is as effective as many think it is.
We (pastors such as myself) love to tell stories of people connecting and reconnecting with church (and even possibly under going some sort of conversion experience) in such a way to show that our current ministry models are working and that we are validated in our ministry efforts. And while those stories are great and those connections and conversions may be significant, the question I’m left with is, are we connecting and converting people to Jesus or to a “church experience?” While it might be great to connect people to church, if we don’t bring them to the point of understanding what it means to be a disciple of Christ, have we really accomplished all that we are called to do?
Maybe we’ve we been so focused on “building the church” that we have neglected the very thing Jesus called his disciples to do, making more disciples? Jesus says to Peter in Matthew 16 when Peter declares that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, “Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church (16v17-18)” Notice what Jesus said, “I will build my church.” He doesn’t call Peter or any of the other disciples to build the church, Jesus says that he is going to do it.
After Jesus rises from the dead and right before he ascends to heaven, he makes it explicitly clear to the disciples their role in his plane. “All authority in heaven and on earth been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matt 28v18-20).” Anyone who has been around church for a short period of time very well will know this verse. But the question remains, are we doing what Jesus sent us out to do, or have we gotten the roles reversed? Are we trying to do God’s job and build the church all the while neglecting our job of making disciples?
During his earthly ministry Jesus rarely even mentions the church. His main topic of conversation and teaching with the disciples and the crowds is what its like to live the way that he was living. It was a continual call to discipleship not church building 101. Mike Breen says, “If you focus your energies on making disciples you will always get the church. If you focus all of your energies on building the church you aren’t guaranteed to get disciples (my paraphrase).” The thing that you are more likely to get is church consumers. Plenty has been written over the past decade about the glaring lack of discipleship happening in the church today. Dallas Willard is infamous for weighing in on this discussion calling the problem the “Great Omission.”
So, in a day and age where the attractional model of church seems to be alive and well, and we are content to simply connect people to a “church experience,” how do we move toward a church model that’s based on making disciples?
I pose the question not having the answers completely in view. But it does cause me to think that we may have to re-imagine our current form of “doing church.” By-in-large this is scary territory for people. Honestly, it’s scary territory for me. I have been raised in a church culture my whole life where the attractional model has dominated. There is a level of comfort and familiarity with it. And doing church or rather being the church in any other way at times seems impossible.
But, I guess the reason I’m writing this post is because I’m starting to think and believe that having a church focused on making disciples and allowing God to do the building of it might be more biblical than a lot of what is seen today.
What are your thoughts?
What experiences in making disciples have you had?
Has it been in connection with a church or an other organization?
Where have you seen people be the church in a way that wakens your soul?