“If you make disciples, you always get the church. But if you make a church, you rarely get disciples.” (Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen)
I come from a long line of church going people…my Father was a Church of God pastor (my Mother still is), my Grandfather was a Church of God pastor for over 40 years and my great Grandparents help found the Pelzer Church of God in South Carolina. I was a church going fool growing up…Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night FTH and Friday night prayer meetings were the norm for me and I didn’t think anything of it because that’s what was expected from you if you were a faithful Christian. When I became a follower of Christ in 1997, I was rabidly obsessed with Jesus, God, the Holy Ghost, the Bible and anything that vaguely had anything to do with spiritual stuff…I would have slept at the church if they let me. I was literally in church every single time the doors were opened and when I finally got a key, I would open the doors myself!
Now, if you would have asked me during that period in my life if I was a ‘disciple’ of Jesus, I would have laughed and said that OF COURSE I was! I read the whole Bible in a year, I prayed for an hour a day (really loud sometimes), I read all the right books by “Spirit filled” authors and I tithed 10% and even gave offerings on top of that. Over time though, it all lost meaning to me. The Bible became stale, my prayers became ritualistic and vain repititions, the books just blended together and my tithing became another bill I paid every week. Of course, to rectify the problem, I relied on my church going background and thought that if I did more of those things with greater passion, God would take away the emptiness I was feeling and replace it with the joy that I once had. That didn’t happen.
In fact, the opposite happened. In the midst of the hopelesness and despair that I was feeling, He spoke gently to me and said that true discipleship is not praying 24 hours a day or memorizing the Bible or raising the dead or ANYTHING that I can do…it’s being simply obedient to what the Father asks of me. The problem was that I didn’t have any clue what the Father was asking of me because I hadn’t shut up long enough to hear Him speak. I’ve tried to do that a lot more recently…just be quiet and allow Him to speak to me. And what He’s showing me is that our criteria for being a disciple is vastly different than His criteria. We think that a good disciple is someone who shows up to our church stuff, gives money and occasionally feeds poor people…and this is not to bash the ‘institutional church’ folks. You can be just as duped in an Organic Church, Missional Church, House Church or whatever else you want to call it.
To be honest, I don’t think we have the foggiest clue what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and I am the chiefest of sinners! As Mike Breen says “discipleship is having a life worth imitating! We are inviting people into our lives and asking them to imitate the parts of our life that look like Jesus.” I am taking a long, brutal look at my life and searching for the part of me that I would want someone to imitate…I’m still looking to be honest. I wonder if any of us can truly make disciples if we have never been discipled ourselves? How can we pass on something that was never passed to us in the first place? Have we lowered the bar so far on what it means to be a disciple that we’re satisfied with attendance, buildings and cash in the offering plates? I don’t know…I don’t have the answers to these questions but I have a feeling that Jesus will only wait so long for the church in America to get it’s act together and begin to do the ONE THING He actually commanded for us to do: MAKE DISCIPLES!