Everyone makes disciples, and everyone shares good news about it. Just think about all the disciples that are made each and every fall as college football and the NFL kicks off (pun intended) with a brand new season full of thrills and excitement. It’s not new. It’s the same game played each and every year. But there’s much to be excited about. Why? Because we love it. We throw on our favorite jersey, eat our favorite nachos, and party while grown men war for a trophy. It’s great.
Disciples love the object that is teaching them something. The very definition of a disciple is ‘learner,’ though it is not simply a cognitive thing. It’s a life thing. We invest our emotions, desires, affections, money, time, energy–our lives–in it. We’re ‘followers’. And we’re all passionate about something.
Being a disciple means were are learning from Jesus, walking in his ways, not our ways. To be a disciple of Jesus means that we take our cues from him not an organization that distracts us from the mission.
But what happens when the church makes disciples of the church instead of disciples of Jesus? What might that look like?
Here are 5 signs that you might be making disciples of your church and not Jesus (there is a difference!).
1) You get upset when people are gone.
For some reason, the prominent view of “church” and success is rooted in attendance on a Sunday morning. This is only part of what it means to be the church. Yes we gather, but we also scatter. If you put too much emphasis on the Sunday gathering and see this as “church,” then you’ll get frustrated when people aren’t there. Many pastors build their identity around numbers. This is dangerous and is most certainly a sign that you aren’t making disciples of Jesus, but instead, disciples of the church. Disciples of Jesus build their identity around the gospel. Disciples of the church build their identity around attendance.
2) You criticize every other church.
We all think that we’re the pure, true, and most correct church. What we mean is that we’re right (doctrinally) and they are all wrong. This may in fact be true, but when we demonize others and divide on secondary matters, we are trying to defend Jesus when he needs no defense. When you criticize “those people,” you are making disciples of your church because you want to keep people near to you, (so they won’t go “there”) and because of it you’re more concerned about them staying with you instead of sending them out on mission. Suddenly your criticism serves as a ploy to justify “your church” and all of its perfection. Disciples of Jesus are known for their love (John 13:35). Disciples of the church are known for what they’re against.
3) You only allow people to ‘come’ instead of challenging them to ‘go’.
This is a classic example of making disciples of your church instead of Jesus. When success is defined by an individual’s attendance instead of obedience, you make disciples of the church instead of Jesus. When we over-emphasize “church” activities (Men’s Bible studies, Women’s Bible studies, Sunday night services, Wednesday night services, College Age services, Men’s Groups Ages 29-33, Men’s Groups ages 34-38, Young Married, Young Singles, Single Women Studies, Mother’s who have been married 5 years or less groups, Senior Citizen groups, etc.) it is no wonder a person views church as merely a “coming” thing. We “come” to embrace the goods and services, pay our money and leave. The church is no different than a country club. The issue is our calendars. We are so busy seeing church as ‘coming’ and filling our days with churchy activities, we aren’t sent out on mission in the real world in our neighborhoods and places of work and play. Disciples of Jesus are sent on mission and challenged to do so. Disciples of the church just come and sit.
4) You would much rather provide goods and services instead of training for the mission.
When we ignore the mission (make disciples of Jesus) we fill our time with goods and services. Suddenly the bulk of our teaching becomes a gimmick to “get people to church” instead of a passionate plea for mission through the power and purpose of the gospel. We set up our Sunday mornings in such a way as to “make it comfortable” for people. This is related to point #3 because instead of freeing up the church calendar for mission, we fill it with stuff so as to please people, entertain people, and ultimately distract people from the real task at hand. Instead of training people for war, we entertain them with pithy paraphernalia. I get it. It’s easier. Living our lives on full display for a watching world is hard. But Jesus told us to take up our cross, not our fancy new Bible cover. Disciples of Jesus long for the gospel, long to see not-yet believers come to Christ, and situate their lives to accomplish this. Disciples of the church long for the newest and best gimmick at church.
5) The gospel is only something we talk about once in a while.
In a typical model of church in America, the goal is to get people in the doors so that the gospel invitation can be given by the ‘professional,’ and hopefully the person will come to faith. So we try so hard to make the church ‘cool,’ and in doing so we rarely get around to talking about the good news of King Jesus. We spend more time getting people to acclimate to our church culture instead of familiarizing them with the good news and the grand mission. The gospel then becomes something only “those” people need, and not something I need every day. The gospel goes from the very power of God, to only those facts that need to be believed in order to join our church. Disciples of Jesus long for the gospel every moment. Disciples of the church see the gospel as irrelevant in day-to-day life.
What do you think? Are we making disciples of Jesus and centering our churches around him and his mission? Or are we too busy making our own survival as an organization (budgets, buildings, etc.) the most important thing?