Do we really need another blog about discipleship?
By my count today, there are more than 2,100 discipleship books for sale on Amazon, over 15,000 videos on YouTube on the subject, and 68,000 posts about it, just on Facebook.
Why another one?
Because this isn’t about discipleship.
The Disciple Dilemma – as a movement, and now a book – is designed to raise three whys of disciples – why disciples are in trouble in the West, why the Church is not acting on the problem and why leaders are the only way out of the dilemma.
Discipleship has been 1) has been flooded by traditions dating back to the 3rd century that divert us away from Christ’s discipleship; and 2) repurposed in Western Christianity to mean membership and participation in a church.
The result of these two forces is a muted and marginally engaged majority of disciples in society, along with a walk-off rate approaching 60% among Millennials and Gen Z’s who grew up attending churches and left.
While these two forces are not the fault of leaders today, it is their responsibility to address this.
Randy Pope, founding Pastor of Perimeter Church in Atlanta, and a respected champion of discipleship says the problem really does come down to leaders: “Pastors around the world have shared with us that there is a leadership and influence gap between their church and the community in which they live. There are not enough leaders for the ministries of the church, much less to be salt and light in the community.” In other words, if we shove the job of disciple making on leaders, we will not make headway, and we will not be following Christ’s directed way.
That same influence deficit is decried by another prominent Pastor, Tony Evans: “The problem isn’t that we don’t have enough Christians. The problem is Christ doesn’t have enough disciples.”
Now what? First, this is not a criticism of a pastor, a church or the good ministries and work in a church. With that said, Christ handed us an answer to the discipleship vacuum.
The answer is….leadership initiates the path forward out of the dilemma.
Not, as you might be tempted to think, for leaders to be the ones who go make all their people disciples. That’s everyone’s job in Christ. Christ directed leaders in churches to establish the mission of discipling – as the centerpiece of churches. And leaders must then establish and sustain a culture that flourishes biblical discipling.
Think of leaders like Greenhouse managers. They provide the soil, the water, the atmosphere for disciples to flourish. The rest of the people are there to go and make disciples.
Imagine a culture where the leadership focuses on budgets and buildings and baptisms and butts in seats. Fixated on these organizational tasks, leadership may drive members and popularity, but such leadership languishes in discipling – and the trends today prove we are languishing in discipleship.
Leaders lead best in a church when they create a community that motivates others to go out, and to make disciples who make disciples.
Discipleship today is being threatened. The threat is stealthy, hiding among us in plain sight. Maybe your children and grandchildren live in full view of the threat. Probably anyone new in their faith or anyone raised in traditional Christian culture are in that threat zone. The threat zone where discipling is being hijacked from Jesus’s way to a “better path”. Like the Coronavirus, the cause is among us, invisible and consequential, pervasive, ramping up.
The reason for “yet another” discipleship blog? There are so many great discipling resources in the Western world. So this is not one more “how-to” about discipleship .
The Disciple Dilemma is about leadership, coming to grips with and changing the rules of engagement against the dilemma. There’s a path forward. It’s biblical, it’s in plain sight too. It deserves a look by Christian leaders. Will you help us change your Christian community’s culture like that?
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