“Go into all the world…” and that’s what most missionaries get. They sell everything, raise support, pack up and go. But having gone, what now? We plant churches, of course. Using the latest method from the most recent church planting seminar and training piece, M’s begin the process of developing critical mass, establishing an entity they call “church” then moving on to the next location.
Unintentionally, we export a model/philosophy of ‘church’ that is more about a place than a people and a set of beliefs than a Person. So, we promote our programs, hand out Jesus films, canvas the area and teach national leaders to do the same. And then we defend our methods under the tag line of “go, into the world…baptizing…and teaching – after all, it is the Great Commission!
What ever happened to disciple making? I can go to any number of seminars and workshops on church planting but few, very few walk me into the slow and sometimes painful process of cultivating the life of a disciple – one who’s life is devoted to Christ above all else.
Consider Jesus’ own words on the subject: Mt. 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (NIV)
John 13:34-35: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (NRSV)
Love God; love others; inseparable evidence of one’s discipleship.
Now, I’m a great believer in church planting, but is that really what God called us to do? If so how do we reconcile “Missional” as a recent buzzword? It seems that to be missional is to be cutting edge, emergent, now. However, if being missional means, “driven by our mission, testing everything we do against our mission, letting go of anything that does not help us accomplish our mission”, then I don’t think we are nearly as missional as we’d like to think.
I just wonder if we haven’t found a new way to advance and maintain more programs rather than actually entering the hard and slow work of making a disciple? And if we can’t distinguish the difference between the two, I’d say we have already fallen into the trap.
Programs, activities, even churches are only a means to an end. We were not called to go and plant churches. Jesus called us to make disciples, followers of Him, those who love Him (and the Father) above all else. Churches form as disciples meet together for worship and instruction. And planting churches may be an effective means of making disciples, but we must never confuse the means from the mission.
We’ve been called to go…and make disciples. To the extent we are accomplishing this task we are missional. To the extent we are developing more programs and not people, at best we are circling the wagons.
“I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. (Jesus)” In the end, we are part of a bigger mission not the other way around.