False Discipleship Advertising…

Disciple, Discipleship, Disciple-Making, and Making Disciples have become buzzwords in the Evangelical, American church.
It is quite common now for churches to include in their mission statement something about being or making disciples of Jesus.
My concern is that too many churches may have adopted disciple-making as part of their mission statement simply because it is something that they know that they should be doing; not because it is something that they are doing.
Moreover, not only are they possibly not making disciples of Jesus; they may not even know how to make disciples of Jesus; because too often, they don’t really even understand what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus.
A comparable equivalent would be that of an auto mechanic who puts up a sign that reads, “We Repair All Makes and Models;” because he knows that he should be able to work on and repair all makes and models of cars…
…but in reality he doesn’t repair everything, because he isn’t able to repair everything, simply because he doesn’t have the knowledge to repair all makes and models of cars.
Ultimately, it would be false advertising on his part in an attempt to attract business.
But, what happens when people figure out that he can’t really do what he advertises?
Obviously, some people will be disappointed. And of course, many will be angry.
Unfortunately, many will also be wondering why their car that he “repaired” doesn’t run right.
And most people will just go somewhere else when they figure out the truth.
The harsh reality is that too many churches are equally guilty of falsely advertising that they make disciples of Jesus.
And often as a result, the people who take them up on their claim end up walking away disappointed, frustrated, angry, and/or wondering why discipleship doesn’t work for them…
…and finally, they just go somewhere else.
The worst of all situations is when someone has taken up several different churches on their offer to teach them to be a disciple of Jesus; only to be disappointed by each of them. The end result is that they simply assume that no church can deliver on what they advertise and then they just stop attending church all together.
And according to Bobby Harrington of Discipleship.org, “we cannot find any clear examples of revival-based disciple making movements here in the US, there are just under 5% of churches that are reproducing disciples…”
So then, how would we know if we as churches are guilty of falsely advertising our ability to make disciples of Jesus?
First, we would have to know what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus.
Because, we don’t get to define what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. That was clearly defined 2000 years ago.
Jesus said:
“A disciple is not above his teacher, or a slave above his master. It is enough for a disciple to become like his teacher and a slave like his master” (Matthew 10:24-25).
In the original language, culture, and context of the first century; a disciple was the follower of a master/teacher/rabbi and would endeavor to emulate and imitate their master in every way possible, in an attempt to become a living copy of their master.
This would require them to lay down their previous way of life so that they might then take up the life of their master by knowing and keeping his words, teachings, commands, and example.
The disciple would in that sense, die to themselves so that their master might live through them.
Moreover, the disciple would then desire to teach more people to become disciples of their master by teaching them to also die to themselves and take up the life of the master.
Therefore, if your church advertises that it makes disciples of Jesus, can it deliver on that?
As Bill Hull recently wrote:
“Thou shall not recommend anything that you have not provided the training and learning infrastructure to make reachable to your congregation.”
As a church leader, can you point to the disciples of Jesus in your congregation who are noticeably becoming more and more like Jesus and are also specifically teaching other disciples to become more like Jesus?
And just to keep you honest; if you do have members who are being and making disciples of Jesus; did they learn that from the church, or did they take it upon themselves to know what it means to be a disciple of Jesus (which is what I personally had to do)?
That is to ask, “Is your church making those disciples of Jesus, or are they teaching themselves to be disciples of Jesus in spite of the church?”
Because, I know what it is like to show up at churches which advertise that they are making disciples of Jesus, but are not been able to deliver on that claim…
…and it is beyond frustrating and disappointing.
And the even weirder part is that these very same churches then wonder why they can’t keep people around who are serious about Jesus for very long.
Of course, in one sense all churches are correct when they say they are “making disciples;” because every church is making disciples of something (or someone).
But, just because we call what we are doing “making disciples of Jesus,” that doesn’t make it true.
The Pharisees “made disciples” using Scripture and relational environments (Matthew 23:15, Mark 2:18, Luke 5:33, Acts 22:3).
Personally, I was taught to be a disciple of the hymns only, KJV only, Southern Baptists; but they would have called it “making disciples of Jesus” if the term had been popular back then.
So, “let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no'”… as a church, can you really deliver on what you are advertising?
If you are interested in learning more about why it is so important that we be and make disciples of Jesus, start at this link and follow the links at the end of each page to the next page:

The Four Principles of Discipleship…