The Emperor Isn’t Wearing Any Clothes…

In Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, a vain ruler is duped by two con men who promise to create him the most beautiful set of clothes, which will also have the magical quality of being invisible to anyone who is incompetent at their job.
 
While the con men are “weaving” the magic fabric for the clothes, the emperor sends in his best advisor to view the fabric. Of course, there is no fabric to be seen, but out of fear of being seen as incompetent, the advisor pretends to be able to do something that he cannot do; see the fabric. However, the proof that he cannot do so, is the fact that the fabric simply doesn’t exist.
 
Later the emperor arrives with all of his advisors to try on the clothes; so that he might wear them in a parade through the town to show them off (and to find out who is incompetent). Of course, no one can see the clothes because they are not there, but the emperor and all his advisors pretend that they can see them. They pretend to be able to do something that they cannot do out of a fear of appearing incompetent.
 
As they proceed through the town, everyone else out of a fear of appearing incompetent also pretends that the clothes are there and that they can see them. Finally, a child (who has no fear of appearing incompetent) simply states:
 
“The Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.”
 
At this point, everyone realizes what they secretly suspected; but everyone also continues on with the charade out of embarrassment at having been duped.
 
Ironically, because they pretended to be able to do something that they could not do out of a fear of appearing incompetent, they have all actually proven themselves to be incompetent; but no one still wants to admit it.
 
But the unquestionable proof that they are incompetent is that the clothes that they claim to be able to see are simply not there.
 
Applying this to the church, Jesus has given us the indisputable command to make disciples of Himself who know how to keep all that He commanded and who make more disciples of Him that do the same (Matthew 28:19-20).
 
However, a con man (Satan) has sneaked into the kingdom (the church) and convinced us that he could show us how to make disciples of Jesus without all the hard work; without dying to ourselves, without knowing and keep all that Jesus commanded, without teaching others to do the same; without doing it Jesus’ way.
 
Basically, Satan has convinced us that all we need to do to make disciples of Jesus is just show up at a church building and teach something from the Bible; and then somehow magically, disciples of Jesus will be made.
 
Whenever I ask church members, church leaders, and pastors if they are making disciples of Jesus, they generally answer, “Yes.”  But, when I look around their churches, disciples of Jesus who just know what Jesus commanded (much less who keep all of His commands and know how to produce more disciples of Jesus who also know and keep His commands) simply do not exist. And when pressed to produce them, they cannot.
 
This leads me to the conclusion that out of a fear of appearing incompetent, we are claiming to be able to do something that we should be able to do, but cannot. We are pretending that something is there, that simply is not.
 
And then, every Sunday all across America, we have parades where we come together and sing songs, and teach classes, and preach sermons; pretending that something is there that is not, pretending to be able to do something that we cannot.
 
Until someone like me, who no longer has a fear of appearing incompetent, comes along and states:
 
“The Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. Disciples of Jesus aren’t being made.”
 
I no longer have a fear of appearing incompetent because roughly five years ago, I faced up to the reality that I was incompetent. I had been in church my whole life and in and around the ministry for twenty years, and I still did not know how to make disciples of Jesus, who knew how to make more disciples of Him, who could keep all that He commanded.
 
I had to swallow my pride and put forth the effort to learn how. True competence begins with admitting what you do not know and being willing to learn from others who do know those things.
 
Unfortunately, like in the story, by claiming to be able to do something that they cannot do out of a fear of appearing incompetent; churches and church leaders are proving themselves to be incompetent.
 
And even when confronted with the truth, they continue the charade out of embarrassment; especially pastors. But the unquestionable proof that we are incompetent at making disciples of Jesus who know and keep His commands; is that disciples who know their Master’s commands, can keep their masters commands, and can make more disciples who do so; simply do not exist in our churches.
 
“The Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.”
 
Without letting the fear of appearing incompetent affect your answer, honestly ask yourself, “Do you absolutely know how to make disciples of Jesus who know how to keep all that Jesus commanded, and who know how to make more disciples of Jesus within your current culture and context?”
 
And before you answer, consider that claiming to be able to do something that you cannot do, will ultimately prove you to be incompetent.
 
(Because, attempting to make disciples of Jesus who know and keep His commands without actually knowing how to do so, will more than likely tear a church down before it will build it up; thus proving the incompetence of those attempting to do so.)
 
If you answered, “Yes” to that question, I would ask you to identify the disciples that you have made in your current culture and context who know how to keep Jesus’ commands and know how to make more disciples, and the disciples they have made or are making (disciples you made once upon a time, somewhere else, don’t count because each context is different; and making disciples is a never-ending process).
 
If you answered, “No,” I thank you for your honesty and would ask you if you would like to learn how to make disciples of Jesus who know and keep His commands, and can make more disciples who can do the same.
 
The following articles are our argument for how to begin making disciples of Jesus in our culture and context. The first article is an overview and the last four are expositions on the four principles of discipleship presented in the first.
 
However, reading the articles is just a starting place. We would also invite you to visit us at His Words His Ways Fellowship if you are serious about being and making disciples of Jesus, so that we might disciple you to be able to do so properly.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Photo by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash