“We’ve Taught Them Wrong”–Why Some Struggle with a Discipleship Paradigm

Today, I met with Mark Clifton, who is the head of the Replant arm of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). I finished up classes here at Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, and he was gracious enough to meet me at an adjacent Wendy’s.

Mark has an unbelievable schedule, a schedule that takes him to churches and associations that have an issue–each are concerned about their church or churches in their association closing. The stories are usually the same: a church that once was busy and exploding with growth 20-30 years ago (or more) are now struggling to continue. These churches had events and programs and people, and more than this reflected the community in which they were located.

But something changed.

Was it the people inside the building who changed? Was it the community and culture outside the building? I’d say a little of both.

As churches try to move toward a more discipleship-centric model which invests in people inside and outside the church, many long-time church members struggle to understand the paradigm shift. Why? Clifton put it succinctly:

“We’ve taught them wrong!”

This needed no translation.

Churches have long tried to attract people with things to do and events to attend and numbers to count. Health meant move activities, more programs, and more people. More does not equate to health (it can, mind you, but not always).

As pastors, what do we expect from our people when they hear a sermon? A polite and affirming nod–or change? And how is this assessed?

As small group leaders, what do we expect from our people? To show up and have a great time of fellowship? Or something more? And how is this assessed?

As deacons, what do we expect from our ministry? Keeping the administrative work going, or something more? And how is this assessed?

Every thing we do needs a ‘why,’ an objective to that end. Every sermon, every worship gathering, every small group, every ministry–what is the objective behind this? And how do we assess the success of it based on this objective?

Gone are the days of doing things just to do things–and that’s not a bad thing!

We must ask, “How does this help us be, make, multiply, and send disciples of Jesus who help others believe Jesus is enough, because we ourselves believe Jesus is enough as well?

We’ve taught them wrong! Let’s work to make it right!


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