The church world is infamous for endlessly regurgitating buzz words and an obsession with trendiness. I could cite a hundred examples, but my goal is not to offend right off the bat. Currently, it certainly seems that the phrase-of-the-day or the shiny “new” object is discipleship. Which got me thinking: Is that really the case or is it possible that this is a shift that is being generated by the Holy Spirit? I would contend it is, without question, the latter. It is uncanny the number of pastors and church leaders that we come in contact with that are using the same language, feeling a spiritual push into discipleship and multiplication, and committed to radical change to see the revival that we all believe has been promised to us. So, I do believe that this shift from a consumer/seeker-friendly church environment to a disciples-that-make-disciples-that make-disciples culture is a God-thing.
But this change, as it is with any seismic shift, presents significant challenges. Let’s take a look at three of those challenges.
It Challenges the Status Quo
Most people do not like change. Period. Add into the equation the fact that we have unintentionally turned committed people into volunteers and passive observers. A discipleship culture challenges people to answer the call of living missionally every day where they live, work, and play. This is uncomfortable. Even for the most committed people, this change challenges them and often creates resistance. In order to create a discipleship/multiplication culture, pastors/church leaders should expect this, and must stay committed to the values of the Kingdom. We must not get frustrated with or dismiss people as they wrestle through the changes. In fact, God often uses spiritual tension to move people from their current value system to the values system of His Kingdom. Our phrase as we navigated this culture change was, “Embrace the tension.”
Discipleship Is Not A Program…And We Like Programs
While many are championing the need for more discipleship, there is a glaring lack of practical concepts for truly implementing a discipleship culture. Part of the reason is because we like formulas and church growth programs. Those are so much easier to implement…and easier to blame when they do not work. But as Peter Drucker famously stated, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Programs are not all bad, but they will always give way to the underlying culture of the organization. This is why our focus must be on cultural change versus program implementation.
It Is A Slow Process
As church leaders, we feel the gravity of the call of God to reach our world and the urgency of the hour. That is why we often seek out quick-fix ideas or big events that reap immediate rewards. Discipleship, on the other hand, is just plain slow. It was with Jesus and will be with us. The difference is that discipleship, if done correctly, will result in fully devoted followers of Jesus that prioritize their own discipleship and making disciples above everything else. It starts slow, but once you get disciples that make disciples that make disciples, rapid reproduction is the end result. As pastors and church leaders, we must resist the temptation to seek immediate gratification and stay committed to the process because it will lead to what we truly desire: apostolic, multiplication revival.