Tuesday, October 04, 2011
Making Disciples or Creating Consumers?
Church....what have we done? Christ told us to make disciples who in turn will make disciples. Yet, by and large when pastors are asked their church's biggest area of weakness...(if we are honest) will tell you it's in disciple making. So instead, we settle on creating consumers. Well....that's not all true, those in our churches are already consumers, we have the credit card debt and stacks of stuff we don't need to prove it. We are merely giving the people more of what they have been conditioned to believe they 'need'. A sexy box, a flashy show, a feel good (or even hard hitting) 4 week series, programs for kids every day of the week, youth events, and a relevant message. Good well meaning churches may even have a mission event that we organize, we subsidize or pay for entirely and we beg those in our congregation to basically consume on top of all the other and programs and events we have throughout the week.
Here is a problem, if you ask what 'discipleship' is you will get plenty of differing opinion....but by and large the responses dwindle down to study and attendance. Those who are 'committed' will make every effort to be a part of every study and every program on church campuses in order to be 'fed'. Yet at the end of the week...many will still say, I want to go 'deeper'. Why is that? We are looking for that one piece that will satisfy our longing to be on mission with Christ.
In John 6, Jesus confronts this 'consumer mentality' head on. He had just fed 5000 people who had gathered to see him heal and to hear him preach. Then he raised the expectation. He told them to "come follow me"....or as my friend Hugh Halter would put it, he gave them the 'Death Talk'. Basically dying to self, killing the consumer and be willing to walk with Jesus no matter the cost. For most this cost was/is too high.
When alone with his disciples Jesus gave them something to chew on (figuratively). He said that "I am the bread of the life". "I have come down from heaven (like Manna)" and "you must eat my flesh and drink my blood". His disciples began to grumble....that this was very hard teaching, and they did not understand. He was basically telling them....I am sufficient. There is nothing else. I am your daily provision of bread from God. Follow me. Become my apprentices (disciples).
Christ wants us to go deeper. He wants us to follow him, do what he did and do even greater things. Yet we have settled for being one of 5000 sitting on the grass eating fish and watching the show.
What if churches decided that instead of structuring in a way that we perpetuated the consumer to consume, we instead structured to make apprentice making apprentices. That we empowered and gave permission to live on mission for Jesus. That our actual purpose was to equip the saints for works of service instead of gorging the already fattened consumers with more programs.
There are over 2200 places in scripture that implore us to serve the least, clothe the naked, take up the cause of the widow and orphan (James calls Pure Religion) and watch out for those in the margins of society. 2200. Yet amid our multi-million dollar buildings and budgets we relegate $250 to a homeless shelter every Christmas. Does this make you feel better? Doesn't me.
What if 'serving the least' was that 'magic bullet'? What if dying to yourself and your selfish desires and following Jesus into the margins meant that we could for the first time in our spiritual journeys become satisfied? What if it was because we actually encountered Jesus and saw him at work...and that nourished us? What if as we served and showed others how to serve we realized that we are not only apprenticing but training apprentices?
Brandon Hatmaker has written a book that embodies this notion. Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture. (Released October 24, 2011)
I am fortunate enough to serve with Brandon and have seen this transform new believers and life-long followers into vibrant and on fire apprentices. Please do yourself a favor and read this book.