There are several common misnomers among those who seek to grow the church. The first is that church growth is all about numbers. The second is is that God wants the church to grow. In regards to the first, do not hear what I am not saying… I am not saying that new people coming into a saving relationship with Jesus is not important. It is, has been and always will be vital.
However, in the great commission Jesus does not tell us to go out and increase our numbers. He tells us to go make disciples. Most church growth interests are about closing the deal, people in the pews, numbers going up and to the right. This is not a bad thing. It’s more like a half completed wall mural. It leaves many wondering what else was supposed to be there. When we ruthlessly focus on discipleship, the numbers work themselves out.
In regards to the second, God is not interested in growing the church [in terms of numbers]. He is however very much interested in building His kingdom. God’s kingdom is where the many care more about the needs of the lost sheep than their personal needs.
To that end I want to share with you what it is that I do.
The groups that I lead are filled with courageous men. They may not feel comfortable with this imposed descriptor, but the bottom line is-they are. They have done what few others have done, and have embarked on a journey to grow in the likeness of Jesus. They want to be covered in the Dust of their Rabbi, Jesus. But this journey is not like any other they have traveled, for they have given themselves to the others who are also following Jesus. We constantly work at transparency, vulnerability and openness to others. We practice speaking into each other’s lives as we keep their eyes on Jesus. Just as the Spirit of Truth testifies about Jesus (John 15:26), so these men choose daily to listen to the Spirit’s testimony while striving to follow.
Do they do it perfectly? Does anyone follow Jesus perfectly? Obviously no. We do however, choose to surrender our will for God’s. Each group of men I challenge to pray. We utilize lots of spiritual prayer practices. One prayer that I challenge them to pray each day has this line, “I commit myself to the role you have invited me to play, as you are building the likeness of your Son, Jesus, in me….”
Two important points:
First, it is our choice to ignore the call of our Savior or to commit to it. When Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James and John from their fishing boats in Matthew 4:18-22, they have a choice to make, but the commitment is all or nothing. They either get out of the boat and follow, or they stay in the fish business.
But this isn’t the only time they have to decide to be “all in.” In John 6:66-69, the crowds are leaving Jesus because His teaching is too difficult, too demanding. Jesus asks the disciples if they are going to leave or stay. It is Peter who answers that they aren’t going anywhere, they are “all in.” There are many other scriptural references where the disciples need to re-up their commitment to follow.
My point is simply this; committing to the call to follow and to become more like Jesus today than we were yesterday, is a daily choice.
Second, it is Jesus who calls us to be like Him, and in that calling, Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is building His likeness, His Kingdom in us. This Kingdom is where the power of God is lived out by those who follow the King. When we choose to forgive, to repent, to show compassion, to speak the truth, to live a servant attitude, we imitate how our Rabbi, Jesus lived and taught. As we make these obedient choices, the Kingdom is more realized in our simple act of obedience and faithfulness.
One of the guys in our group recently shared that he was in a conversation at work and found himself tempted to lie. He said he was convicted by the Holy Spirit that there was no reason to lie and to be faithful to Jesus. The beauty in this model is that, not only was he striving to listen, willing to obey, but also to share his experience with a group of brothers in the journey. It is the role we have been given, to commit fully, continually.
“It is the role of every Disciple, to commit fully, continually.”
God is building His Kingdom in us, one relationship at a time. I am honored to be in the journey with these men. I know I am closer to Jesus because of the work of the Holy Spirit and them. In John 5:17 Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”
Thus the question of discipleship is twofold: Are we fully committed; are we all in? And are we continually renewing our commitment to be like Jesus, by obedience, trust and in community?
Join with me on the journey. There is always room!