I hope the foregoing statistics, shared earlier on this blog, are sobering to you. Even troubling. No born-again Christian should look at this picture of the state of the Church in America and not be grieved. Clearly, this is not what comes to mind when we hear Jesus say such things as:
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" John 7:38-39
“Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Matthew 16:18
And it certainly doesn’t sound like some of the inspiring things people said of Jesus’ followers back in the first century:
“Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13
"These men who have upset the world have come here also.” Acts 17:6
But even so, one might ask, “So what?” Certainly none of us likes the way things are, but look at all the manpower, time, energy, resources, and strategies we in America are pouring into evangelism and “discipleship” through our local churches. Doesn't that prove we are doing all we can? And besides, hasn’t it always been this way? Perhaps this is as good as it can ever be, given the hardness of men’s hearts, the decline of society which the Bible describes in the last days, etc.
All too sadly, I think that many Christians never make a connection between the ever-worsening conditions in our society and the question of whether we really understand, or are doing, what Jesus means when He tells us to “go and make disciples.”
Let me ask you to reflect on these three questions.
What practical, everyday consequences can you see for yourself personally if the Church generally doesn’t make disciples?
What practical, everyday consequences can you see for yourself personally if your own congregation specifically doesn’t make disciples?
What practical, everyday consequences can you see for yourself personally if you don’t make disciples?
I remember the day when I was praying about the weak state of disciplemaking in virtually every local church, and these questions exploded into my thoughts. I realized for the first time that the typical person who claims to believe in Jesus would have to answer that he sees no personal, practical, everyday consequence because the Church generally, or his congregation specifically, or he himself personally, does not make disciples. WOW!! What a sobering thought!
Of course, we all would like to see our congregations grow. And we’d all like our children to come to faith in Jesus Christ and then stay faithful to God as they go off to college or out into the world. And we all certainly want our daughters and granddaughters to marry Godly men. But how many of us ever “connect the dots,” so to speak, between (1) the low frequency with which any of these desires occur, and (2) our personal lack of obedience to Jesus’ command to “make disciples”?
You see, I believe there is a direct, straight-line connection between the sobering, tragic headlines in each day’s news and our need to (re)think disciplemaking. The connection goes like this:
Americans are on a path of accelerating decline. Why?
We increasingly lack Godly leaders in society. Why?
The people are increasingly Godless. Why? (The dictionary defines “godless” as “not acknowledging a deity or divine law.” For our purposes here, “Godless” means “not knowing and following God Almighty or His ways.”)
There’s no difference between believers and unbelievers. Why?
We are making very few authentic disciples, especially among men. Why?
Our paradigm of disciplemaking is not what God intended or Jesus modeled.
Put another way the consequence of our not making authentic disciples is that Christian men generally are aimless and passive when it comes to social and spiritual leadership. This leads to the Church’s loss of relevance and influence in our culture and society. This in turn leads to a scarcity of genuine Godly leaders in all areas and at all levels of society. And this in turn results in all the symptomatic problems we see and face in our society.