>Disciple Making in the Church


Alan Hirsch has the following quote: 

The quality of the church’s leadership is directly proportional to the quality of discipleship. If we fail in the area of making disciples, we should not be surprised in the area of leadership development.

I just read this quote and was, of course, forced to reflect on my pastoral experiences at the three churches I’ve served–Frankfort Trinity UMC in Indiana, the United Methodist Church of the New Covenant in Kenai, and Girdwood Chapel in, as you know, Girdwood, Alaska.  This is one area that I think I’ve struggled with and I’m not sure I could use this space to get at all of the reasons.  However, I do know that I’ve been uncomfortable asking “too much” of people.  I don’t want to seem pushy and perhaps I really don’t want the Jesus I preach and teach to come off as too pushy either.  And so, I often give up and just do whatever it is that I was trying to get others to do (or others to do with me).  And, I confess that I can get disappointed.  I get disappointed in myself for not being a better disciplemaking pastor and I can get disappointed in others when I expected more from them.  While I would not be one to say it, I can be like the very paternalistic parent who is thinking of telling their child, “I’m not angry with you.  I’m disappointed in you.”  These are words that hurt more than anger any day–and more often than not I think that of myself (not in an unhealthy way, I think).

Now, I think, personally, I’ve been doing better here.  I know that I’ve gotten more heavily involved in community outreach over the past few years.  It has always been something that I was passionate about but it seemed like I wasn’t putting any legs to this passion…I may have been thinking it and believing it, but I wasn’t really doing it.  And, as pastor, I love it when I see persons step out in faith and lead by their example–when they adopt a child through World Vision, when they give up time in their life where they would have been doing other things and give that time in service to God and other persons, when they are with me in a Bible study or topical study and you can tell that the Holy Spirit is just really working within them and that they are “getting it” (growing, learning, being sanctified in the faith).  Those times do my soul good.  It is truly good for me when that takes place.

That being the case, however, one might assume that I’d be seeking more times and places like that…that I’d be asking more of persons and I’d be calling to persons of greater discipleship better. 

For my present environment in Girdwood (and it’s come out in a couple of other places), I know that our building and all of the needs that come with that have taken our time, and our talents, and our energy.  It’s kind of hard to make disciples when you’re building a building.  This quote from Michael Slaughter’s Change the World hit home with me tonight as I reflected and prayed about all of this:

In a postresurrection appearance, Jesus gave this directive to his disciples:  “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Disciple making is the business of the church!  It is easy to forget our commission and to substitute church building for disciple building.  We become absorbed in building programs, budgets, staffs, and facilities–and have I mentioned attendance?  We can spend a whole lifetime in the construction of a ministry that has nothing to doe with Christ’s commission, despite giving the appearance of success. (43)

Sometimes, with buildings to be built, with meetings run, with people to visit…hey, even with blogs to update…we can just be “playing church” but not actually making disciples.  I think I need to do a better job asking if I’ve been making disciples.  And I need to do a better job asking the congregation to step up and live like they want to be disciples.


Picture–Church on coast by Petr Kratochvil


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