Every Christian is a “small-p” pastor, whether they’re gifted shepherds or not. (“[Y]ou yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood,” (1 Pet. 2:5), remember?) The Spirit has equipped every one of us so that the Word becomes flesh in our lives, as well as in the lives of those God is calling us to serve. But often, we just don’t know how to do it. So how do we make the reality of Christ in our lives… real?
And I have to confess, this is where it now gets personal and/or self-promotional. But I also hope it helps illustrate what I’m talking about, and (especially next week) gives you some tools to work with. So roll with me here….
Several years ago, my own journey in discipleship turned outward. Nearly ten years ago, I moved from Jersey to Colorado in order to, in my own words, “put my worlds together” (ministerially & editorially), and thus went from being a gratis assistant pastor (who also as elder, knew we couldn’t pay me) / paid administrator for the editorial database for lawyers.com (see what I mean about different worlds?) to becoming an editor of adult and small-group resources for the church.
A few years after getting out here, I’d been talking with my then-boss and still-friend about what we felt the church needed most. Without too much effort at all, we both landed on the lack of discipleship in the church, and she encouraged me to try to think of a resource to address that. And a couple weeks later, while on vacation in Santa Fe and not really thinking about our conversation at all, the whole thing came to me with a startling clarity—the entire scope-and-sequence, six books, each covering a different season of growth. And it’d be called From Disciples to Disciplers. Because again, that’s the missing link in the church today.
At the same time, Willow Creek Community Church (likely best known for its “seeker-sensitive” approach to church growth), published the results of its REVEAL survey of hundreds of churches, confirming this gaping hole of nondiscipleship in the church—and making it clear that while “seeker-sensitivity” was great at bringing people into church, it had two devastating consequences: 1) those seekers weren’t maturing; and 2) those older Christians who wanted to mature in Christ were “stalled” and/or exiting out the back door. (The other “revelation” from this survey: Regular time in God’s Word was the one common denominator in every “growth step” believers experienced.)
I’ll confess that my first response was “well, duh.” Several subsequent responses, too. I have my own pride issues to deal with, after all.
But really, the sad truth is that these two consequences went more hand-in-hand than the creators of REVEAL knew (or at least seemed to acknowledge). Specifically: 1) Those people walking out the door were the very people who should have been discipling the seekers walking in; and yet conversely and hopelessly connected to that, 2) the fact that these mature Christians weren’t actively engaged in discipling others was what made them stagnant, and kept them from maturing any further.
Let me add one more illustration from this same time period. I debated whether to keep it, but honestly it illustrates the problem far better than I ever could—and it serves as a nice transition to the rest of this entry and beyond….
Declaredly in response to REVEAL, the owner of the company I worked for at the time announced an idea for a resource that could only be described as “hyper-seeker-sensitive”—in short, the exact opposite of what REVEAL appeared to be advocating. Shortly thereafter, I attended an informational meeting with about twenty others, and when question-and-answer time came I asked about the gaping disconnect in discipleship that REVEAL… well, revealed… and asked, “What are our plans to address those issues?”
His word-for-word response: “Well, you’ll have to come up with that.”
Fortunately, I’d already started. And slowly, that idea found favor in important and unusual places, and mostly independent of my own efforts (and trust me, I had efforts :)). I clearly saw God’s hand guiding this thing around the normal development process—and really, at this point I was going to write the thing no matter what.
And so in the summer and fall of 2010, the From Disciples to Disciplers series (renamed Growing Out—which certainly wasn’t incorrect either) was finally released. And despite circumstances best not rehashed here (but suffice to say, tied to the ongoing failure of the above and other “hyper-seeker-sensitive” projects), more than 12,000 copies of this series have already gotten into peoples’ hands. That’s not nothing, and I’m grateful for the opportunity, however unorthodox the route. I still love hearing stories about how God’s used it to change people and even churches—so if you’ve got one (or get one in the future), please share it.
Still, I don’t feel its work is done. The problem of nondiscipleship hasn’t disappeared, or probably even abated. There’s still plenty of work to do. And that’s where you come in. Next week we’re finally gonna talk about both our contributions to that, and where to go from here. Because From Disciples to Disciplers is back in town, baby….
And on that note, the book version of Season 1, Growing in Jesus, is now up. Go fetch. 🙂 And again, lots more to come next week….