Why You Are A Better Disciple-Maker Than Your Pastor

How Pastors Hinder Personal Disciple-Making

What hinders people from becoming fully functioning disciple-makers? You may be surprised to hear one major hinderance is their pastor. Of course this is not done on purpose, but it is the pastor’s continual presence that actually stunts the growth of Christian discipleship.

Don't get the wrong idea about us, we love pastors at Cross Waves Church; however, pastors today are expected to perform different functions from the pastors of the 1st Century Church.

In the first century, pastors equipped people to disciple other Christians as they followed Christ (Ephesians 4:12-16). These Christians would have others into their home and would teach others about Christ, and why His death and resurrection proved that He was the Messiah.

However today, people invite their friends to church with the hope that their pastor can disciple them. Most of us just do the holy handoff.

Here is the problem, the pastor was never supposed to be the disciple-maker. The pastor's role was to equip other Christians on how to be disciple-makers.

Think about it, what would the state of the church be today if every Christian was discipling another Christian?

Everyone is to be a Disciple-maker

Jesus taught the crowds, but His real discipleship was among the twelve disciples. Ever wonder why He spent so much time with the twelve?

What would it look like if you opened up your home and helped others understand God and how He loves all of us?

Let's look at how we believe the pastor’s presence interferes with people becoming fully functioning disciple-makers. We must first start with the three basic components of discipleship found in the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37–40; Mark 12:29–31) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20).
Let’s start with the Great Commandment, where we find the first two principles of discipleship:
29 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. 30 And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29–31 NLT)

A 1st Century Approach to 21st Century...

Basically, the first two tenets of discipleship are to love God with everything we have, and second, we are to love others. The third precept of discipleship is to make disciples and for that we look to the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19,20.
19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NLT)
Therefore, we would say that Jesus commands ALL Christians to:
  • Love God
  • Love Others
  • Make Disciples

Making Disciples within "small groups" and "one to one."

The first two statements from Jesus, “love God and love others” is what the typical Christian can pursue in a solitary fashion. Christians can do the first two without major confrontational interactions with others. For instance, they can read their Bible during their devotion time, they can give to their church, they can choose each day to put God first and even pray over their meals publicly in a restaurant. Yet none of these activities require them to take anyone along with them, which is what discipleship is all about.

While they can love others through their kindness or show compassion to others, none of these loving activities bring others along with them either - which is what discipleship is all about. In fact, many unsaved people pay for the meals of veterans or pick up the grocery tab for a widow - but it's unlikely any of them are actively discipling anyone for Christ.
When a person is focused on the first two commandments there is no real fear of a confrontation with someone else. Loving God is a personal exercise, and loving others rarely evokes feelings of hostility. However, sharing their faith (which is no longer a solitary activity) may lead to a confrontation or initiate a connection with someone who feels evangelism of any kind is wrong.

It is in this third component of making disciples where churches typically fail.

Take a moment and think about how many people you know outside the church walls who are really making disciples? Who do you know that is actively and intentionally having people into their home or otherwise engaging others on a regular basis to teach them about Jesus? Who do you know that, on their own, without a church program, is modeling Jesus by actively taking a fellow believer alongside them and teaching them about Jesus? There are some Christians who get this, but the vast majority do not understand that without a Christian personally making disciples, they do not have a fully functioning disciple of Jesus Christ!

Any pastor would love to hear someone say, “Pastor, here is John, whom I led to the Lord and then I baptized him, and now I want him to get involved with the Christian community here at this church.” I dare say that the average pastor has never heard someone say that statement. Why is this not a natural statement heard in our churches today?

Because of the confrontation factor that sometimes comes with sharing their faith, people rely on their pastor to help fulfill their duty to the Great Commission.

Disciple-making over crowd building

And that is where the failure begins! The average church has special event days to help members bring guests to their church, so the pastor can preach a salvation message. This has taught people to invite others to their church to meet the pastor, instead of taking people directly to meet Jesus themselves.

Obviously, most people assume that if you invite people to church, they will learn about Jesus. That may be true, but these are not the steps that are taught in the New Testament. The New Testament teaches a more personal and direct approach. WE are to lead people to Christ and then introduce them to a Christian Community. What we are actually doing instead is performing a holy handoff. Most church attenders think that if they can get a person to attend their church, then they have done their job in following the Great Commission. That is really sad from a biblical perspective.

Here are four reasons why the pastor’s presence hinders the disciple-making process:
1. The pastor’s presence during the disciple-making process does not empower Christians to make disciples.
Once a person does the holy handoff of a guest to his pastor, they have negatively impacted their opportunity of being the disciple-maker. The pastor is now seen as the disciple-maker, not the person that brought the person to church.
For example, let's say that you were in a hospital bed, and a nurse is giving you instructions on how to recover from your illness. However, as the nurse talks, the doctor walks in; where does your attention now go? Most of us would put more emphasis on what the doctor had to say than what the nurse had to say.

In this illustration, the pastor holds the same esteemed position as the doctor. Whenever the pastor is in the room with another Christian, people are more interested in what the pastor has to say about faith and following Christ, not what the other Christian has to say. Therefore, the pastor’s presence takes away their empowerment of being a disciple-maker. Pastors tell people that they want them to be the disciple-makers, but without ever thinking about how their presence hinders this endeavor.

Have you ever wondered why the disciples did not become fully functioning disciple-makers until Jesus left Earth? There's no place in Scripture where Jesus sat and listened to Peter teach other disciples. Jesus taught the disciples, and then had to leave their presence before they could truly become disciple-makers. It was only when Jesus was not present that His own disciples started making disciples!

2. The pastor’s presence during the disciple-making process interferes with his biblical duties to equip (or train) others to be disciple-makers. 
Pastors prevent Christians from becoming fully functioning disciple-makers when they allow holy handoffs. God never encouraged pastors to have this as their role. Paul teaches us the principle of equipping in Ephesians 4:

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13 NLT)

Paul is really clear that the gifts given to the church were for the purpose of training Christians to be fully functioning disciples of the Lord. This illustrates that ALL of us are to be part of the disciple-making process. This would enable the pastor to train people in the ministry, and frees him up to have more time to be engaging with the non-believers that he will personally disciple.
3. The pastor’s presence during the disciple-making process disqualifies Christians from receiving the Crown of Rejoicing.
Every Christian who makes disciples can attain the Crown of Rejoicing; this heavenly crown is also called the soul-winner’s crown. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians:

19 After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! 20 Yes, you are our pride and joy. (1 Thessalonians 2:19–20 NLT)

And Paul also said in Philippians:

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work. (Philippians 4:1 NLT)

Not every Christian is called to preach, but every believer is called to sow the precious seed of God’s Word and to be constantly seeking to make disciples for Christ. Will we not rejoice in heaven when we see those whom we led to Christ and taught them how to obey God?
4. The pastor’s presence during the disciple-making process bottlenecks church growth.
This is why most churches grow by addition versus multiplication. A bottleneck occurs because in most baptisms in a church, the pastor had some direct input into that person’s conversion. There was either a holy handoff, or the person made a decision to follow Christ after hearing the pastor preach a series of messages. Think about how wonderful it would be if people in the church were the ones actually making disciples, teaching them how to love God and love others. Think how much faster a church would grow if the pastor trained others to disciple, and then only supported other believer’s disciple-making efforts, versus personally trying to disciple everyone they have been introduced to. Instead of one person (the pastor) being the disciple-maker for the church, everyone would be empowered to disciple others.

In this scenario, the pastor becomes a secondary asset, not a primary resource, in most people’s conversion. Here is an illustration on this point so think about it this way; the Bible makes it clear in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 that the parent has the direct responsibility to teach their children about God:
4 “Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5 And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4–9 NLT)

However, there is not a Christian parent that is not thankful for a good church youth group that supports the parent’s godly teaching at home. Christians who are making disciples would love a pastor that supports their disciple-making efforts with godly preaching and teaching in a larger group context.

It was a sad day for me when I realized that I as the pastor am the problem. I was hindering the people I served from becoming fully functioning disciple-makers. Because of the confrontation factor of making disciples, I was enabling them to do holy handoffs to me; consequently, I was immobilizing their opportunity to mature completely in Christ, and not only love God and love others, but also to make disciples.

It bothered me so much that my mere presence was hurting discipleship efforts, that we designed a church that would empower others to be the disciple-makers. That church became Cross Waves Church, where we completely removed the physical pastor from the discipleship process. We equip Christians through a video curriculum, however, all the discipleship is done by the hosts who open their homes to others. The hosts of Cross Waves Church personally model how to love God, love others, and share their faith with others.

There are events throughout the year where the hosts take people into the community to show them how to love others. Because there's no pastor’s presence in the home, people look to the host as the disciple-maker. For us, we see a pattern that Jesus bodily left Earth, Paul would lead people to Christ, start a Christian community, then leave to go somewhere else, and at Cross Waves Church, we use modern technology to keep the pastor's presence negligible.

If you would like to be a disciple-maker, Cross Waves will give you the tools to turn your home into a ministry center, just like what you read about in the New Testament. We believe personal disciple-making is always the best plan to win people to Christ; we call this a first-century strategy to win the twenty-first century people. Cross Waves makes disciples within "small groups" and "one to one." We know it works, and we would love to partner with you!

Cross Waves is lauded for its innovation for being a multi-site church that uses homes as mini-campuses.

With the help of technology, Cross Waves brings solid Bible teaching within the best context for relationship development.

We all have friends and family that will not go to church on Sunday morning for a variety of reasons. However, these same people will talk about God and faith in a convenient and safe environment. That is why they may be open to an invitation to a casual meal and Bible discussion in a home setting. In a Cross Waves Home Group, your friends and family can ask difficult questions without feeling judgement.

Learn how easy it is to get started making disciples in in your home...

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