Discipleship Is Our Only Goal

Yesterday, I had lunch with some ministers that pastor in Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne Counties. It was a meeting for encouragement to all of us. In America, 1400 to 1700 pastors quit the ministry each month. LifeWay Research reported this week that for the year 2019, Protestant church closures outpaced church openings in the U.S.

There are several reasons why pastors are leaving the ministry, but one reason is just discouragement. Many pastors are frustrated that their ministry is not turning out more Christians. I love my fellow pastors and really enjoy hanging out with my colleagues.

However, I am not surprised that so many pastors are frustrated. It is because they themselves fall into the same trap that they hate to hear from their parishioners, "we have never done it like that before."  Most pastors follow what they've seen before. They do church on Sunday morning at 11 AM, and they call themselves on the cutting edge if they have a praise band versus a choir.

I used to work much more with church planters in the Detroit area, even though I still coach a church planter in Traverse City; yet I found that most pastors will not venture outside the church box that they know so well.

I am so thankful that I have the privilege to serve as pastor for Cross Waves Church and The Studio Connection. Because you going to either one of these ministries, says that you think outside the church box and are more concerned about making disciples than just following everybody else's lead.

I know I'm sounding cynical, but it is so frustrating to me to ask a church planter that is going into a city that already has a bunch of churches these questions:

1. When are you going to meet?
"Sundays at 11 AM."

2. Isn't that when every other church is meeting in the city? What are you gonna do different than these other churches?
"Well, we are going to love them the way Jesus loves us!"

3. Wow, I bet that's never been tried by another church (insert sarcasm).

Do you see what I mean? Pastors do what every other pastor does. And what frustrates me is that all these pastors will tell you that the reason their church is going to exist is to make disciples. They're going to follow the Great Commission. Here's the sad part - they are not even trying to make disciples the way the Bible tells us too. Don't get me wrong, we love our sister churches, and yet we boldly say we do things differently.

If we're going to look at disciple making, why wouldn't we follow the greatest disciple maker of all time – Jesus? Jesus took a small group of men and poured his life into them. He never chased the crowds, the crowds chased him. They came to Him because He did so many miracles. The crowds did not come to Him because they wanted to be disciples, they came to Him because He might heal or feed them. They wanted something from Jesus, not to be like Him, but to get something from Him. Does that sound like many church goers today?

It is quite clear from Scripture, if you want to make disciples, you don't do it through crowds. Throughout the gospel we can see multitudes of people who came to hear Jesus, however, on the day of Pentecost when the church began, they were only 120 people in the upper room. Where were the multitudes of people that came to hear Jesus in the countryside? Where were all those people that Jesus fed when He fed 5000 men and their families. What did they all go?

True discipleship happens when you do life together in small groups. It is amazing to me that the early church met in homes, and it was not until 250 A.D. where archaeologists found a building that could've been used for a church gathering.

In the New Testament we are to give money to:

  • Widows and orphans (James 1:27)
  • Poor people in need (Galatians 2:10)
  • Other Christians in need (Romans 12:13)
  • Spiritual leaders (Galatians 6:6)

Do you see on the list anywhere to give money for buildings?

 The church turned the world upside down in the book of Acts, primarily because they met in homes, which kept groups naturally small and they did life together, and that's how disciples are formed! Chasing the crowds never works. Jesus would always leave the crowds, and then around a meal He would go into greater detail with the twelve disciples about what He said earlier to the crowds.

Now there is a dilemma, The Studio Connection has a building. This is where we shoot the weekly videos that we use for our Cross Waves HotSpots. It has been a real blessing for us to work alongside The Studio Connection, but we would've never done that if they had any debt whatsoever. So we have a building, and because we don't want to be like everybody else, we've been implementing a plan that looks different than any other church in our area. Not to just be different, but to be better at making disciples.

This past Sunday was so exciting for me at The Studio Connection because we're not trying to do a traditional church service like everyone else. So here's what happened! I was doing a segment of "Insights to The Biblical World," and when I finished, I took questions from the audience and we had a great discussion on why we need to figure out how to date the books of the Bible properly.

And then after the Bible talk, we had the privilege of Granny Pat giving her testimony of how God has taken care of her this past year (Granny Pat is a longtime member of the church and has been very sick). We are not trying to deliver a fancy church service; our goal is for people to learn what the Bible says, and then discuss how we are to obey it together. We are trying to turn The Studio Connection into a Cross Waves HotSpot. And last week I felt like we were finally accomplishing that.

Now let me just say how important it is for the people of The Studio Connection to be people that are more concerned about discipleship than tradition. Without their help, we could've never gotten to this point.

I just had my 60th birthday, and I'm more excited about ministry today than when I was a young kid coming out of Bible college. I am not leaving the ministry! I'm not chasing the crowds! I am chasing one or two people that I can pour my life into to help them find Christ, and then they go find one or two people they can pour their life into so they can find Christ. Can you see where this is heading? The end goal is to make disciples exactly like the New Testament Church did!

I love Cross Waves Church and The Studio Connection, because you are as concerned about disciple making as I am, and are willing to look different (and much more biblical) to help people obey Christ as their Lord and Savior.

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