By Shannon Youell
Dallas Willard said that “every church should be able to answer two questions: First, what is our plan for making disciples? Second, does our plan work?”
Is what we are currently doing shaping disciples who live out the gospel in such way that others are drawn to them and are discipled by them? When I say “gospel” I am referring to everything Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God present on earth, and what that looks like in our everyday living…and that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life into it.
Our last post left us thinking about these two questions. Willard’s second question, “does our plan work?” assumes we understand what “working” implies. Our ingrained understanding is that in teaching people to read their Bible, pray, tithe, engage in good works both in the church community and the greater community around them, that we are making disciples. I believe the church has mostly done a very good job of doing these things. But have we made disciples?
In last week’s blog, I observed that the good and faithful folk at my home church were reluctant to engage in the 77 Days of Prayer because they felt they didn’t know how to pray, how to engage with the scriptures, and were uncomfortable being with folk they didn’t choose themselves to meet with! So have we made disciples as Jesus made disciples? We certainly have made good and faithful church folk.
So is our plan working? Well, yes, if the above is what we planned to make – good and faithful service attendees. Perhaps now is exactly the time, then, to revisit our plans. Not because we shouldn’t be pastoring, leading, teaching, guiding people to discover life in Christ and the tangible ways it shapes how we choose to live our lives, but because Jesus encouraged this and then pushed us out a little further (or, depending on your particular context, a lot further).
From what I read in the Gospels, Jesus’ method of making disciples was less about corralling the sheep in a safe place, and more like inviting them out of the boat without floaties. He sent them into the leper colonies without vaccines; He sent them into the world purse-less and with no outward protection to face wolves disguised as sheep.
Jesus’ method of making disciples was life on life: take a risk, get out of your comfort zone, practice/make mistakes/learn something more/go try again until that demon listens, that mountain is thrown into the sea, that challenge is met and the Kingdom of God reveals itself right in front of our sometimes-unexpectant eyes!
When Jesus gave His disciples some of His final words while on this earth, He commanded them to make disciples devoted to and covenanted with God, and to teach those disciples to listen to and live by everything He had been teaching to the current batch of disciples. Those first disciples, upon doing that, likely told their disciples to do the same when they were ready to be sent out, since they would have been doing and saying what Jesus instructed them to do. And so on. Disciples make disciples who can make disciples.
This was what Jesus Himself called His followers to do. He commanded us to make disciples and stated He would build His church. In our current evangelical model, we usually build the church and bring those we’d like to be disciples to someone else to disciple.
So is our plan working?