If you make disciples, you will always get the church. But if you try to build the church, you will rarely get disciples.
The word church there refers to the body or assembly of Y’shua and not brick and mortar. In many cases, things don’t go wrong, they start out wrong. Seeds of failure and destruction are sown in the beginning. This is why it’s very important to start out with the proper foundation and having Y’shua the Messiah as the chief cornerstone.
Many people who occupy seats in church buildings and living rooms of Hebrew Roots fellowships are feeling unsatisfied and unequipped to accomplish their purpose. There are many reasons as to why, but I believe it’s very simple. Many leaders have focused more on converting people to their brand instead of discipling people to look like, act like, talk like, and walk like Y’shua the Messiah.
The other day I was reading megachurch Willow Creek’s reveal study which is around ten years old now, and I wasn’t surprised what it “revealed”. They basically admit all their trendy fancy programs didn’t fully work because many of their members were left feeling empty and lacking purpose. This church at one time was the Mercedes Benz of churchianity and pioneered the seeker sensitive mega church movement.
In other words numeric growth doesn’t equal spiritual growth. Having the best programs or Parsha studies to put more people in the pews and on the couch doesn’t equate to making disciples. We never see that kind of model in the Newer Testament, but it’s what is being used today. I believe one of the biggest mistakes we’ve made in our religious circles is we aren’t focused on relationship as it relates to Kingdom missional purpose. This is where discipleship comes into play. We’ve not been very good at making disciples because it’s about how much knowledge we can gain and less about how deeper in our relationship we can go with others and Y’shua. The truth about discipleship is that it’s never fashionable or trendy and it’s never in style – it’s the call to come and die; a long obedience in the same direction. That right there is a turn off for many believers. Part of the reason folks aren’t fulfilling their mission is because mission is messy. Mission is work and very humbling without any glory attached to it. It’s not temporary but for the long haul and it can’t be sustained without discipleship. If we don’t have a plan for disciple, then pretty much any missional work you try to do will be unsustainable.
Think about mission as sending people out into a war zone. Discipleship is the boot camp that trains us for the front lines but its also a medical clinic when we get wounded where we can rest and recuperate for the next battle. If we don’t disciple folks the way Y’shua did in the Newer Testament, we are practically sending them out to battle without training, armor, and weapons. This lack of true discipleship has caused folks to burn out, get offended, quit the church and Hebrew Roots movement, and most of all feel used and abused.
I’m not trying to be totally negative here, but the missional movement is going to fail if our discussion about mission is deprived of discipleship. We have to start making missionaries out of disciples and if we don’t then the missional movement will stall and fade into the history books. Any discussions we have about mission must begin with discipleship. We must honestly answer the following questions. Am I a disciple? Do I know how to disciple people who can then disciple others who then disciple others, etc? In other words, is my discipleship plan working? Does our discipleship plan lead all disciple to become missionaries?
Disciples are people who learn to be like Y’shua and learn to do what He could do. Discipleship is the process of becoming who Y’shua would be if He were you. A disciple is someone who has a life and ministry that looks more and more like the life and ministry of Y’shua. Showing up to a church service, Torah study, having a quiet time, tithing, and volunteering don’t automatically make you a disciple. These things are good but it wasn’t the kind of “fruit” that Y’shua referred to in John 15 when He talked about being fruitful.
Here is the measuring stick of discipleship. Look at Y’shua’s life, the life of the disciples, the life of the early assembly, and what they were able to produce with their fruit and then look at ours and compare. Are we a book of Acts assembly today? Does our lives compare to the lives and ministry of the first century assembly?
Most communities do have some kind of plan for discipleship but I’m not convinced that these plans are working. The fruit in our lives reveals the root of our lives, and if we are creating disciples who are different than the people in Scripture, we must ask why and how we can change that.
I can’t give you a three step process to making disciples because many factors are at play. What I can tell you is if you truly want to grow, you must start to make disciples that can reproduce themselves. When this happens we can start to multiply and impact our society like the first century believers did when they spread the gospel literally taking over the Roman Empire. Blessings.