We moved down to Indianapolis to plant a church that will be launching in January but getting people to go to our church isn’t our highest priority. Crazy thing for a church planter to say, isn’t it? People start car dealerships to sell cars, they start restaurants to sell food and we start churches so people will go to them, right?
In the traditional understanding of the church today in Western culture, the church is a physical building, a place where people go to “do church” – whatever that means. It’s most commonly held on Sunday mornings and it’s “what you do” if you’re a Christian or fulfilling spiritual obligations.
We’ve taken this institution of the church and have dressed it up to make it attractive as we can to unbelievers. We use edgy marketing techniques to get people there and incorporate cool creative service styles and current music to keep them once they’ve come (none of which I have a problem with by the way). Most every week the pastoral staff or creative team sits down to evaluate the service and plan future messages. We ask tough questions about how effective our greeters were in making people feel welcome, how smooth the transitions were during the service and how many people made professions of faith. I wonder though, how often in these meetings do churches ask what I believe is the critical question, “How are we doing at making disciples?”
You see, nowhere in the Bible do you see Jesus telling his disciples to start churches. He does, however, give them a mandate to “go into all the world and MAKE DISCIPLES.” (Matthew 28:19) Disciple-making is our ultimate benchmark of success as a church – not attendance, offering, or even salvations for that matter (there’s a big difference between a person who has made a profession of faith and a disciple).
When our first priority becomes getting people to go to church instead of making disciples we are missing the heart of what Jesus called us to do. Where along the way did we lose sight of our true calling? We’ve become great at starting churches that people want to go to. We have it down to a science. There are books and conferences for ways to enhance our creativity and pump up our services. Don’t get me wrong, I love creative service planning more than anyone and I want to see many people come through the doors of our church but I DON’T WANT THEM TO STAY THERE. I want them to move from Sunday morning worshipper to full-on disciples of Jesus, walking close enough to be covered in the his dust (if you haven’t already check out the amazing Nooma video called “Dust” about discipleship).
Disciples aren’t made on Sunday mornings. They can’t be manufactured through well-crafted programs. They are grown through intentional relationships with people who pour their lives into someone else and then teach them to do the same.
I love the church and I’m passionate about seeing it impact our culture but it’s a means to the end, not the end in itself. I’m planting a church in order to make disciples, not attenders. I’m excited about planting this church but I’m committed to growing disciples.
Excellent thoughts, thanks Brad.
3 John 8