(This is part 2 of a ten part series. Part 1 is here.)
Speak this statement to any Christian pastor in America,
the Mission of the Church is Discipleship,
and you are extremely unlikely to find any disagreement.
After all, scripture is very clear about the mission and purpose of the church from Jesus’ last official words on earth through the epistles to follow. The question most pastors tend to focus on as they create the vision and philosophy of ministry for their church then is “How do we disciple?” If we already know the purpose then it seems reasonable that this would be the next immediate question.
Reasonable but wrong.
In my experience there are actually three questions which need to be answered and articulated by the pastor before “how” can be most effectively answered.
The first is “Why Discipleship?”
The second is “What is Discipleship?”
The Third is “Who is responsible for Discipleship?”
We are given important information in scripture about each of these questions which will inevitably impact the question of “How we disciple.”
And yet, over the last year I’ve asked dozens of pastors in personal and coaching conversations, “Why is it important to Disciple?” and I’ve discovered that very few pastors have thought thoroughly through that question. Most were surprised I would even ask such a question. Even when I direct them to Ephesians and challenge them to explore what Paul says about why, it is much easier and natural for them to jump to the questions of how which are also addressed in Ephesians.
Let me reiterate, our tendency as pastors not to have thought through why is not because we do not take Discipleship seriously enough. We do. It’s more often precisely because we are so sure that we need to do it, that it never occurs to us to ask why. Why is often reserved for questions challenging whether something is necessary, but we are already convinced discipleship is the point. However, in this case I’m not asking you to consider why because I think you need convincing; I’m asking you to consider why because it will make it more clear to you what God is wanting to do through our communities of Discipleship and this will make how less of a mystery as well.
Another reason we don’t take the essential time to explore “Why” before we ask “how” is that almost every pastor has the unenviable task of building a plane in mid-flight, as it were.
Questions of “how” seem so much more urgent than the other questions. Something has to be done and we do want to get it right! The world doesn’t slow down just so we can contemplate and reflect on questions which don’t at first glance appear to help us do the work of discipleship (but in reality are essential for insuring your church is a thriving discipleship community). Pastors need to be aware that the pressures they feel from congregation, peers, supervisors and themselves aren’t always actually about discipleship and even when they are the pressure is almost always about “how.” Obviously questions of method and form and strategy are very important, but will likely fall short if the leadership has not both discovered and articulated answers for the first three questions, specifically for their church community.
So, during this series I’d love for you to take just a little time to give these other questions a shot. Spend a little of your study time or prayer time asking these questions of God and in the presence of God. If you can bring a few other leaders along with you, why not? My guess is it still won’t be enough, but it will be a start, and if after these ten weeks you are persuaded of the need for more exploration of these questions, then maybe you can plan the time for your next sabbatical, or retreat. If I can help, please don’t hesitate to contact me at my phone number or email address below.
Between now and reading post #3, prayerfully consider the following questions pertaining to why. I would direct you again to Ephesians chapters 1-4, but remember not to drift first to the questions Paul answers about how, without spending time on the why. We’ll address these very questions in the next post.
- We should disciple because Jesus told us to, but why did He tell us to? Why is this important to God?
- Why not something else? Why should the church focus primarily on Discipleship even to the exclusion of other good things?
- Why is the church uniquely ordained for Discipleship? Why not other institutions or groups?
Here’s a video by Simon Sinek on the power of why. While he is speaking to businesses and I have no idea what his spiritual condition or convictions are, the point he makes here is very powerful for us as leaders. The entire video is 15 minutes. If you don’t have time for that I encourage you to watch at least the first half(about eight minutes) particularly if you remain unconvinced that “why is as important as I’ve suggested.
I founded Discipleship Matters to help churches with leadership retreats, pastoral coaching, guest speaking and conferences as another supporting voice in your work of discipleship. We can create a custom long term plan (anywhere from 6 months to 2 years) or arrange an al-a-carte conference. (If the information in this series intrigues you, I’d specifically suggest the Big Ideas conference where I help you and your leaders work through these important first questions on your way to a unique plan of “How” to build a thriving community of Discipleship. I value you and the work you do and want to help if I can in anyway. Call me at 505-393-5433(LIFE) or email me at Pastormac_@mac.com (put Discipleship Matters in the subject if you want to get my attention right away.)
Thanks! We can do this together,
Part Three is here
Smiling at the future,