It is amazing how God can use the most mundane of activities to bring something to your attention. Very recently I was collecting the waste material from some of our horses, and I got talking to a dog walker as they passed. They are local to our village. Our brief conversation turned quickly to the topic of prayer, and the church and this dog walker (who I previously knew only on a nodding basis) recommended a book to me called ‘Spent matches’ by Roy Moran. I was intrigued by the title, and their brief synopsis of the book, which in short was all about disciple-making, something that God has been placing on my radar.
The author has hope for 'the church’, as indeed I have, but critiques its current state in terms of the complexity that we have placed on what essentially is a straightforward task Jesus left us with - to make disciples. Jesus didn’t say, ‘Go plant churches’. In fact, I seem to recall that when it came to the topic of churches, Jesus suggests that he would be the builder, not us. You and I, as followers of Jesus, are called to 'go and make disciples', or perhaps a better understanding is to ‘go and make disciple-making disciples.’
I need to be clear; I trained as a church planter, and I do believe in church planting. Our country needs vibrant communities of Jesus followers and, in some places, these do not exist, so we need to either regenerate what is there or begin something new, perhaps alongside the existing. My question is about how we go about assessing the effectiveness of these communities. For too long we have used the metrics of who is attending, who is part of a group, who is in and who is out, rather than asking the question, who is journeying towards and becoming more like Jesus, i.e. discipleship.
We can be good at talking about disciple-making, and we even plan for it, but as Roy Moran helpfully challenges through his book, the energies we often invest in disciple-making follows a knowledge-based approach; whereby Sunday by Sunday, or house group by house group, we download knowledge into those attending, and perhaps do little to ask about what is now changing in us, what new posture we might take because of what we have heard. It seems to me that we are in danger of calling ourselves Christians without applying our faith to every aspect of life.
One of the features of the rural context is that learning tends to be less book centred and more experiential; people want to see it in action before they will necessarily take it on board. I wonder if this perhaps offers us an opportunity in terms of disciple-making disciples? The emerging culture is yearning for authenticity, and I am yet to be convinced that authenticity is best demonstrated by being a passive audience member at a weekly event.
The book sights seven basic questions that could be used in groups, and I have slightly adapted these (below) and offer them to you as a basis for your home groups or community gatherings. I would be fascinated to hear how these work out for you, so do please get in contact and let me know!
What did you do with what you learned last week?
What are you thankful for? What can you celebrate?
What is causing you stress at this time? What is keeping you awake at night?
Do you have a need, or does someone you know have a need, that this group could meet?
What does God have to say today? (This will be in response to a passage of scripture)
If this is God speaking, what are you going to do about it? What are we going to do about it?
Who could you share with this week what God is doing in your life?
This is not the final word in disciple-making, nor will this automatically create loads of disciples where you are; you may already be using a similar approach which is far more effective than these questions. Nevertheless, for many, this could well be a first much needed step to making disciple-making disciples.