One thing the modern church in the west seems to struggle with is “The Great Commission”, which appears in the bible at the end of Matthew 28. Well, not so much the idea of it, but the doing of it. Many Christians don’t realise that they need to do it. Others know that they should be trying to reach out, make disciples, they don’t simply know how. They are at loss for how to start the ball rolling, or too nervous to start. For those who do get the ball rolling, there will be some who do a fantastic job and others who rely on cliché, jargon or false assumptions.
Go and make disciples
Let’s think for a moment about what discipling is, and about those who do discipling well. Here are couple of quotes about this.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Last of all, Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating. He scolded them, because they did not have faith and because they were too stubborn to believe those who had seen him alive. He said to them, “Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all people.”
Discipling, in Christian terms, is the practice of passing on the teachings of Christ to others in way that brings folks to a point where they desire and start a relationship with the supernatural Father God as represented in the bible.
Two good examples are a couple of guys I know. One comes across as gregarious and outgoing, the other is quieter and less outgoing. The outgoing guy seems able to easily connect to those around him, the quieter draws people to him. A common trait in both is that that they are who they are. Neither are trying to be someone they are not.
Here’s my two cents worth.
In trying to be relevant, the protagonist plays the game of dressing / behaving / being a certain way in order to be accepted by the “target group”. The plan being that, once accepted, (s)he will then be able to steer conversations or even the culture of the group towards his/her agenda. My simple grasp of pop-psychology tells me that since people dislike rejection makes me wonder how forceful an attempt will be made. Too forceful and the ‘plan’ will fail, the protagonist will be rejected from the group. Not forceful enough, and again the plan will fail. If some of the group members visit the church, there is the issue of will they see consistency between our evangelist and the home congregation.
Think about the two examples above. They are not breaking their necks trying to be fashionable or drink coffee in the latest coffee shops. There is nothing wrong with this per se; but Jesus never told his disciples to be cool and try to get a seat at the top table. In fact, he encouraged the exact opposite.
The opposite, in my mind, of the relevant church is the irrelevant church. Whereas the relevant church is something that the church hopes to see itself as, the irrelevant church is the way the world sometimes sees the church.
Their may be many reasons for this, both valid and invalid. Church members may be unable to articulate their faith to those they have around them, or when they do there is too much jargon or at least a lack of connection them and those they are with. There can also be an issue with having a great idea to “spread the word”. If this doesn’t “scratch the itch” of those the church is attempting to engage, then the outcome may well be a reputation of the church being irrelevant.
The third viewpoint of the church could be the “genuine” church. Not so much the behaviour or belief that “We are doing it right, no one else is.”, but the practice of the members of church being genuine as to who they are as Christians.
One of the most motivating and inspirational presentations I have seen in a long time is the “This is Discipling” video. This was created by Kelly and Niki Tshibaka for a sermon in 2011. More info from here although the domain name redirects to their “thisisdiscipling.org” Facebook profile.
By accident, over the weekend, I managed to get somewhere close to this. A friend invited me to a custom car / bike show near Helsinki. We met up with another of his friends at a bar in Kampi. During the introductions and buying of drinks it came up that I play guitar a local band, well, church band. I’m playing the next day and so needed to completely clear-headed hence taking it really easy with the beers. One now, one at the show and otherwise cokes. As happens, the conversation hits a speed-bump. I explain that’s fine – church stuff in a bar can be conversation killer, no problemo.
When we get to the show we wander around and come across the booth run by amplisonic. Awesome folks, passionately making their own guitars and amps (check the T.A.N.K. range). After I chatted with the guys for a moment about construction techniques, they asked if I would like to try some of the kit. Does a bear poop in the forest? There are some blues and chord sequences which I fiddle around which sound a little like ZZ-Topish, so off I go. My own little bubble, with my two mates behind me.
What happened? I was in a bar, with a beer explaining how I need to be 100% clear for church tomorrow and then break the stereotype 30 minutes later. I don’t write this to blow my own trumpet, but rather to give an example that we can genuinely be true to ourselves, our faith and at the same time almost accidentally break stereotypes and sow a seed of God’s kingdom at the same time.
Jesus used a lot of agricultural terms. He talked about the Kingdom of God being like a farmer sowing seed (Mark 4:26-29). He talks about followers being like trees bearing fruit or stems being grafted into a vine. These are timeless analogies that can be easily understood.
In terms of the church wrestling with the Great Commission, that section of Mark is worth looking at. The farmer sows seeds. It just what he does. He’s not trying to be anything else than a farmer. Once the seed is in the ground, it is then that the natural growth happens. I reckon I’ll let that seed of the Christian playing blues in custom car show sit for while.