By Warren Bird
Leadership Network continues to build a team of high-capacity leaders who serve churches in powerful ways. These leaders are field-tested as innovation catalysts in their ministry areas, and they bring unique backgrounds and experiences to their pursuits with church leaders around North America.
In this blog series introducing some of the leaders, author and leadership consultant Reggie McNeal shares his hope that churches can truly shift from measurements to “maturation” that moves people to true transformation into missional disciplemakers.
What background qualifications do you bring to your work with church leaders in the area of discipleship?
I was a leader in local congregations for 20 years in various roles—first as a worship leader and youth pastor in college, then various staff roles and eventually as a senior pastor and founding pastor of a church.
What was always the biggest part of that for me was my engagement with people—watching them navigate life and being part of that with them, helping people through horrendous life circumstances, and watching them choose to grow or not to grow. I’ve always been awe-struck by the mystery and the miracle of how human beings develop and how they discover the life God has for them. That’s the heart of discipleship for me.
Why are you excited about this topic of discipleship? What difference do you hope to make?
I probably wouldn’t call it discipleship; for me, it’s People Development. But for years I’ve been deeply involved with the missional church conversation. And it became apparent really quickly that it’s impossible to have a missional church minus missional people. Transformed communities will not happen without truly transformed people. And there’s not a church program that can pull that off. We can’t write a check big enough or have a delivery great enough to make that happen.
Every instrument we use to gauge how churches are doing tell us nobody is doing a great job of transforming the hearts and heads of people. And most pastors would tell you they’re afraid their church is full of more religious consumers than Jesus followers. We think with some changed thinking and dealing with our assumptions in this area, we might be able to make a dent in that.
How are you involved with your local church?
I’m part of a missional community that meets weekly. I realized years ago that I’m the worst church member in the world, because I’m always gallivanting off somewhere. So that’s the group of people we do life with, and we are in each other’s lives for accountability and fellowship, with our love for Jesus as our point of reference.
“When I listen to Reggie McNeal, it’s clear that he looks out the window and sees what most of us are too busy to see, and challenges us to new thinking.”
Todd Wilson, Co-Founder and Director of Exponential
What can leaders hope to experience through your HUB group that focuses on discipleship?
First of all, we hope this will be a rich personal growth experience that is a spiritual boost to those who participate. But we also hope this group highlights that the mission of God is not all “out there” in the world, but that it’s in the people God has put right in front of us. The mission of God is the remarkable truth that every person we encounter can become the person God envisioned and created them to be.
What’s the biggest challenge you want to help churches work through? And the biggest opportunity to help them seize?
I think the biggest challenge for churches in discipleship is moving from participatory modality and measure—how many people were there and what did they learn?—to maturation as our scorecard. In earlier cultures that supported Christian values and lifestyle, it might have worked to check off the boxes of “discipleship” and go on our merry way. But an increasingly non-Christian-oriented culture points out the need to live an intentional life not buoyed by folks who share our world view and religious convictions.
Our biggest opportunity may be challenging our assumptions about who we’re discipling. We have to assume that evangelism is part of the discipleship process and push the boundaries that Jesus discipled long before people became his followers.
To hear more of Reggie’s thoughts on innovation in Discipleship, see below for a short video conversation with him. Learn more about HUB:Discipleship.
What do you do for fun?
I don’t want to sound like a workaholic, but I have so much fun with my work of hanging out with great people that are doing great work that I don’t often feel a burning desire to do something for myself.
But travel is a lot of fun for me. Our two married daughters and their husbands still vacation with us (I pay for it—that’s one way to keep the family together!). We go to the beach, even overseas together. Family has always been my “hobby”—the people I always want to spend extra time with. We just got back from visiting our new grandson—oh, and his Mom and Dad were there, too!
Discipleship” always lands at or near the top of church leaders’ list of pressing concerns. If your church is looking to making people development a top priority to HUB:Discipleship.
Suggested for further reading: Making the Shift from Consumer Christians to Committed Disciples