In my conversations with church leaders this past year regarding discipleship in large, growing congregations, one frustrated leader commented:
“Most Senior Pastors don’t care about discipleship.”
I think I understand the frustration. In the crush of all that must be monitored and maintained in a large church, the slow, steady drumbeat of discipleship can become seemingly lost in the noise. Discipleship doesn’t present itself as ‘urgent’. It doesn’t fill up the inbox, tie up the phone lines, or beat down the meeting room door demanding to be heard. Discipleship doesn’t come with strict deadlines and often doesn’t present immediate consequences, therefore it rarely makes it onto the agenda. There is so much to be dealt with now. Discipleship seems relegated to the backseat.
Besides, discipleship is messy. It isn’t linear, nor does it follow some nice, neat path. There is no clear “up and to the right” chart to capture it. And being formed spiritually isn’t something we can manufacture or mass produce. In fact, the ‘forming’ that takes place is beyond our control. We must be active in it, but much like the farmer in Mark 4, when it happens, we don’t really know how. And some would argue that, as soon as you try to nail it down and measure it, the result is something less than genuine life-change.
But these circumstances don’t take away from the fact that making “disciple-making disciples” IS the mission of the Church. No matter how big your church is, no matter how much is going on, no matter how hard it is to measure, discipleship—holistic discipleship—must remain a priority.
Do Most Senior Pastors Care about Discipleship?
I believe they do. However, effective, holistic discipleship is difficult. It takes time. It isn’t easily influenced. And the truth is, if there isn’t a champion for discipleship at ‘the table’, the whirlwind easily sweeps it away. In addition, many leaders I have spoken with are dissatisfied with their picture of what the end goal of discipleship looks like. When I ask how they define discipleship for their people, they often begin with a caveat. When asked about their discipleship process, few can articulate a holistic approach. Its challenging to keep your eye on something that always seems to be beyond your reach.
Joining Other Leaders in the Quest for Holistic Discipleship
Beginning this fall, Leadership Network will launch our first Holistic Discipleship Leadership Community December 10-11 in Dallas, TX. We are in the process of bringing together 10-12 teams of large, growing churches that place a priority on making disciples, and are committed to improving the processes and methods that can nurture life and bring help to people right where they live, work, play, and do life, all in the rhythm of their lives.
If this describes you, I would love to have a conversation and learn more about what you’re doing, learning, and your ambitions for the coming years. Simply complete this online form and we’ll be in touch.
For more information, visit the Holistic Discipleship Leadership Community Web Page.