Unit 1.12 Systemic Problem #1. NOT MAKING DISCIPLES

Lecture Unit 1 David Kueker AFour Systemic Problems in Disciple Making@

As we move toward the new and very different world of the cell church, it=s worth examining some negative trends in the old world that we are temporarily leaving behind.  I’d like to talk about four systemic problems that I’ve observed which I believe actively inhibit disciple making.[1] Systems exist to prevent trends of change and keep everything functioning smoothly in repeating cycles.[2] It has become normal for traditional church systems to avoid disciple making and resist any sort of organizational change that would change that reality.[3]

Systemic Problem #1. NOT MAKING DISCIPLES

Counting creates accountability. An active factory making a product generates inventory that can be counted in the warehouse. A healthy herd of sheep generates lambs that can be counted in the sheepfold. A healthy denomination making disciples generates converts that can be counted in each congregation. When the numbers are not there, the activity is not happening. The numbers indicate that what is being done in the churches does not result in sufficient numbers of countable converts to create positive growth. It is our goal that we make disciples; it is our current reality that we do not make disciples. Why?

Perhaps we do not know how to make disciples. The general response of clergy to the question of how one makes disciples is that “if people come to worship they eventually become disciples.” This view indicates disciple‑making as an event, an accidental result due to unknown causes, a mysterious act of God, rather than an intentional process. Churches are busy with many activities that may be very spiritually satisfying but do not make disciples that can be counted; these religious activities rarely interest and involve non‑Christians. Based on what churches actually do, the common belief is that proclamation makes disciples, that church buildings make disciples, that worship makes disciples, that advertising makes disciples, that an attractive church bulletin makes disciples, that a busy church program makes disciples, that church committees make disciples and that acts of mercy, justice and community service make disciples. The numbers indicate that these practices do not make disciples. Working harder at what does not work and avoiding opportunities to study what does work allows systems to remain the same.

When disciple making is made the central priority and we seriously begin to move toward that goal, something causes us to veer off in one direction or another with the result that there are no new disciples. Systems always resist any change that will actually result in something changing; if the system can get the church off track in any other direction, the threat to the status quo ends. When an institutional system enthusiastically embraces changes in disciple making, one can be certain that the proposed change has been somehow compromised so that no change will actually occur. One way for systems to ease tension and maintain homeostasis is to speak loudly in favor of change while doing nothing that would actually result in change.

[1] I discuss these four systemic problems in detail in Chapter One: Systemic Problems at www.disciplewalk.com/Resources, pp. 5-35.

[2]The ways that systems prevent change are discussed at www.disciplewalk.com/Resources in Module One of Seminar One, all of Seminar Two and pp. 1-5 of Chapter Two. Visual parables on this topic are available at www.disciplewalk.com/parable_light_bulb_2.html and www.disciplewalk.com/parable_stainless_steel_church.html.

[3]Church historian Ernst Troeltsch used the Hegelian dialectic to describe a two-hundred-year cycle

of innovative sects (antithesis) becoming change resistant, traditional churches (thesis/synthesis) that function as institutions. Elmer Towns, Is The Day of the Denomination Dead? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1973), under http://www.elmertowns.com/index.cfm?action=bksonline, 60-78.

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