Another option is to harness that spiritual energy that laity have for service in the community, both locally and internationally. This is what Ginghamsburg UMC, Saddlback and Willow Creek have done, motivating their members to invest themselves in reliving suffering in the world. That is a noble cause, but it also does not fulfill the Great Commission. It may add members to the church, but it does not make disciples who make disciples who make disciples. More often, channeling energy into higher and higher levels of service seems to burn out those who serve. A very high percentage of the church dropouts identified in Barna=s research are lay leaders and pastors who find that more missional service does not meet their needs.
Church planting movement spiritual disciplines can be practiced within traditional churches and have great power to make disciples. The model that developed to be practiced without a traditional church can also be inserted into an existing church. Just as one can enjoy a bonfire outside, one can build a fire inside the home … if you build a fireplace to contain it. A network of trained disciple makers within a local church has the potential to send out disciples from the church to make disciples, nurture them in small groups within the church, involve them in missional service through the church, and support them in the making of their own disciples. And with each cycle of the discipleship system, the number of disciple makers can double. I believe that the highly effective discipleship systems of these movements can bring significant balance and wholeness to traditional churches.
I believe that “disciple making institution” is an oxymoron. The church with an institutional worldview fails to thrive because it is more focused on rebuilding the temple, an unchanging institution, than on providing the spiritual nurture necessary to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples. Cups do not make coffee; institutions do not make disciples. It is sheep that make sheep. This nurture requires personal sacrifice. The transition from missional service to spiritual nurturing involves moving from an exciting but shallow ministry with many people to calm, deeply nurturing relationships with just a few people who have names. These people who have names are called disciples.
As I drove south from Michigan and
my second Greenhouse experience, I came to in important realization. By my
nature and calling, I am a bivocational, Atent
planter; my day job is just that of a United Methodist pastor. I work within
the traditional church and earn my pay with quality work. But the purpose of my
life is to live within the community created by an effective discipleship
system. And the first place to plant such a community, I would think, is within
the shelter of the very church that I pastor.
Wouldn=t it be wonderful?
A visual parable on this concept is at http://www.disciplewalk.com/parable_coffee_cup.html.
I=m working on this theory of bringing the Greenhouse concepts of simple church into the traditional church; the first step can be seen here: www.greenhouseSTL.org.
NOTE (my response)
The quote is from Major League Disciple Making: An Overview of the Best Research on the Cell Church, an online course developed for the Institute for Discipleship at www.BeADisciple.com in 2009. Course materials, including these lectures, can be downloaded here: http://www.disciplewalk.com/IFD_MLD_Class_Links.html
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.