In sports, there are two philosophies that play out each year. You see it in all the major sports. Some teams make trades, and other moves to try to win a championship that year. While other teams take a re-building approach. They understand that they may have some rough years at first, but over time they know that they will have a team that won’t just win one championship, but a team that will win multiple championships or at least have the opportunity to do so. You will have supporters and detractors on both sides of the argument.
My concern is that church’s are adopting the “win now” philosophy. What I mean is that they are more interested in drawing a large crowd each Sunday, but they have no plan on what to do to help the people grow in their faith after they get there. Unfortunately, we also see some churches that aren’t drawing larger crowds get disillusioned, and become envious of those churches that are drawing larger crowds. Unfortunately, some take it to the extreme of wanting to get rid of staff, because they are not accomplishing what people believe they ought to be accomplishing.
When we make church crowds the goal, we set ourselves up for several problems. First, we absolutely open the door for false teachers to come in, and deceive many. Because false teachers promote beliefs that will make people feel good, they will be able to draw a crowd. Second, when we believe that a crowd is the goal, we start to judge success or failure based on what we can see, not what the Spirit is doing in the hearts and lives of the people. There is also the problem of creating many false converts. Making the purpose of church be drawing a big crowd also sets the pastor(s) up for pride. Every pastor I know, including myself, has the propensity to fall victim to pride. It is part of the human fallen condition. When you look at into the church and you see a larger crowd on a given Sunday, you are tempted to think, “yes, we must be doing something right.” Of course the opposite is true as well. If there is a smaller crowd, we are prone to think, “oh no, what did I do wrong?” The final problem that I see with making drawing a crowd the purpose of church is that we fail to adequately prepare the people God has given us charge of for living a Christian life in a post-Christian nation. Living a Christian life is difficult, because of our own sinful nature. It is made even more difficult by the constant barrage of temptations by our secular society. Jesus didn’t strive to draw large crowds. In fact, every time Jesus’ crowd starting getting large, we see Him pull out one of His tough sermons (see John 6 for an example). The result is that many would walk away. Jesus’ first mission was to come and seek and save the Lost (Luke 19:10). But He also came to make disciples, who would go and make disciples.
Disciples who make disciples is the ultimate goal of the church. It is much like the philosophy of building for later. It is a slow process, at times it seems almost imperceptible. But disciple making is as sure as Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, lives inside of those God has saved. The Spirit works in the life of a believer conforming them to the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29). The more we become like Jesus, the more we become disciple-makers. The apostle Paul put it this way, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:1-2).
To my brothers in the ministry who are striving to make disciples, take heart. God sees your heart, and the work that you are doing. Let’s not let secular philosophies dictate spiritual priorities. Rather, let us labor in love for our Master and for those He has entrusted with us. Let us invest our lives in them, so that together we will become disciples who make disciples.