The Great Commission in One New Sentence

17 11 2008

I think the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-21) lays out a very clear mission and method for discipleship but everywhere I go it seems people are ceaselessly asking the question “how do Christian grow and mature”.  Such as the latest post on David Fitch’s blog under that title.

So, since we seem to often miss the practical nature of the Great Commission, I want to boil it down:

Go to all nations = continual, world-wide expansion

Make disciples = initiate a systematic, clear, repeatable discipleship process

Baptizing them = death to self and resurrection into a devoted trinitarian community

Teaching them to obey = training

Everything I have commanded you = comprehensive

So if you want to see Christians “grow and mature” why not try this:

Create a clear, systematic, repeatable, comprehensive discipleship training process for those who have died to themselves and been resurrected with Christ baptizing them into a devoted trinitarian community and repeat until we disciple all the nations on Earth.

Since we’ve tried everything else and it hasn’t worked, lets try Jesus’ idea for a change.





Restoring the Mission as City-Wide Discipleship Podcast (Seattle, August 2008)

9 09 2008
  • What did Paul actually do when he spent a year in a new city?
  • Why is the Christian faith not having a deep impact on most Christians or the culture in general?
  • Do we have a central mission around which everything else is formed?

These are questions I’ve wrestled with for a long time and in this conversation I lay out what I believe to be the biblical mission that must be restored to the church – city-wide discipleship.

In this podcast we discuss –

  • Why restoration is needed without falling into restorationism
  • I share my journey in rediscovering the centrality of discipleship as the mission
  • We midrash 3 passages as a group (Mt. 28, Jn 17, Acts 19-20)
  • We discuss how church structures interact with the need to disciple a city
  • We talk about the need for the re-emergence of the city-church
  • We share how we use the Story-Formed Life to begin a training center

Listen to the podcast by clicking the link below (to download right click and “save target/link as”)

Restoring the Mission as City-Wide Discipleship Podcast
To see the slides click here




Exploring Explosive Growth in Church History

8 09 2008

Alan Hirsch asks an excellent question in a talk he gave at the Missio Conference at Fuller (download the conference talks HERE).

  • How many Christians were there at the end of the 1st Century? – 25,000
  • How many Christians were there at the end of the 3rd Century? – 25,000,000
  • Here’s the question – What happened?

or in China

  • How many Christians were there in 1940’s when all the church buildings were taken away, missionaries kicked out and pastors killed or jailed? – 2,000,000
  • How many Christians are there in China today? About 120,000,000
  • Again, what happened?

One thing is 100% certain – the kind of strategies that are taught at church growth conferences were not what causes exponential, viral expansion.  Do you know what happened?  Do you want to know?

I honestly think most of couldn’t care less.  If it doesn’t fit into our life, our model, our comfort zone, what we were taught in seminary, what will give us a steady pay check, we don’t really care.  Am I right?

We should ALL be totally obsessed with this question and we should ALL be willing to lay down our plans and models to move the church in our city and country into alignment with those things that allow for exponential growth.  I know a lot of people who pray for revival while defending the tools that will make revival impossible.  I know a lot of people who talk about being Kingdom centered who build structures that build their Kingdom at the expense of God’s Kingdom.

Alan throws these factors out during his talk (I’m grossly paraphrasing and simplifying) –

  • An absolute commitment to the Lordship of Christ
  • A peasant led church (not professionally led)
  • A simple, viral message centered on the person of Jesus
  • A decentralized non-institutional structure

You can ask yourself an incredibly simple question to know if you are a part of the solution or the problem.  Here it is – If 25% of the people in your city were to come to Christ in 1 year, are you today, part of building a structure that will –

  • Train them into disciples
  • Allow them to form a interdependent common life
  • Release their gifts for the city and the world

…or are you a part of building a structure that cannot handle exponential growth because it relies on –

  • Paid professionals
  • Church buildings
  • A weekly worship service as the church identity

So are you a part of the solution: building the city church, creating discipleship processes that are lay led, centering church life on the body (interdependent community) that is lay led, or a part of the problem?





Your Discipleship Tools Are Too Weak

30 08 2008

As I’ve discussed the making of disciples with church planters and church leaders and they admit disciples are not being made I find myself saying this line over and over again (Your discipleship tools are too weak).  This is the diagnoses I find most accurate for so many churches and ministries.  Their discipleship is Sunday worship, community groups and a class a year.  I find myself wanting to ask, “are you really TRYING to make disciples or are you trying to check it off the list so you can get on with what you believe is the REAL mission?” (which is usually either “being missional” or balancing the four E’s or the the 4 W’s or some other construction of 4 different missions).

So what is the test of an effective discipleship process?  How do you know when your process is intense and complete enough?  Jesus gives us that answer in the Great Commission when he describes discipleship as “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  Notice –

  1. “teaching them to obey” means teaching without obedience is not really a part of discipleship (which passes for the vast majority of what we think of as discipleship).  There’s a word in English for teaching with a direct outcome focus and that word is training.  If your discipleship isn’t training (if it’s only teaching) it’s not discipleship.
  2. “obey everything I have commanded you” which means discipleship must be comprehensive.  Most people ignore this line with a “sigh” and saying to themselves “see, its impossible”.  We have an enlightenment definition of comprehensive knowledge but I think both Jesus and the disciples thought this was entirely possible maybe in a 1-2 year process.  Paul says to the Ephesian elders after 2 years “I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know.” (Acts 20:27)  So we move on to part 27 in our 49 part series through the book of Luke not considering that we are actually responsible to train each disciple in our care to obey “everything”.  This requires an aggressive, comprehensive, systematic plan for discipleship.

So let’s try this approach.  Erase from your mind what is “practical” in your church or context and let yourself dream for just a moment.  Five brand new Christians come to you for training.  You have no tools yet (no worship service, no small groups, no classes etc.).  What would you design that would turn these 5 into fully trainied and obedient disciples?  When you’re done architecting the process ask yourself why we are not willing to sacrfice our sacred cows to weild tools strong enough for the task we are given.  Until we are we’ll never stop being baffled by why our weak tools simply don’t work.