WHAT IS THE CHURCH MISSING?

As I have been preparing and studying the materials we will use in Zambia Africa to teach pastors about discipleship, I was made keenly aware that the church in the United States is missing a critical element.  We wonder why church attendance is on the decline and why people don’t want to come to our beautiful big building that offers awesome programs and has an incredible ministry staff.  The simple fact is we believe that we build the church which is not at all in accordance with Scripture.  Jesus said “I will build my church[1].  You see the church existed long before you and I were born, before our ancestors were born thus the church could only be built by the one who owns it and that is Jesus Christ.  Scripture refers to the church as “the bride of Christ.”

So if Jesus built His church, then what is it that we are supposed to do as part of His church?  Jesus didn’t build His church ignoring His disciples but He built His church through His disciples using the commandments and teachings He gave them as well as them having a total dependence on the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit.  It is critical that a Follower of Jesus Christ understands that the guidance of the Holy Spirit does not come from head knowledge but, on the contrary, it comes from heart knowledge.  When we accept Jesus Christ as our Personal Savior, it is in the heart this relationship begins and it is in the heart that we will be directed by the Holy Spirit to accomplish what God has in store for us.  There are many brilliant theologians that have an abundance of head knowledge concerning Biblical history and Scripture but they are as lost as a ball in high weeds when it comes to the personal relationship that Jesus Christ desires to have with each of us.  Many of them use their head knowledge to draw attention to themselves and they are not at all interested in using what they know to bring another person to the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

SO HERE IS THE GREAT WAKE UP CALL FOR ALL WHO PROFESS TO BE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS CHRIST:  Jesus commanded the church to not only seek the lost and lead them to salvation, He gave us the responsibility to make those who are saved disciples.  At the end of the Gospel of Matthew Jesus tells us “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”[2]  WOW!  All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus and He has directed our steps to disciple others, teaching them everything that He has commanded us and taught us to do.  Too often we want to hold on to that portion of this passage that talks about making disciples of all nations.  Satan plants the thought in our minds that this commission that Jesus gave only applies to those who are “called” to be missionaries.  There is nothing further from the truth!  While some will go to faraway lands to share the gospel, Jesus is saying to you and me that as we go about our daily lives we are to be making disciples.  Never thought of yourself as a disciple maker?  Well get used to the idea because that is absolutely the expectation that our Lord has of each of us that claim the wonderful gift of grace and place our faith in the salvation it provides. We accomplish this by changing one heart at a time.

Jesus used parables frequently and on one occasion He used the parable of the weeds in the field.  His disciples came to Him and asked that He explain the parable of “the weeds in the field.”  “He answered, ‘The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.  The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.   ‘As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.  The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.  They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”[3]  Jesus makes it very clear that the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom of God.  The church is missing the fact that as good seed we should be bearing crops through discipling others and they then sow their seed into others and on and on it goes with Jesus building His church.

Jesus also used the parable of the “sower” and he describes it this way “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?  The farmer sows the word.  Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.  Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.  Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.  Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.””[4]  As any good farmer knows, it’s all about the seed.  And it’s not just planting the seed but tending it, caring for it, investing in it, so that it has the best chance of taking hold and growing into a healthy vibrant plant.  It requires time to pull the weeds that Satan will attempt to use to choke out the seed and it will require careful monitoring to see that it is getting the water and nutrition necessary to grow and produce a healthy crop; and from that crop will come more seeds and more opportunities for developing crops. This is a simple yet very effective description of we should view discipleship making.  We find the seed that God has for us and we begin to take the steps, much like a good farmer, to nurture and prepare that seed for growth.  Using the simple mathematics of multiplication we can see how disciple makers can have an immediate impact on the world around them.

So where is your congregation today when it comes to understanding discipleship making?  More importantly, where are you as it relates to being a disciple maker.  No excuses, no rationalization, just an honest, straightforward answer to this question.  If you find you are not where you need to be with discipleship making then it’s time for you to make a change.  Jesus will build the church; He will use you and me as resources to build His church. We will accomplish this assignment by using His commandments, teachings and modeling of disciple making.  He picked 12 men and invested Himself in developing them into disciples.  We simply need to follow the model that Jesus gave us for taking a seed and developing it into a disciple making crop.


[1] Matthew 16:18b.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.
[2] Matthew 28”18-20
[3] Matthew 13:37-43
[4] Mark 4:13b-20

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