A wake-up call for the North American Church?

As I’ve been ruminating over the implications of discipleship in the North American church the past several months, a few things are aligning in eerie fashion over the past week.

First, I mentioned some thoughts by Dallas Willard in an earlier post. Speaking of Dallas, I keep stumbling across another one of his quotes – ¬†and it keeps messin’ with me:

“Every church should be able to answer two questions: (1) what is our plan for making disciples? (2) does it work?”

I’m coaching a few other church planters right now who are working through these two questions in their own context, trying to flesh this out very practically in their faith communities. It is both exciting and frustrating for them to do so – and sadly they find so few models of churches that are discipling well.

Secondly, I read a series of posts by Mike Breen called “Why the Missional Movement Will Fail.” It’s caused quite a dust-up. Istrongly recommend that you read Part I and Part II. By the way, Mike recently published something that may be the most theologically, philosophically and practically robust resource I’ve ever seen regarding discipleship (currently out on e-book with the hard copy out in a few weeks). I finished reading it a few weeks ago and I highly highly recommend this to you.

Thirdly, I stumbled across a harrowing story of a courageous and “successful” young pastor in Atlanta. After causing a big splash and seeing several hundred people come on a Sunday morning, Shaun King realized he had “done it all wrong” by generating large crowds but without making disciples. He wrote, “I sold my soul for church attendance in our first week and could never quite get it back.” Later he states, “I am utterly convinced we are completely off base with what discipleship means.” That’s quite a statement.

His journey led him recently to attempt to do a lot of “undoing” of the hard work he had put in for several years, hard work that he realized was building in the wrong direction. He realized he couldn’t do it – so he resigned. My heart broke as I read his story of trying to untangle from a church built on attracting people, but which failed to make disciples.

Read this first.

Then read his own account on his blog here.

As you read this, what do you find striking from the three elements above? I’d love to hear as this is an absolutely vital discussion for followers of Jesus.

4 Replies to “A wake-up call for the North American Church?”

  1. Of course, and we might ask first what are the core behaviors/attitudes in what is called “discipleship”… because N.A. Christians are all over the map on whether it is a concept or a set of behaviors or a lifestyle or…
    a melange of all of those?

    However, regardless of our updated understanding of “discipleship” and “church”, I have a hunch that God’s intention through Jesus was never about establishing a new religion or denomination and thereby essentially creating two human categories: believers and non-believers. Now the missional movement attempts to bridge that gap/separation, and in the process loses the clarity of institutional identity that the N.A. church has achieved… and enjoyed.

    I doubt that God envisioned his walk with Abraham turning into the legalistic religious establishment that Jesus encountered years later… or how quickly the same thing happened another 1500 years later with the “Way of Jesus”.

    So, what is it about human life that departs from a simple faith-oriented way of life to institutional forms of religion? Perhaps the answer will help us learn more from the Atlanta pastor and the struggle of the missional movement…

  2. Robin: thanks. It is a vital conversation. I missed the importance of this for a long time. I refuse to miss the importance moving forward.

    Walter: always one to make others think! I’m reading a thoughtful book right now called “The End of Religion” by Bruxy Cavey about that very issue of which you write. So crucial to realize that Jesus didn’t come to invent another religion, but to invite us into the kingdom life. Quite a difference that we’re still getting confused, aren’t we?

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