What’s our problem in the church these days? There is no lack of research or books written regarding this question. However, as I have read and thought through some of the issues being raised about today’s church in the West, there is one quote that continues to come back to my mind again and again. It is by Mike Breen in his book Building A Discipleship Culture.
We don’t have a missional or leadership problem in the Western church. We have a discipleship problem.
Is Breen correct in his assessment? Is discipleship the key?
Whenever I think about discipleship, I think of Jesus leading his small group of disciples as he taught them, encouraged them, prayed with them, empowered them, and sent them out to declare that the kingdom of God had come. And he did so, as Robert Coleman aptly writes, “for the salvation of the multitudes.”
We have to ask therefore, if we as a church are making disciples? And if we say we are, then are we seeing the gospel spread? Because if we are truly making disciples, then I believe we will, over time, begin to see the multitudes reached. It is disciples who make disciples. This means that if you are a follower of Christ, then you have been commissioned to help others follow Christ. Jesus’ disciples, in following Him, became “fishers of men” (Mt. 4:19).
So since it is true that it is disciples who make disciples, this means that it is not a one person job. It is for all followers of Christ. Ed Stetzer has recently written that when it comes to making disciples, you can’t mass produce them. “God did not plan for one person to disciple an entire church,” writes Stetzer, “and He didn’t design us to grow via mass discipleship.” Discipleship involves the whole body of believers. It’s not all on the shoulders of the pastor.
Paul told Timothy that “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 Timothy 2:2). This is discipleship. It’s teaching others to teach others. We must pass what we know to others.
I don’t think I have written anything here that the majority of believers in a church do not know or have not heard before. The question is, “Are we doing this?” Are we making disciples who make disciples? And we may need to ask ourselves if discipleship really is a major problem in today’s church. You might not think that discipleship is the issue.
Regardless of what you might think today’s problem in the church might be, I pray that you (and me) not become too critical, but humbly realize that God is still in the process of building His church. And remarkably enough, He is using us to do it! The church is His Bride and though it is blemished at the moment, we know that God makes all things new.