Scott Haulter, Lead Pastor
6/7/17 8:09 PM
I didn’t grow up attending church. When I was young, my grandparents would occasionally bribe us to go to church by taking us out to lunch afterwards. My family was pretty poor, so, that was a big deal! One of my first memories of church was getting into a fight with a mouthy kid in Sunday School because I didn’t have the Scripture memorized from last week. (Newsflash, Mouthy: I wasn’t here last week. Or the week before that.) The subtle message I received was that being a good Christian was all about knowledge. Church was the transfer of information.
To the contrary, simply spreading information did not seem to be Jesus’ end goal. I would argue that even “converting” people wasn’t. In John 17:4, we see Jesus say that he had brought God glory by finishing the work that the Father had given him to do…past tense. But Jesus had not yet died on the cross for our sins; he had not risen from the dead. So what was Jesus finished with? In the next few verses, he goes on to explain. He had finished discipling the men that God had given him and now those same men had been trained to do the same with someone else.
Jesus’ plan for spreading the Gospel was not merely the transfer of information. If it was, it would have made far more sense to use the Pharisees, Sadducees, or other respected rabbis. Instead, Jesus chose fishermen, tax collectors, and zealots. Now, sure, sometimes he did preach the Word to the masses. But the work that was finished—the goal—was preparing these common men to change the world. He also didn’t simply preach a sermon and move on; he spent three years living life alongside them.
Spreading the Gospel was not about relaying information, nor was it just about converting people. The Great Commission was not to “go and make Christians, converts, followers, etc….of all nations.” He said to go make disciples. Spreading the Gospel was about building meaningful relationships with a few individuals, encouraging life-change, and intentionally teaching them to do it with someone else. It was about discipleship.
So often in today’s churches, the value of discipleship has taken a backseat to programming, projects, and daily church business. We’ve traded deep, meaningful relationships for surface-level “church friends” because those are less time-consuming and certainly less messy.
When I was a teenager, I finally went to church for a better reason than free lunch. (Ok, it was initially for a girl…but soon it was for a better reason!) I met a man, my youth minister, who genuinely cared about me. He didn’t keep me at arms length or care about me only so that he could convert me and boost his youth group membership. He genuinely loved me and put in a lot of hours, just living life alongside me. And while he never pulled out commentaries to teach deep theology, I learned a lot about who Jesus was and how he cared about people from that relationship. I might venture to say I’d never be in ministry without that relationship. I wouldn’t be a disciple who now makes other disciples.
So, that is my challenge to you. In the midst of daily church-life, ask yourself, “Who am I discipling?” “Who am I pouring into so intentionally that, in a few months/years, they will be prepared to disciple someone else?” The time is short. And if the recent decline in the American church has taught us anything, it should be that we need to get back to the basics of what Jesus modeled: Time and intentionality. Deep, meaningful relationships. Discipleship.