How effective are our church activities when it comes to making disciples? Should we abandon them entirely or is there a way they can be adjusted to produce fruit?
As people are learning about disciple making and the different methods that are really effective in reaching people that don't know Jesus, they can start to have this natural frustration when looking at what's going on in their local church. They see there are a lot of activities that are happening, but very little disciple making fruit to show for it. With that in mind, Paul and Rebecca are super excited to talk about an important question that they get all of the time — specifically, “Do I quit my church activities to do disciple making?” It's a great question and the title of this episode of the CDM Podcast, so, without further ado, let's dive right in!
The Role of Legacy Churches
People start feeling almost as if there's a divided loyalty between the new disciple making methods they're practicing and their church, which makes them wonder, “Well do I just need to dump the whole church thing altogether? Do I need to stop doing all the activities and just devote all my energy into doing something different?”
These are understandable questions, and ones that CDM comes at from a different angle than other organizations that encourage Disciple Making Movement. Here at CDM we believe our established churches in the US, Canada and beyond, or what we like to call our “legacy churches”, have an important part to play in fulfilling the great commission and the great commandment.
To take it a step further, we believe you can’t actually have Disciple Making Movement if you position yourself against the local established churches. That said, there are definitely some little nuances and things that come into that too.
Before we go any further, for all the people wondering whether they have to quit their church in order to do disciple making, please hear this loud and clear —no you don’t.
You don't have to quit your church because disciple making activity is a church activity. It's a key part of being a follower of Christ and, in fact, if a church is not making disciples, it's not really a church. It’s hard to hear, but there are some “churches” out there that are basically just glorified social clubs and there's nothing you can do to get them to make disciples.
Now, we're not saying that there is never a reason to leave one church in search of, say, a better one, but the point is this — we do not outright abandon legacy churches in our pursuit of Disciple Making Movement.
Furthermore, CDM is not asking you to switch masters as though you must quit following your pastor and now have to come follow us as we do this particular journey. That's not it. What we're asking you to do is take ownership of your own time and ask yourself, “What am I doing that actually makes disciples?” This is all about you becoming responsible — personally responsible — for your time and actions.
If that means that some of the activities you do in your church lead directly to making disciples, or if there is something you can shift to make them more effective, then by all means do those things! However, if there are things we're doing in our churches that are proving to be ineffective for making disciples, then we should probably consider doing something else.
We’ll go over some key questions we can ask ourselves to help us evaluate whether or not a particular activity is helping us in our disciple making.
Prioritize Disciple Making
The first question we can ask is this: Does this activity directly lead to disciple making?
We’re not asking, “Do we hope it will?” Rather, does it successfully do so?
We have a lot of church activities that are mostly just traditions — good traditions even, like food drives, the annual kids Christmas performance, harvest festivals, Trunk or Treat, etc. These are good things. It’s good to provide food for the hungry, invite the community to have fun, or have non-believing family come see their grandkids sing Christmas songs — but we tend to think these activities are more effective at spreading the gospel and making disciples than they really are.
While these can be good access points for building relationships, these one-off events are typically where we and our churches stop. We don't actually have a plan on how to be able to use these events to develop long-term relationships that can hopefully lead to discipling.
Without a plan, people will spend months and years of their lives doing good things, like getting food out to people, without ever making any disciples. Meanwhile they're thinking, “I'm doing the good work I’m supposed to do!” Well, yes and no.
Our churches may have some great traditions, but are they the most effective at helping us build relationships with the lost and see them come to know Jesus? If our honest answer is either, “No,” or, “There's no way for us to know,” then maybe we should spend those hours and hours of our time doing something different.
We want to be doing things that are not just good, not just respectable, not just things that if everyone looked at them they’d say, “Oh, wow! So-and-so is a good Christian because they sing in the choir, attend small group, help out in children's church and do X, Y and Z.”