The Mission is Clear

By Andrew McCafferty | 17 Jul 2015 | Articles

fishing net

Jesus left us in no doubt as to what our mission as his followers is – “To go and make disciples” (Matt 28:19).  If you’ve been around the church for any length of time then you’ll have heard preachers and teachers exhort you to do just this, probably on multiple occasions.  So how are we going with it?  A few years ago I was working with an organisation that dared to ask this very question.  They were connected with a large and very “successful” church.  An onlooker would have thought, “if anybody is doing a good job of this then they are!”

The reality though was somewhat different.  Having extensively surveyed their congregation, they discovered that many of their people felt “stuck”.  Sure they were participating in church activities and enjoying the experience of church, but many reflected that they weren’t progressing in their own spiritual growth.  This started a process and you can read more about it here

I’ve never really liked the concept of “making” disciples.  The word “making” brings to mind a manufacturing process; “if we put in these raw materials and manipulate them in the right way then we will come up with the disciple product.”  That may sound a bit crass, but in my observation it that seems to be the approach that most churches take.  Our own experience though tells us that it is not as simple as A+B+C=D.

Have we been using flawed strategies?  Gordon MacDonald, who has spent his adult life in ministry, and is in the later years of life reflects in his book, Going Deep:

Jesus spent the majority of his time training a small group of men whose message to the world would go viral.  If Jesus had followed the ministry strategy that prevails today, he would have spent all his time preaching.  But apart from a few public appearances here and there, Jesus chose to train people.  Great training has exponential results.”

I agree with Gordon.  I don’t want to burst Preacher’s bubbles here, and I appreciate a good sermon and value the importance of proclaiming the Word.  But there are very few mature followers of Jesus that I know who would place listening to sermons at the top of their list of spiritual growth strategies.  It’s an old and well worn saying and for very good reason, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  Perhaps we need to take a longer look at Jesus discipleship strategy.

Our desire at The Training Collaborative is to help people learn how to fish, and to equip people to be able to teach others how to fish.  We’ve been reviewing our course offerings with this in mind, and will be making some major revisions to our offerings over the coming 6 months.  So watch this space.