Disciples or Converts

I have lots of thoughts swirling in my head about sterility, reproduction, and organic versus artificial life and growth.  Let’s see if I can pull them together into anything coherent.  I will start with a story…

When our kids were little, we raised butcher chickens so that they (the kids) would have daily chores.  In the spring, we would get a box of cute little chicks in the mail.  We kept them warm under lights and fed them high-octane feed.  In a matter of months, the chickens that survived were fully grown and plump.  Then we brought the chickens in crates to “visit” Fred.

These chickens were genetically engineered for fast growth.  I am not sure if they would be classified as hybrid or mutant.  My husband, Farmboy, says that in crops and grains, fast-growing hybrids also lack reproductive ability.

How this relates to discipleship

It is vitally important that we understand the genetic reality of spiritual life, the organic nature of spiritual growth, and the inherent reproductivity of the life of Christ, beginning with the reality that we are born of the Spirit and that all growth and reproduction is a function of the Spirit.

The gospel of the kingdom has been distorted in many ways. There is the evangelical gospel of personal salvation which reduces the gospel message to a guarantee of heaven and insurance from hell. The seeker gospel promises answers for our personal problems and felt needs. The prosperity gospel assures us that God only wants the best for us.

Church membership numbers are not necessarily an accurate reflection of growth in the kingdom. Megachurch member rosters are filled with transfer members. Counting decisions for Christ usually leads to exaggerated claims and coerced conversions. Not only that, it treats conversion as a single transaction and diminishes the ongoing nature and process of salvation, dismissing the reality that the journey to knowing God is a lifelong endeavor with many moments of decision and commitment.

So yeah, the missional church might not have large congregations of converts. Instead we are attempting to make disciples in a manner in which conversion is viewed in the context of establishing a long-term relationship with Jesus and with other believers which may not be reflected in the roster of a particular church organization.

This from David Watson:

Making disciples is about a relationship with Christ that results in a lifestyle of obedience to the commands of Christ which requires disciples to make more disciples.  Making converts is about adhering to the doctrine of a particular faction, church, denomination, sect or religion. One can convert without becoming a disciple of Christ.

Artificial additives

I think that we often circumvent the real life of the Spirit in conversion methods, discipleship methods, and in the way that we function together as groups of believers.  What are the ways that we tamper with natural growth and unintentionally cause lack of reproduction and other genetic deformities?

Sometimes, in a rush to notch our evangelism belt or perhaps our genuine fear of car and truck accidents, we rush people to a decision statement prematurely rather than trusting the work of the Spirit that is already occurring.

Then in a rush to transform our new converts into shiny, happy christians we train them into every aspect of cultural christianity rather than trusting the process of transformation by the Spirit that begins within before it becomes evident to others. The goal is to get them looking and acting like good christians as soon as possible.

So we feed them high-octane food in order to grow quickly.

Oops! Wrong story. Back to talking about church.

We give them high-octane teaching in order to grow quickly. Many formats for discipleship revolve around teaching which is evidence that we see growth as transfer of information and knowledge.

One of the things we have to ask ourselves is if our practices are effective in making disciples. Do our programs and services produce “fully devoted followers of Christ?” At what point did we begin interpreting that phrase to mean people who are committed to the needs of the church organization? When we disciple them into serving the programs of the church we are producing members, not necessarily disciples.

Organic growth – It isn’t pretty

(Cindy’s carrot)

Organic growth can be messy. It usually isn’t straightforward and doesn’t necessarily produce uniform results.

Are we willing to patiently allow the real work of transformation by the Spirit in a person’s life instead of expecting them to conform their behavior before it is an internal reality?

Will we ever trust that the Holy Spirit could catalyze and orchestrate community and gathering?

How insistent are we that individual and corporate lives look a certain way – uniform, ideal, polished?

How enamored are we with our methods?

If we were to admit the real lack of reproduction within the church, perhaps we would discover that the reason for our sterility is that we have abandoned our true genetic nature and failed to rely on the life of the Spirit for growth and reproduction.

47 thoughts on “Disciples or Converts

  1. Wonderful post! The life of a disciple is messy indeed, but its through the mess that we learn to hear and follow the Spirit, who takes us one step at a time toward maturity in Christ. I’m glad the Spirit is more patient than most Christians and churches!


  2. I love this post. That genetically modified Christianity is sterile is a profound premise.

    “Then in a rush to transform our new converts into shiny, happy christians we train them into every aspect of cultural christianity rather than trusting the process of transformation by the Spirit that begins within before it becomes evident to others. The goal is to get them looking and acting like good christians as soon as possible.”

    “Are we willing to patiently allow the real work of transformation by the Spirit in a person’s life instead of expecting them to conform their behavior before it is an internal reality?”

    I agree 100%… I am currently helping out a ‘backslidden’ believer who still loves God but, by her admission, is angry with him. That anger manifests in a rebellious nature – intentionally doing things that she would not normally do when she was a practicing Christian. Once, in conversation, she asked me what I would do if she was staying at my house and went partying. I told her, “Nothing.”

    She expected me to get in a huff about it. But I know she’s not in a place where every action is governed by Godly thought and so I stand with her while I pray. My prayer is that the Spirit convicts of whatever wrongdoing…. I pray that she comes into FULL faith, but I’m not wanting to cram her into organized religion so easily.

    She grew up with people coming down hard on people ‘of the world’… just yesterday she told me that I shouldn’t be listening to R&B (what?) I told her I have a life outside of the ‘church’….

    What was it Paul said? “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…” (Gal. 4:19) Organic growth IS messy… but I’d rather stand with my young friend while God reaches her heart rather than again have her rebel against the ‘high octane’ religion she is already running from.

  3. just wanted to encourage you here – a great and simple post to a very complex and deep thread running throughout life and the church. appreciated reading your thoughts, insights, struggles, and questions.


  4. Joseph Myers’ book, ‘Organic Community’ covers a lot of detail of what you have outlined here. From the book and other excellent thoughts such as your post, I concluded that modernism ( I see it as a strange paradoxical mixture of idealism and pragmatism), constructed a ‘master plan’ mentality that was culturally adopted by the church. It seemed to work fine as long as the culture and the church were in tune with each other. As our culture evolves out of modernism, the church becomes less and less effective, and the subtle ideosyncracies of modernistic Christianity begin to emerge as glaring contradictions of Kingdom living – i.e. organic community.

    There are many authors and sub-movements struggling to bring in a new paradigm of what the next Christian/church epoc might look like – but the rather peculiar thing is there are no strong leaders out there forming a major following. This tells me that there is a move of the Holy Spirit out there orchestrating a genuine organic movement back to Kingdom community. I believe your very well thought out and articulated post is a resonating expression of the heart of His Spirit.

  5. Grace, you said something that struck me and reminded me of the interesting juxtaposition of entering pastoral ministry at the same time my third child was born: the “seed” that is planted by the Holy Spirit grows unseen for a time, just as a baby grows unseen for a time. And when that baby is ready to begin life on the outside, the pain and hard work of labor begins in order to push that baby out of its comfortable (but ever more crowded) environment–where everything is provided and protected–into the bright, cold, harsh world.

    Many times I felt that I was just one lowly midwife having to help birth a multitude of babies…and then also the nursery worker trying to feed and bathe and nurture those babies.

    I was very much relating to all these things in the spiritual realm that I was experiencing in the physical realm for the 3rd time. And I began to wonder why there were not more “midwives” helping birth that new life which was growing so much as to become obvious … and I began to realize that this was a result of poor “conversion theology” where you just say a prayer and you’re good with God … and then pretty much left to fend on your own.

    I frequently mourned the infant mortality rates among new believers….

    Thanks for bringing all those thoughts back up to the surface, sister!

  6. When I share the Gospel, I never speak of Church. Indeed, I suggest to a person to stay well away from a Church for 8 weeks or more. Then I see this every single time – they go to Church after reading the Word and being discipled, and they come to the immediate conclusion that what they saw at the Church bared little to no resemblance to what Jesus was on about. With no leading whatsoever. When a person is shown TRUTH, the COUNTERFEIT become all too obvious. I believe if we all did this, we would see the emergence of a beautiful spotless bride. And wouldn’t THAT be something!

    Stop BUILDING religious organizations and groups, start GROWING the Body.

    Beautiful post…


  7. Organic growth has turned out to be more complicated than we expected it to be, for the exact reason of the “high-octane foods” that are snuck in to almost every situation involving Christ-followers who are stepping out of the convert-factory. It’s a lot of work to flush them out, and rid ourselves of all the various methods and mindsets that promise faster, stronger results, but in the end are damaging and hinder true growth…

  8. Here’s my favorite part:

    “Many formats for discipleship revolve around teaching which is evidence that we see growth as transfer of information and knowledge.”

    How often have I thought to myself, “Man, if they only knew!”.

  9. Oh!!!! man, I’ve got a heap of them fill in the missing word Discipleship Workbooks … we were up to the 5th in the series, the one now on tithing, we had 4 booklets to go and he would of been a Disciple – now I am going to have to tell him this ain’t so!!!

  10. Great post, Grace! The chicken illustration is a powerful one. I’ve been trying to get my head around this same question of late, and some of what I think the problem is as well is that we most often frame the question around individuals (their discipleship, their transformation, whatever), and I wonder about instead looking at the life of particular faith communities, and looking there for the evidence of transformation and discipleship in how “life together” is actually happening.

  11. I’ve been wrestling with this for a long time. And what I found was the the insta-growth process validates the leader but leaves the disciple powerless…and in tethered to the original teacher.

    I also think the Scripture as platitudes or principles doesn’t work. In approaching it from story we found that we could become part of it. It moved from information to something we participate in.

    I also love the original call to discipleship, which essentially removed the dependency issue. Jesus said, Go… and for any leader that meant releasing them.

  12. ha! You’re so right- organic is messy and there’s so much biblical evidence to support it, it’s almost absurd to point that out.

    you remind me it’s time for our december harvest!

  13. lionel, daniel, and bro.lawrence,
    I spent some time this morning catching up on your recent conversation. It is interesting to put this post in the context of that conversation.

    lionel, I agree with you that our theology (what we believe about God) is also a vital ingredient in our growth to maturity.

    To be fair, I have seen, and you probably have also, equally damaging doctrine and practice from both the over- and under- theologically educated realms.

    At this point in my journey, my emphasis is to see the simple truths of the gospel magnified and multiplied.

    Yes, it is a relational process, both with the Spirit and with those He puts around us, very much a practical apprenticeship, not necessarily conducive to mass production.

    I loved the example that you shared. If the premise is that your young friend is journeying toward God, then as you said, you can now pray for the Spirit’s continuing work in her heart.

    I’d rather stand with my young friend while God reaches her heart rather than again have her rebel against the ‘high octane’ religion she is already running from.

    Awesome statement!

    Thank you John and Aussiejohn.

    Thanks for the encouragement Justin. Congratulations on your baby, he is beauitful.

    Very interesting. I agree that typical discipleship models are an aspect of modern Christian culture. I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about postmodernism as a culture. The church will have to quit viewing it as a threat and dismissing it as relativism in order to communicate the gospel to that culture. I wonder when we will catch on that we won’t be able to export modern christian culture and transform postmodern people into 1950’s era christians. Both of Myers’ books are on my wishlist.

    Interesting analogy. I believe in general we have neglected the relational involvement and ongoing personal interaction in both conversion and discipleship. It seems to get lost somewhere in the size of organizations and emphasis on externals.

    In a way, it is like birds with imprinting. It is important that believers become imprinted on following Christ and learn to walk according to the Spirit. In that, there is an important place for them to also learn life within the community of God’s people, whatever that may look like for them.

    Sorry to mess with your curriculum. :)

    Very true, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of what discipleship by the Spirit looks like or how we allow the life of the Spirit to form and shape how we function together in community. The discipleship of the individual and life together are inseparable.

    Passivity, dependence, and formulas do hinder real growth. As you said, discovering the story of God and finding our place to participate in that story is essential.

    Thanks for the carrot picture. It was the perfect illustration.

    I remember that post. Thanks for including the link. Great examples that poke at our underlying assumptions and mentalities about “shiny, happy christians.”

    Keep praying. ;)
    Thanks for stopping by.

  14. Great stuff grace!
    We must get our muddy paws off people and let God do what He does best – woo them into awareness of His love and grow them the way He sees best for each one.We have to let God be God and ditch our manufacturing based programmes disguised as discipleship.I cannot disciple anyone in their faith walk – if I try I end up making rhem a clone of myself.Our attempts are like genetically modified food – looks healthier and apparently lasts longer but tastes like s***.I believe we must look to the mystics of late Middle Ages to understand the workings of the Divine in the human soul.I love the writings of German Radical Pietist Gerhardt Tersteegen who influenced John Wesley profoundly.There is a great wee book called’The Quiet Way’ which is a sample of his hymns and pastoral letters.It’s a gem.We post charismatics wll find a natural home in the writings of such men and women.I believe that Jesus commision to us to ‘make disciples of all nations’ is a call to teach them to observe all He taught summarised in the Great Commandment – to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbour as ourselves – no forced fear based ‘conversions’ there!


  15. Not sure the “make disciples” verse the most accurate on to refer to when attempting to do what is commonly accepted as evangelical proselytizing. Isn’t the Matthew reference the only one in the New Testament?

    The only other reference Jesus used was a negative one when addressing the Pharisee’s efforts to make their converts “twice as much the sons of hell” as they…


    I guess it is Jesus’ example we must look to when considering the manner to win converts & influence people. Manufacturing our own methodology using the Matt 28:19 verse as justification seems to be a subtle form of idolatry if not plain ol’ abuse akin to the Pharisee model. Zealousness for either a measuring stick conversion model or an easy 4 Spiritual Law approach not what Jesus intended nor did it ever enter His mind.

    Most of my personal discipleship training looking more like church membership indoctrination. There was also that oh-so-subtle expected behavior pattern I needed to conform to. Unspoken but still a yoke that I am sure was not Jesus’… :)

  16. I’ve really enjoyed the post and the conversation. I agree completely.

    I think we have made an industry out of ecclessia, out of the gifts of the Spirit, and attempted to shape and form the gospel to fit that (industrialized, market-oriented) cultural mode. We market the kingdom, try to mass-produce “fruit” and fail to see how our approach is completely informed by our time and place in history more than it is by the ways of God.

    In the process, this cultural paradigm causes us to misrepresent the love that God has for humanity. Essentially, we devalue people’s inherent worth by viewing them as production projects: “producing disciples,” or as cogs in a larger machinery whose value is derived from what they contribute to the industrial-church-complex by way of their gifts and talents).

    It takes us back to relearn how to love as He loves. How to serve as He served. Because God knows the church-as-industry didn’t teach us that.

  17. Joseph,

    I believe that we cannot discount Jesus’ imperative to ‘make disciples’ just because He only said it once (and I’m not sure that you are). I believe the major difference between the ‘great commission’ and the scathing chastisement against the proselytizing activity of Pharisees was/is; “Disciples of who?”

    A Pharisitical proselyte would be some kind of prideful, self-righteous religious zealot who believed he was better than the common rabble and was of of the elite who stood to deserve God’s favor. A disciple of Jesus would be one who followed Jesus’ teachings and ways of living in a serving community that was characterized by a level playing field. There are no elite in His Kingdom – the greatest is to be the servant of all.

    I believe God called out and empowered a people to continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Not by pressing them into a religious mold, but by enfolding them into a Kingdom Community where the Holy Spirit flows in fellowship and is not quenched by legalism, domination or coercion.

    Gods original purpose for man was found in community. I believe His restorative purpose is found there as well. I believe His church is that community called out to make disciples – by example – of Jesus.

  18. ken:

    My reference in terms of it being mentioned only once without any further sayings of Jesus that actually spelled out ‘how’ it was to be done. We only have His example of dealing with all manner of people in the gospel narratives, not a 12-step program or an easy formula.

    In this case it may not be so much the point of being a “disciple of Who”, but in the Pharisee’s case being a “disciple how”…

    The ‘Great Commission’ as we have been taught & prioritized & elevated to the nth degree in Protestant evangelical form may not have been the Prime Directive project driven model process Jesus had in mind. I would expect the Pharisee’s model to be quite the involved, serious, difficult, rigorous, studious one. Much scripture reading & memorization & rabbi commentary & interpretation & application, etc. It was not modeled on knowing the Rabbi personally, simply a regurgitation of the religious teachings & traditions handed down with any associated importance others placed on them. Lots of theory I imagine. Practice then the ‘going-thru-the-motions’ type that closely resembles your perspective that it encouraged an air of elitism vs. one of acceptance Jesus emulated.

    I do not have a high view of ‘making disciples’ as others may have. My personal experience just that: God revealed Himself to me without any religious (denominational) context or human agent. As I mentioned before, what was passed off as ‘discipleship’ later in my journey more a church/denominational indoctrination that did not really make me a better disciple. My own assessment of course. Can’t say that reading my bible early in the morning or praying the Lord’s prayer during one hour or fasting or interceding in tongues or a myriad of other practices actually catalyzed a greater connection with God/Jesus/Holy Spirit. ‘Evangelical Explosion’ anyone? Although the Christian disciplines intrinsic to being a disciple, they are not the goal, only the means to an end. No one really could claim that would pattern Jesus to me resulting in me actually knowing Him better. I most probably not making much sense here…

    Anyway, I discovered how not to do what was patterned for me. I would not school or train or even recommend what was my experience. I do know that Jesus said more about loving others than making them disciples. Just my own simple interpretation of the gospel accounts. And I am not trying really to make a major theological point here, but simply sharing out loud my own experiences & frustrations with what was passed off as disciple making. I do not discount the making disciple statement that is recorded for us in Matthew’s gospel, just how it has been applied in my own life. Thanks for the exchange.

  19. Joseph,

    That’s where I thought you were comming from. I guess I would have to make a slight adjustment in my conclusion in the previous post;

    “I believe His church SHOUL BE that community called out to make disciples – by example – of Jesus.”

    I must confess, I am not serving in a church that it doing it well … and I really haven’t found one that is doing it as well as I believe we should (I believe there are ‘para-church’ organizations doing a better job than most institutional churches – but I don’t think that is the proper model for true Kingdom community). I do however believe that there are passions emerging in the hearts of thousands of believers longing to find and belong to such a community. By and large, it is leaderless except for what I am sure is the Holy Spirit. I may be too old to see the final result of this transformational work, but I am pleased to participate with Him in any role I can as it transitions.

    Then again, I could be wrong. I haven’t quite got God all gigured out yet :)

  20. The trouble with looking for discipleship in community is that we tend to gravitate towards a model within that community,usually a gifted and seemingly charismatic leader.The mimesis or immitation can go one of 2 ways.Usually in my and others experience it goes the wrong way – we let the ‘model’ mentor get ‘inside’ our psyche’s in some way and we almost become an offshoot of their faith walk and lifestyle.Eventually as we conform to their image they sense us becoming like them and back off emotionally but subliminally.All the ‘right ‘things are still said but the life flow is gone.The disciple after initial naivety (like a love struck teenager) eventually picks up this freezing out and either feels condemned and rejected or pushes in harder to the model which heightens the whole destructive process.I believe that this is what happens in all groups.Splits and expulsions are usually the final outcome.Is there a place for mimesis within a christian community?Yes but it is a rare and usually broken model that can be trusted to let Christ’s life flow through them to draw others into that life.Paul seemed to have it but look how broken he had to be to let others immitate his faith.The Spirit is the best ‘discipler’ and he may be ale to use ‘others’ within the community but we should always be aware of acquisitive mimesis ( trying to get something the model ‘has’) and it’s disastrous end!As you can see many of my thoughts are based on Rene Girard’s writings – worth their weight in gold!!!


  21. Charlie,

    Great point. Although I believe the fly in the ointment that you point out originates in the deep roots of a Western Christendom mentality. There are numerous areas in the world where Kingdom Community (i.e. church) has been planted void of Western Christendom influence and it is not only flourishing, but organically expanding at incredible rates. The area I am most familiar with is in a repressive area where religion is openly persecuted. Flamboyancy of leadership would be a quick end to any platform movements. Their leaders are motivated from passion and carry the hallmarks of humility and servanthood. The ‘apostle’ (a friend of mine who does not like me using that term), began planting the church there over fifteen years ago. He determined to use Jesus’ and Paul’s teachings as his model, and that if anything happened, it would be organically indigenous and of the Holy Spirit. He never saw his first convert until he was three years into it. He started with three disciples of Jesus. Today there are hundreds of small generational house churches (many in previously unreached areas) flourishing as a result. The amazing thing is, my friend has never set foot in one of them. Not even the mother church. He disciples the leaders in very close relational groups, using the New Testament as their guide as opposed to church tradition and western structure. These leaders are very sensitive to the leading of the Spirit, and as a result, they get to witness many evidences of His promises. Still, the fundamental key piece of this movement is organic community.

  22. Ken
    Sounds like New Testament Church in action.I humbly suggest that the persecutory environment of the society your friend is working in is the key to the work of the Spirit.The believers are scapegoated by the society they find themselves operating in.They are in mimesis with Christ the clearest revelation of the scapegoat within human history.Your friend is a living scapegoat like Paul in the Roman world.The Spirit of Christ works with those who are scapegoated – this is the revelation of Old and New Testaments.Desire is the glue that locks a disciple into his master and often this ends up in rivalry and fall out.I believe that desire is only safe when it is focused on Christ not another human being.Having said that it sounds like your friend is modeling the humility of Christ through his sufferings etc.This positive mimesis is I believe the kind of discipleship that flowed among the believers in New Testament times who also were in fear of their lives.The status quo of Western Christianity is the opposite of what you are describing.I believe that the progressive western church should be looking to the Eastern church rather than the entertainment orientated market based church of the USA. Girard having studied ancient civilisations as an anthropologist sees the mimetic desire as humanity’s root problem. The heightened desire cult of the Western world makes it a particular problem for Western man.



  23. charlie, joseph, sarah, and ken,
    You guys always provide an interesting perspective and depth of conversation. I’m just soaking it in this time.

    This post was challenged on another blog because I didn’t flesh out the “how to”. I don’t have those answers.

    I think overall we have very rarely allowed that type of organic growth in believers. I believe that we also have rarely had the type of spirit-led communities that create a healthy, nurturing environment for that kind of growth.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom, experiences, and insight.

  24. Usher: Hey Deak, I’m not sure I take issue or not regarding the comment on “birds and imprinting”, but no bother. I just wanted to bring out the point of how foreign “organic” mindsets are in today’s human western culture. Is it any wonder that the church is so much a reflection of the supermarket?

    Deacon: Go on, I’m listening.

    Usher: There’s no place for “ugly carrots” in the produce section of today’s markets. God forbid an ugly apple, pear, banana, mango, off color head of broccoli or anything else for that matter. The first inclination to choose is that which is pretty and uniform and without blemish. Taste, longevity and danger are all secondary.

    Deacon: What brought all this on?

    Usher: Most likely TV and the press I guess. Ugly people don’t make it onto TV so the world strives to be thin and pretty and perfect, just like the stars and their air-brushed magazine covers.

    Deacon: Your point?

    Usher: Churches have followed suit. They’re full of “gifted” orators, professional musicians, accomplished businessmen on the committees and so on. Entertainment and accommodation are the criteria the humans migrate to. In the meantime, the “leaders” have to have ways to measure. They migrate to numbers. Numbers can be substantiated and boasted about. The laypeople want pretty programs, shows and great music along with gifted sermonettes. The pastors want accolades, money to add staff to share in the work and build job security as well as grow their careers.

    Deacon: So where is discipleship in all that?

    Usher: My point exactly!

    Deacon: Can discipleship function in today’s church in the midst of all the other stuff?

    Usher: Not if leaders are bent on measuring their success. This is where the problem starts. If you take away the programs (you lose the crowds). Take away the great orators (you lose the crowds). Take away the money (you lose the crowds and the buildings). Take away the professional musicians (you lose the crowds). Take away the money (you lose the career-oriented staff) and voila! Now you haven’t the distractions, nor the expectations, nor the crowds.

    Deacon: So you’re saying that crowds = success?

    Usher That’s kind of what it all boils down to. Ask the televangelists. Crowds equal numbers, numbers equals money, money equals success and thus, God must be in it.

    Deacon: So if there are no crowds, then there is no money, how does the church grow?

    Usher: Christ had only 12 disciples. He didn’t say things to the crowds to attract them or their money, in fact the largest crowds he attracted, he fed. And then he said tough things to the crowds and the crowds left and he went about his discipling. Scriptures say he wasn’t a “special” or “beautiful” person. Maybe this was because he knew if he came to earth a beautiful being, then we would all feel insecure because we are all imperfect when we compare ourselves to “beautiful” people. (Even beautiful people have proven this is true.) He discipled imperfect people and the church survived all these years without “perfect” people.

    Deacon: So this is why the church seems to be portraying itself to be the “perfect” or “blessed” one?

    Usher: A discipler works with the ground that he’s on, with the people God gives him. He sees everyone a precious gift from God. He is challenged to bring out God in these people no matter their lot in life. Every member has a place in God’s kingdom, but not in man’s. Today’s church seems to “market to the people who want to be like us” creating sects and divisions and exclusivity. Thus the 35,000 denominations. In an environment like this, everyone strives to become like the leader, the perfect carrot if you will. Except they don’t know he is just like them if you take away the steroids, the pesticides, the pretty packaging and the artificial coloring. In essence, the church normalizes and cripples the body and discipleship empowers the body. If pastors didn’t care about credit and measurement and they truly wanted the kingdom to prevail, they’d do all within their ability to empower the kingdom. This would eliminate the focus of one pastor to many and bring on the every man a minister. The church would then become the all-powerful organic vehicle it was in the first century. A true discipler as mentioned in comments above operates under the radar. They seek no glory. They thrive on seeing the kingdom multiply itself. They rarely take titles, they urge their disciples to follow in their footsteps and become disciplers. They are often unrecognizable in a crowd.

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  26. Grace,
    I loved the post.. love all the posts… but I guess since I just haven’t seen this all “flesh out”…. I truly am at a loss at what this looks like. Who out there is being THE church. who is creating environments for the Holy Spirit to do His thing? Who is being The Church?

    I mean I know how MY transformation came from the Spirit… but how do I help others along that path? How do I create environments to spur them into that relationship as well?

    I know that it’s all about loving God & loving others….

    but the human in me needs some sort of visual of that. Not even a step by step — but just some example of it…. this life transformation of the Spirit… is it describe-able?

    though it’s unique to all, is there some specific ways it looks like?

    looking at scripture.. I see Jesus making disciples by 1. teaching the Word – so acquiring knowledge is one part of it… by 2. putting people into experiences/opportunities to serve others in a way that they are ill equipped for (increasing dependency on Him)… 3. He did it through turning point situations good or bad… and 4. through my own expereince I know that the transformation happens with effort on our own part – spiritual disciplines like studying His word & intentionally being aware of His presence/spending time with Him.

    Sooo how to create environments that include those things? How to lead others but never resort to old unflexible ministries/programs. How to keep things organic/flexible but also have some sort of way to guide people through…

    I’m just rambling…. sorry :)

    thanks for sharing your heart. I truly am new to all of this — but I really get what you’re saying. I am the connections leader at our local church… and as we form our ministry vision/model.. i pray so much to just create environments for the Spirit to grow people. to create environments for people to be surrounded by love….that I will never get caught up in structure.. to always be flexible & organic and give lots of freedom…. I certainly am not equipped to do all that – so I’m leaning on God to help flesh all this out….

  27. randi,
    Great comments, definitely not rambling.

    You are asking great questions, and I agree with all of the points that you suggested. Rather than there being a right or wrong model, I think it is more likely a matter of having a right perspective – that transformation and growth can only truly be a work of the Spirit. However we have the opportunity in our relationships to facilitate and edify the Spirit’s work.

    The language of creating environments is spot on and combined with an attitude of flexibility will allow you to adapt to the unique directions the Spirit takes in the lives of the people around you.

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