Discover It – Part 2
Imagine for a moment that we have an entire group of football players wearing a jersey and standing on the field, but who have very little knowledge of how to actually play the game. They know some of the language but have no idea how to work together as a team, execute the most basic plays, or how to win the game. Complete chaos would ensue if we just threw those players onto the field and said, “Go play football.”
Previous to their years together, His disciples had no experience in developing passionate followers of Christ. They knew how to fish. But Jesus spent over 3 years cultivating a disciple-making culture and coaching the disciples as they practiced fishing for men.
How can we make disciples the way Jesus made disciples if we do not create a culture similar to the culture Jesus created? Yet we often skip the culture and jump straight to the command: “Make disciples.” We wouldn’t expect kids to thrive at school without providing an environment conducive to learning. We wouldn’t expect adults to thrive at work if there weren’t a culture where hard work is modeled and encouraged. And yet, we often expect success in the church without working toward a disciple-making culture. A culture of disciple making must exist if we actually want to make disciples.
From a study of the life of Christ, it’s clear that Jesus called his followers to make disciples, not just converts. I believe that Jesus’ methods of disciple making are as holy as his message, so in the church both the message and methods of Christ must be preached and used as the bedrock when cultivating a disciple making culture. It follows naturally, then, that we should turn to the Bible to discover how to cultivate the most effective culture for disciple making. Let’s look at the culture created by the church in Thessalonica.
In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian Church, he praises them for the incredible model they have become in the face of persecution. In their church culture, people were living out the gospel, being disciples. Paul gives words of encouragement for how they have preached the gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit. He specifically commends them for being imitators.
“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 ESV).
Notice that they imitated Paul, his disciples, and the Lord. They created and lived out a culture that promoted the very life Jesus modeled for The Twelve. They were simply doing what Jesus had demonstrated.
With all of the technology and social media today, I watch many pastors and leaders strive to find the newest way to grow their churches, seeking innovative new curriculum, books and programs in an attempt to improve disciple making. True, innovation can be a great thing, and we ought to cultivate creativity in problem solving. Yet when the church looks to the most cutting-edge outreach program, the most technically advanced new platform, or the most socially relevant curriculum, whatever is the newest, shiniest object ends up becoming the culture. The focus often falls onto the mechanics of educating people on biblical information rather than on creating and living out a healthy culture. I would contend that if we cultivate a culture similar to the one that Jesus, Paul, and the early church developed, we will experience results more like the early church experienced.
Let’s examine their culture on a deeper level. Pay close attention to the words that Paul uses here:
“We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too” (1 Thessalonians 2:8, NLT).
The culture that was passed on from Christ to the apostles and then to the church in Thessalonica consisted of sharing the words of the Gospel and also their very lives. It was a deeply relational culture where truth was modeled, lived, and experienced, not just taught from a pulpit or classroom.
Sharing the Gospel and sharing our lives are both the message and method of Christ coming together to create a culture that will impact the world.
Are you cultivating a disciple-making culture? Have you taken the time to put players on the field who actually know how to play the game? In the way that Jesus modeled and that Paul lived out in Thessalonica, are you sharing your life with others?