Home > Church, Discipleship > Church Building or Disciple Making

Church Building or Disciple Making

In Matthew 16:18 the disciple Peter confesses Jesus to be the Christ.  With this one phrase he proclaims that Jesus was God’s anointed messenger who had come to usher in the kingdom of heaven and to save God’s people from their sins. The Lord responds by declaring he will build his church on the truth of Peter’s confession.

Later, in Matthew 28:19 Jesus appears to his disciples to give them what is now known as the Great Commission. At this point he has been crucified for the sins of the world, buried and resurrected.  His earthly ministry is complete, but he reminds his followers that theirs has just begin.  Then, just before ascending into the heavens, the Lord commands his band of misfit believers to “go and make disciples.”

Image via chrisarmfield.com

Image via chrisarmfield.com

Do Your Job, Not His

Pair these two verses together and you have a powerful one, two combo.  Jesus will build his church, so we must make disciples. The order is crucial. He builds, we disciple.  Sadly, in an age consumed by prominence, fame, an over-emphasize on size and a grow-at-all costs approach to ministry, many Christian leaders are tempted to try and do the Lord’s job for him.

Leaders, myself included, want so badly to see God glorify his name by bringing dozens, hundreds and thousands of people to saving faith in Jesus Christ through our ministries. We know the joy of salvation and we are desperate to share this gift with anyone who will receive it.  This is a good thing, but we must always remember that it is not our job to build the church.  That responsibility belongs to Jesus and to Jesus alone.

The temptation to abandon discipleship in order to pursue the latest church growth strategies is high.  The allure of big events, fancy marketing and high class productions is strong. These aren’t bad things, but they must never replace discipleship. Pastors and ministry leaders must also remember that healthy things grow, but growing things are not always healthy. Cancer grows fast, but it will kill you.  On the other hand, it takes a child upwards of 16 years to reach adulthood.

Be Faithful

Many of todays ministry leaders, myself included, would do well to repent of our hyper-addiction to church growth and return with an unbending focus to the disciple-making mandate the Lord has given us as his followers. Discipleship isn’t sexy, it won’t make you famous and it might take more than a decade to see Jesus build his church larger than a handful, but it’s the only way to ensure that healthy, obedient Christ followers are being raised up.

It’s the Lord’s job to build his church and ours to make disciples.  Let’s let him do his job so we can get back to ours. Let’s refocus our attention on intentional relationships that help people meet Jesus and grow to maturity as his disciples. The Lord will be faithful to do the building.  We must be faithful to do the discipling.

  1. October 27, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    First of all, you write some remarkable articles. I’m very impressed by your depth of thought.

    Whether I agree with this article depends on whether you are speaking of one-on-one discipleship only. We tend to either miss what the Scriptures say about church or have nowhere to live it out, but the ultimate discipleship is described in Eph. 4:11-16, where every part does its share, and we grow together into the fullness of the King. Without that discipleship, the one-on-one is very hampered.

    • October 28, 2014 at 9:24 AM

      Thank you. I think discipleship can and must happen in several contexts. One-to-one, small group, casual, formal, etc. are all needed to make a well-rounded disciple. I don’t think it’s either one form or the other, but all forms working together.

  2. October 27, 2014 at 4:43 PM

    Trevor, you have nailed what I call one of my ‘soap box’ issues of the modern church today.

    We are called to love and disciple people. It’s God’s job to build his church. I see many pastors, laypeople, congregations burning out in the process of getting on with the program – where everything revolves around the church building. I see discipleship as releasing all to minister in their own area of influence – which 90% of the time is outside the church building.

    • October 28, 2014 at 9:22 AM

      I couldn’t agree with you more. The focus of the church should be to equip and empower everyday people to make disciples in the context of every day life. If everyone is doing their part to help others know and follow Jesus the impact will be tremendously greater than a set of meetings or programs.

  3. October 27, 2014 at 5:54 PM

    Great article. I remember when I was saved. I didn’t even own a Bible at the time. Needless to say my knowledge was very, very limited. Repentance and forgiveness was it, and even that was pretty basic. I’ll never forget when I discovered our Association’s Doctrinal Statement in a Sunday school book. Nobody had even told me there was such a thing. So, discipleship is a huge weakness in the church today. That includes formal class training as well as one on one mentoring. We just don’t do a very good job of it.

    • October 28, 2014 at 9:20 AM

      I agree, but we can get better. All it takes is one Christ-follower who is willing to befriend another to help them learn the ropes!

      • October 28, 2014 at 6:50 PM

        I was blessed on that count. There was a fellow who has been mentoring me for almost 7 years now. It’s been a blessing for him as well I hope.

  4. November 3, 2014 at 8:20 AM

    Nicely done. We received two commissions from Jesus before He departed: “go and preach the gospel to every creature,” and “go and make disciples.” Regarding the first, we are not responsible for numbers or results and, as a matter of fact, we should expect that most people will reject the message (Matthew 7:13). Jesus gave us a “recipe” – a method – for making disciples: 1) baptize them, and 2) teach them to observe what He has commanded. It’s not really that complicated, and yet I’m amazed when I meet folks who claim to be Christians but who have not obeyed step #1. Why is that?? Have the “water salvation” people been that effective in stigmatizing this step of obedience?

  5. Messenger At The Crossroads
    November 13, 2014 at 11:33 AM

    Excellent thoughts – reminds me of a talk recorded by the late David Wilkerson on the trendy “seeker friendly” churches. The new American religious corporatism – keep the customer happy; never mind what the Lord wants. How great has been the straying away from making disciples! I appreciate you stopping by my blog. Blessings in the Lord Christ!

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