Not as Forgotten Ways

Alan Hirsch has a very interesting interview in Christianity Today talking about small groups and touching a bit on his book The Forgotten Ways.

Very much worth reading. This part stood out to me this morning:

I’d like to look specifically at the disciple-making element for a moment. You mentioned in the book that disciple making is a crucial, pivotal element in the process. What makes it so important?

It seems to me that if we fail to make disciples—that is, people who can become like Jesus Christ, which is a very simple definition of discipleship—if we can’t get that right, then in doesn’t matter what else we do because there will be a fundamental weakness in our ministry. The lack of disciples will always undermine any effort beyond that. But if we succeed in developing and creating an environment where people really can become more Christlike, it seems to me that the movement is on, and everything else will have a substantial basis along with it.

The problem is that we are being discipled every day by our culture, and it’s done very profoundly and very well—and I say this with a background in marketing and advertising. There are billions of dollars going into advertising, which is not just selling us products. There’s much more of a religious dynamic going on. So if we as a church or a small group don’t disciple in the way of Jesus, then the culture gets to have the primary say. And I have to say that, despite our best efforts, the culture is winning at this stage.

If I can be a little subversive here–one major, absolute barrier for real discipleship making has been, in my estimation, the significantly higher emphasis the church places on leadership development. Finding and developing leaders has become the primary task of training and pastors in today’s church world, whether in established or in avante-garde settings.

Leadership is about organization. It is about communicating, deploying, managing, inspiring, and otherwise getting people to where you think they need to be in order to do what you think they need to do.

However, leadership does not in any way mean discernment. Meaning that the greatest leaders can lead a whole mass of people into a morass. Discipleship, however, means becoming close to God, restoring the likeness of God in our lives so that we increasingly pursue the Holy Spirit in instinct. When we pursue leadership and leaders, however, we are looking at organization as the world understands it. That’s a big reason the culture is winning. Our best efforts have gone into playing its music and dancing its steps rather than letting go our demand for control and really learning how to trust the Spirit in our lives.

Leadership emphasis has undermined discipleship, even as leadership emphasis seems to be so, so potent in creating enthusiastic participants with passionate ideas. Leadership development mimics discipleship, as often it emphasizes those who are already the most dedicated to evangelism and ministry. It confuses passion for depth, and misses out on the deeper level pervasive impact that the less glitzy discipleship brings along.

Jesus, however, didn’t talk about organizational principles. He discussed the kingdom. He didn’t pick those with the most leadership potential. He chose those who were willing to be disciples.

The Spirit came upon them and led counterintuitive people to do all kinds of counterintuitive things.

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