Monday, May 21, 2012

Dependent vs. Co-Dependent Disciples

In the church we hear and talk a lot about making disciples, but the reality is that often what is happening is we are creating a group of dependent consumers. I heard an analogy to capture this idea this week when referring to a child growing up. For example my now one year old depends on me and his mom in order to get fed daily. And a large part of his nutrients comes from his mothers breast. This is perfectly normal as this is the pattern for any one year old as they cannot feed themselves, at least if food is not placed in front of them.

But my son as he gets older and matures will learn to feed himself and eventually others. Now, what would look funny and get at least mother and possibly son committed to a psyche ward  would be if my son were still breast feeding at twenty years old. 

But the truth is that many of our churches are treating discipleship exactly in this way. Instead of producing self-feeders we are creating dependent consumers. This is perhaps no clearer than with the idea of the paid professional Christians and the non-paid amateur Christians. The distinctions themselves naturally exist as one is getting paid and the other is not, but it has also created the idea of different classes of Christians, which ultimately has hurt the church and its mission.

Instead our churches need to re-think the "priesthood of all believers," and start taking it seriously. As Alan Hirsch says, "Every person that is a follow of Christ is a minister and needs to be released as such, seriously." Perhaps instead of a person being converted and sticking them in a Sunday school class or a church program or new members class we need to immediately commission them into full-time ministry.

In my now context of S. Asia we are training and equipping church planters to think in this way. We teach them that the only requirement for one to get out and share their faith is to actually have faith. And recently a guy captured the idea of the priesthood of all believers beautifully when we were studying baptism as he looked at the group and said, "Every believer a baptizer." This guy and group were starting to get it as most of the traditional churches here only allow degree holding, ordained ministers to baptize.

The truth is that if we want to see our cities changed with the gospel that we need every disciple to be a self-feeder that is also feeding others. Every disciple is created to be a minister, but that idea must be communicated from the pulpit in our churches in order to get that idea across. There will never be enough paid ministers out there to reach your city, but if every disciple is embracing their role as a minister then quickly a movement can take place in which a place is changed by the gospel being lived out in front of them.

1 comment:

  1. Many leaders feel threatened by other leaders and mostly desire others to follow. There's the tacit (mis)understanding that leaders are strong and followers are weak.

    But the Christian pattern of Christian leadership given to us by Jesus is that leaders should be the greatest servants. This turns those that are led in a church into fellow servant leaders who minster outwardly.

    What we see most often, however, are leaders who teach, at best, that people's Christianity entails being involved in the programs established by the leaders of the church. At worst, people are taught that they are supposed to come to church for their own benefit:

    "You come to church so that you can be fed. You come to church so that we can minister to you. Look at the programs we have that minister to your needs."

    That's the message most often sent to people by church leaders with a weak call to help out occasionally and very little admonition or equipping to go out and serve others by leading them in an understanding of the gospel.