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Build the Church? Whose job is that, anyway?

In these few weeks where our crowds cannot gather and our technologies to maintain them are being tested, we have an opportunity to reflect on the work we are doing. As a pastor, such seasons of evaluation almost always led me to the question, Jesus, are we close?

Are we truly doing your thing or have we slid more into our thing–what we know, what we want, what makes sense to us? It was never a quest driven by criticism, only by a desperate hunger to really be that Church that hell’s gates couldn’t prevent. And it’s with that same motive that I invite you to rub the glass clean for a few minutes so you can see clearly out your window.

Mike Breen wrote an article some time ago with a shocking title, Why the Missional Church WIll Fail. In it he says, “It’s time to start being brutally honest about the missional movement that has emerged in the last 10-15 years. Chances are better than not that it’s going to fail.

“That may seem cynical, but I’m being realistic. There is a reason so many movements in the Western Church have failed in the past century: They are a car without an engine. A missional church is the new car that everyone is talking about right now, but no matter how beautiful or shiny the vehicle, without an engine, it won’t go anywhere.

“So what is the engine of the Church? Discipleship. I’ve said it many times: If you make disciples, you will always get the Church. But if you try to build the Church, you will rarely get disciples. If you disciple people well, you will always get the missional thing. Always.”

Unfortunately, our efforts to build the church, to follow proven growth methods or adopt systems that work in attracting people and establishing congregations, may reveal motives better left hidden. Are we building for us and our reputation or are we truly hungering after His kingdom? It’s hard to ignore Jesus’ resistance to the large crowd. He never seemed to trust their response. Instead, he challenged the masses with difficult teaching, seeming to target the measure of their true hunger for God. Clearly He spent more time chasing after the deeper life change to be achieved in the few.

Never forget that the kingdom of God is not about numbers–it’s about stories!

God writes stories of life-change in the lives of individuals. He celebrates new life for a woman at the well or a demoniac in the tombs. He gives purity to the harlot and washes spots from the leper. Does it make sense that the One who gave us the marching orders, “Go make disciples” would be pleased with us just building crowds? Truth is, we’re the ones who are pleased with that.

Discipleship is the hardest work of the Church, but frankly it’s the only work God assigned to His Church.

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