Christ Made Disciples, Not Knowledge Receptors

I recently heard an Australian preacher who said he had one of those moments every Christian man dreads – God speaking to him through his wife. His wife had pointed out to him that although he had researched and written extensively about a particular form of church, he had never actually been part of that form of church. As he had knowledge only and not the practical experience, maybe he was not such an expert after all! As a result he immediately began to get involved with that style of church. The point is this, becoming good at something requires more than just head knowledge or being taught about it – we actually have to do stuff as well.

It was originally from Mark’s Gospel that I first noticed a pattern to our Lord Jesus’ disciple making. After calling the 12 disciples (Mark 3:13 – 19), the stages to making disciples seem to include:

  1. Teaching (e.g. Mk 4:1 – 34)
  2. Demonstration (e.g. Mark 5:1 – 20 for casting out demons, Mark 5:21 – 43 for healing)
  3. Delegation (e.g Mark 6:7 – 13 and Luke 9:1 – 6 for the 12, Luke 10:1 – 12 for the 72)
  4. Review (e.g. Luke 10:17 – 20 for the activities of the 72)

Most churches are worried about business practice entering in church life. I took the above Biblical principles and started using them in my work life. As a senior engineer I have been expected to train junior engineers on the job, ensuring that project requirements were met along the way. So I started doing something revolutionary. When a novice to the technical area was assigned to work with me, firstly I taught the key principles involved. I then did a sample problem and talked them through it, afterwards giving them a problem to tackle on their own. After they completed that problem we reviewed their efforts. I had no complaints about the training methods!

So why write about this in the context of church? So often I suspect in church we confuse training someone for a role with teaching them about a role. Why do we expect someone to lead a prayer meeting if they have never been talked through the principles or been given opportunity in the past to lead one?

Beginners will not be as proficient as experienced practitioners at leading a Bible study, preaching, teaching a Sunday school class etc, however we all need to start somewhere. With the right encouragement and training, in time the beginner will become an experienced practitioner. This is good for the church as now our efforts can be multiplied, and good for the individual as they are developed in the gifting God has given them.

However this does need people to be given the opportunity to perform a role, and not to just listen to teaching. How many of those in currently in various roles are willing to let go enough of that role to let someone else develop the skill? There is little glory here for the experienced practitioner, someone else is now in the limelight. Ultimately I suspect this is what true, humble, servant leadership is all about. We exercise our roles in the church for the benefit of others, not only those who directly benefit from out gifting, but also as we mentor “beginners” to help others in their turn.

What is your definition success? Is it that you have successfully fulfilled a role for 20 years? Another definition is it that you have trained three individuals that can successfully fulfil the role, one to replace you and two others who want to take that role to other churches / their own villages!

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