Church Planter or Disciple Maker

Tags: Discipleship, SEND North, Story

Which Is It? 

Many of us involved in church planting are asking ourselves this question. For years, the push and emphasis of many Christian evangelical organizations in the bush has been focused on church planting. These organizations look for church planters—people burdened to pioneer new areas by evangelizing the lost, building buildings and starting groups of people who then meet regularly for fellowship, worship, and the preaching of God’s Word. This emphasis sounds and feels right, and even is supported by the Bible—yet something is lost when it comes to how we define success in our ministries. 

Discovering what is lost overlaps with this question: Which is easier: church planting or making disciple-makers? Many people like SEND North’s new vision statement: To see every community of the 60/70 Window filled with local disciple-makers who meet together regularly and have established regional leadership.  This appears easy to measure and obtain success. I agree…to a point. While I appreciate this vision statement and believe it is helpful and practical in many ways, I would argue that this vision forces us to rise to the next level. It is, by no means, easier than the thought of church planting. On the contrary, it’s more difficult (from a human perspective). 

 Disciple-SHIFT by Jim Putnam, Bobby Harrington, and Robert Coleman calls us to shift our thinking. One point this book makes is that when we look at the maturity in a church we generally focus on success being ‘regulars’ getting involved by serving in the church—in a sense, when missionaries work themselves out of a job. But Disciple-SHIFT brings us to the point that if we aren’t REPRODUCING then we are not a mature follower of Jesus.

This is a kick in the gut to many of us who call ourselves mature. And I’m not referring to birthing a new church, but reproduction IN the church. When we look at discipleship versus church planting in this way, making ‘reproducers’ becomes a more difficult and time-consuming task. The new vision requires effort and sacrifice—requirements that many Christians aren’t willing to do.

A longtime missionary to Albania said from his experience, “There are nine Demas’s for every one Timothy.” Demas was the man who ripped the apostle Paul’s heart out by walking away from Jesus (2 Timothy 4:10). On the other hand, Timothy was the faithful disciple of Paul who became an integral leader of the early church.

This is where I find myself as well—having worked with many men, pouring much time, life, energy and resources into them, I often find there isn’t much to show for this sacrifice. I also have the responsibility of leading a local church in the bush, and I believe it is much easier to plant a church than to make a disciple-maker. Planting a church is NOT the end goal—churches with disciples making disciples IS, whether bush or urban.

Making disciples who make disciples will inevitably, in time, birth a mature church (group of believers). And now that SEND North has clarified its vision, making it practical and measurable, it’s also raised the bar. And this requires God’s help more than ever!

The Great Commission ends with, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” (Matthew 16:18). Making disciples-makers (reproducers) is a hard, scary, heartbreaking, time-consuming, inconvenient and impossible task—but Jesus promised to be with us until the job is done.

And who will build His church? He will! 

 It is my prayer to be used in accomplishing this awesome task.

 -A SEND North Team Member

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