Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Forgotten Ways

bar, business, conference

                             "Go and make disciples of all nations..." (Matthew 28:19)

So much of Alan Hirsch's The Forgotten Ways (2nd ed.) is depressing, challenging, and encouraging all at the same time.  As a pastor for twenty three years, I have lived the weekly cycle of preaching and programming.  How to make next Sunday as good or better than the last?  How do we improve the church's programs to reach the city?  How do we keep people entertained so we can teach the truth?  Honestly, it gets exhausting. And the little question that gets a foothold in your mind is this: are we really making a difference?

Alan Hirsch observes:  "In the modern and the postmodern situation, the church is forced into the role of being little  more than a vendor of religious goods and services. And the end users of the church's services (namely, us) easily slip into the role of discerning, individualistic consumers, devouring the religious goods and services offered by the latest and best vendor. Worship, rather than being entertaining through aesthetically engaging the hearts and minds of the hearers, now become mere entertainment that aims at giving the participants transcendent emotional highs, much like the role of the 'feelies' in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, where people go tot he movies merely to get a buzz."

Hirsch continues: "Church-growth exponents explicitly taught us how to market and tailor the product to suit target audiences. They told us to mimic the shopping mall, apply it to the church, and create a one-stop religious shopping experience catering to our every need.  In this they were sincere and well intentioned, but they must also have been totally ignorant of the ramifications of their counsel--because in the end the medium has so easily overwhelmed the message...consumerism has actually become the driving ideology of the church's ministry...I have come to the dreaded conclusion that we simply cannot consume our way into discipleship."

Somewhere along the way in my pastoral ministry I sensed this was true.  When I took a risk and made some radical changes to my philosophy of ministry and where I would put my time, I began to see real change.  Real Christian maturity was beginning to grow!

When I ask Christian leaders how Jesus developed leaders and disciples (same thing), they mention Jesus' pattern of time spent with the disciples, the mentoring, the teaching, and the on-the-job-training.  When I ask them how Jesus would raise up leaders today, they eventually concede that despite all the technology available today, discipleship is still a life-on-life event.  Jesus would spend time with small groups of people and pour His life into them.  It's slow. It's inefficient.  And it's life-changing!

When I began to pour precious hours into walking with people slowly through excellent material (, then I began to see real discipleship take place. We were beyond consumption.  We were into mission.  And these folks were beginning to change their worlds for Christ!

As Christian leaders, are you making disciples?  Or are you reinforcing our culture's ever-increasing appetite for consumption?  Whom are you walking with?  Whom are you pouring into?

Are you ready to make the shift?