Dorothy Parker articulated the sentiment of many writers when she said, “I hate writing; I love having written.” This is probably the case for practitioners of many disciplines, loving the end result if not so much the process. The problem, however, is when that perspective keeps us from ever really beginning. This, tragically, is the case for far too many. They live with the idea of having done something, but never gain enough self-discipline, know-how, creativity, or whatever, to ever get to the finished product and, thus, fuel the next.
I think this is the case for many church leaders and Christians when it comes to making other disciples. They love the idea of Jesus’ Great Commission (Mt. 28:16-20), but lack the discipline, know-how, creativity, or whatever, to actually engage in intentional disciple-making. It’s a cliché to point to consumerism as the culprit, but it seems there is something of a consumerist current underlying this lack of perpetuating disciple-makers.
Most folks who are really hungry to learn about life as a disciple just move from study to study, program to program, even mission project to mission project—all good things—without ever getting to the “go and do likewise” phase. (By which I mean go and gather a new group of people and lead them in study and mission, but also in starting their own group, etc., etc.)
One typically unspoken aspect of this consumerism is the leaders’ desire always to have these hungry people under their leadership. If we teach them to leave our teaching and to go and lead others, will we ever get another good group of eager students or team members? We want our “favorites” there for our next study or project. Who wouldn’t!
But the other, more obvious, side is that we just leave out the instruction and facilitation for the next, crucial step—gathering and leading a new team, for the sake of releasing most of them eventually to gather and lead and release, etc. We go from Point A (get disciples together) to Point B (teach/lead them) and then back to Point A, almost always with the same group. We never get to Point C (teach them to teach and lead) and Point D (release them to their own Point A and facilitate as needed).
Two things seem especially needful here: 1) Cultivate a culture, not just of discipleship, but of disciple-making. It could also be stated that we just need a more accurate definition of discipleship that includes perpetuation. And, 2) Instruction for Points C and D. This order is likely reversed, so that as disciples go through studies and projects and also instruction for gathering and leading others, as well as the blessing and support of their leadership, then the culture (#1) gets created.
In the end, whether someone actually likes the process of making another disciple, or they just like the end result (though there never really is an end) of having made another disciple-making disciple, they never have to settle for merely liking the idea of making disciples. Their life, their church, and their little corner of the world begins to become a library, with one living book after another that they are helping to write.