*Part Five of the Radical Read-Along with Marla Taviano
After many weeks of frustrated tension during this online book club, chapter five of Radical finally starting to address the “okay, but now what?” questions brought about by Platt's critiques of American Christianity. This may be the first chapter in Radical that I can honestly say I really, really loved.
Platt looks at Jesus' final words to "go and make disciples" and writes that this command was truly meant for all of us to follow. Which is something that I think I've always known in the back my heart, but since I never saw a good model of that in the church, I just sorta pushed it to the side with a shrug and assumed "disciple-making" was for those in "real" leadership potions, not for little ol' me.
But even then, my experience with "discipleship" in the churches I've attended has been one of two things: There were the mega churches who were so focused on having programs and sermons that would bring in more and more people, but seemed to be filled with half-heart hearers of the Word and there was very little real growth (spiritually speaking). Then there were the small churches who focused so much on ministry within the walls of the church - ministries geared towards blessing the blessed - that they rarely stepped out to minister to people who weren't in the church. When dividing time and resources at these small churches, it seemed that serving the needs of church members always trumped the needs outside of our little community of believers.
At least from what I've experienced, we seem to have lost the "go" part of Jesus' command. We focus on bringing people to us or keeping ourselves away from the "bad" things of this world (including lost people), but very few of us actually go.
“According to Jesus, disciple making involves going… Disciple making is not a call for others to come to us to hear the gospel but a command for us to go to others to share the gospel. A command for us to be gospel-living, gospel-speaking people at every moment and in every context where we find ourselves.” (Radical, page 94)
I agree with Platt that this lack of going is largely due to a church culture that doesn't actively encourage everyone in the church to make disciples, but rather leaves it to just the "leaders of the church". If you're a talented speaker, you preach. If you're a wise teacher, you lead a Bible study. If you like kids, you run the children's program. But what about the rest of us?
“One of the unintended consequences of contemporary church strategies that revolve around performance, places, programs and professionals is that somewhere along the way people get left out of the picture.” (Radical, page 90)
Platt challenges readers that making disciples is simple and simply something we all should be doing. How? By loving on people, serving people, going to people and meeting them in their world, touching their needs and making deep, lasting relationships with them that can then grow into a discipleship where they are learning from us - their friend - how to become a disciple themselves. We don't tell them about Jesus and then leave. We don't invite them to church and then let the pastor do all the teaching, or tell them to sign up for a church class - we invite them into our lives and demonstrate for them what it looks like to follow Jesus on a day-to-day reality.
While the principle of discipleship is simple, the execution is difficult. It's difficult because this form of discipleship (which is modeled after Jesus' relationship with his twelve disciples) takes time and effort and means that we have to open up our lives to others. We don't do that a lot here in American. (Example: Have you ever noticed that no one makes eye contact with each other when passing on the street? When did that start and why are we so closed off as a society that even a simple "Good morning" to a passing stranger feels awkward?)
“Making disciples is not an easy process. It is trying. It is messy. It is slow, tedious, even painful at times. It is all these things because it is relational. Jesus has not given us an effortless step-by-step formula for impacting nations for his glory. He has given us people and he has said, “Live for them. Love them, serve them, and lead them. Lead them to follow me, and lead them to lead others to follow me. In the process you will multiply the gospel to the ends of the earth.” (Radical, page 93)
I have never seen the command to make disciples executed as Platt describes, but oh how I want to! It sound so wonderful (hard, yes - but glorious). I'll be looking for opportunities and praying for ways to make this a reality in my own church culture. It is lacking currently, but a change can start with me.
I'll leave you with my very favorite except from this chapter. This is what I would love to see my our church culture look like:
“[When] the world is our focus, and we gauge success in the church not on the hundred of thousands we can get into our buildings but on the hundreds or thousands who are leaving our buildings to take on the world with the disciples they are making.” (Radical, page 105)