Do Church Planting Movements Hinder Disciple Making Movements? by Miguel Labrador
Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19,20
I think, for the most part, that those who have a desire to plant churches and those that have a desire to make disciples, have equal convictions to see the message of the Kingdom spread, to see the nations (ethnic groups) transformed, and see many come to know Christ. But, what if one of them were to inadvertently get in the way of the other or even hinder the other?
The Apostles or first disciples of Jesus did not start with what is typically known today as a “church plant.” They started by becoming mobile, moving, and mission. They planted themselves and the Gospel into communities until the Lord directed otherwise and made disciples from which gatherings were formed. The task remained the same throughout the New Testament era, namely to “make disciples.” In fact, I fail to see anywhere in the New Testament where they had a desire to multiply churches in the sense of location based purveyors of religious goods and services.
If one of these two camps had a propensity to get in the other’s way, I believe it would have to be the church planters. I am not a church planter, at least not in the way many church planters describe their task. I like to think of myself as a disciple maker that leaves the method of gathering or fellowship up to the disciples being made. If that equates to a building, weekly meeting, and bit more structure, then great! If it means a simpler or more organic approach to fellowship, then again, great. But when the gathering of disciples takes priority over the making of disciples, then something has gone very wrong.
What I have seen time and again, is that church planters, or at least the idea of church planting, has gotten in the way of disciple makers. They misdirect resources, time, talent, and energy away from the main mission of disciple making and funnel it into things which are secondary or completely unrelated to that task. They say that they investment into the facility and structure may draw away from the primary mission for a short time, but afterwards the impact will be greater. I can’t recall ever having seen that actually happen. In fact, one of the most successful church plants in history, Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek, confessed that all of their organization, power, influence, programs, teaching and structure, failed to produce disciples.
As a disciple maker, I’d like to proclaim the kingdom of God and teach others about the Lord Jesus Christ–with all boldness and without hindrance! (Acts 28:31) I want to do that and teach others to do the same. If you’re a church planter, who’s hindering disciple making, isn’t it time to say “pardon me,” make some room, and let the disciple makers pass?
Eugene H. Peterson (Author of The Message Bible) once said,
“There are monuments & footprints. A monument only says, `At least I got this far,’ while a footprint says, `This is where I was when I moved again.’”My friend Mike Breen, (Author of “Building a Discipling Culture,” said;
“I’ve said it many times: If you make disciples, you will always get the church. But if you try to build the church, you will rarely get disciples.”
I think Church Planting Movements hinder Disciple Making Movements.
Am I wrong?