I can remember having a discussion with an elder of a local church in North Carolina about how much it cost to make a disciple. No, I’m not talking about how much it costs to be a disciple, that costs everything. Matthew 16:24 I’m talking about how much the average congregation expends financially for every new “church member.” When he told me that figure, I about dropped my Frappuccino! Let’s just say it was in the thousands…
Fast forward a few years…
Now, along with my wife, we find ourselves in the Andes Mountain’s Cloud Forest Region of Ecuador working with those who are primarily harvesters themselves. Literally, the people here are land workers, laborers, and caretakers of other people’s land. These are people who barely, in most cases, have enough money to make it through the next week, let alone the next month. And yet, this is the vine that the Lord has us tending. It’s the land of 1′s in the wilderness who have strayed from the 99. Luke 15:4
How is it possible to make disciple makers of those who do not have means? It’s simple, the support comes from outside. We could debate for hours as to whether or not it affects the future sustainability of the movement here, but this is the way the Lord has chosen to work. There is no financial return on investment. There is no making church members of those with means hoping to recoup some of the cost it took to make them a disciple of Jesus. There is no passing of collection plates among them. There is no oppressive yoke of old testament law tithing practices. What there is though, is giving out of their poverty to those who have need. Acts 2:45 There is a genuine desire amongst those who have been made disciples to make more.
Getting around in this part of the world is still very challenging. Had it not been for the support of generous people and congregations outside of Ecuador, it’s probable that we would have seen less “success.” Regardless, what it costs financially to make a disciple here is but a fraction compared to more developed countries. Throwing money at the unsaved has rarely, if ever been an effective salvation tool. The gospel is the power unto salvation for those that believe. Romans 1:16
Our “results” if you will, are not based on some secret system or clever strategy. Nor is it a journey that hasn’t cost all of us greatly. The eleven, yes, eleven generations of disciples making disciples, is all based on the price that Christ paid on the cross. Romans 6:23 It’s based on the furtherance of the Gospel. It’s rooted in loving God, loving our neighbors, and the desire to make disciples. It’s rooted in one anothering. Ephesians 4:32, John 13:34, Colossians 3:13, Romans 12:10 etc. Getting that gospel to where it needs to go is always under the Lord’s direction and providence, we just try to be attentive and flexible.
Sometimes, and I do mean sometimes, I allow myself to fall under the criticism of those who say that my goal should be to create a self-sustaining disciple making culture and bug out. It’s as if we’re doing something wrong by being a continual withdrawers verses depositors. Then I remember, it was the Lord who called us here, and we will remain and continue to do what we do until He calls us to go somewhere else.
I’d like to say we’ve discovered the key to effective disciple making, but in reality, we’re just a couple of folks who have stumbled along the path trying to figure it out. Our last name, “Labrador” is the word that’s used in the Spanish Bible for Vine Worker. We too are just harvesters, laborers, and caretakers of someones else’s land and people. Matthew 9:37,38, Luke 10:2, John 4:35