At first glance, it looked pretty good. Then I read it again. I asked myself why the words “leaders” & “effective” were injected into the phrase? It unsettled me. Why couldn’t it be simply, “disciples can’t be fruitful at making disciples if they aren’t discipled themselves? You may say, THAT’S JUST SEMANTICS! It is! But words mean things. Church words are often wrapped in unbiblical preconceptions, dried, and made into palatable energy pellets to power our unsanctioned actions. To put it more simply, the way we define words, especially biblical words, will define how we act.
I think for the most part, that the church should stop trying to make leaders and make disciples instead. Leadership is a by-product of discipleship. It’s the spam of the ham. There can be a wide gap between what’s considered good leadership and good discipleship, leaders and disciples. Isn’t it odd that the default benchmarks for effectiveness are often on leaders or leadership ability rather than discipleship and the ability to be a disciple or follower of Jesus. Church planting often seeks to put a leadership mechanism in place so that it can make disciples.
The church chases after effectiveness which is man centered. When it comes to the making of disciples, effectiveness is not the measure of one’s disciple making obedience. It’s the production or bearing of fruit. And neither of those are man centered either. What do I mean? Let’s take a look at 3 concepts:
- Producing Fruit
- Bearing Fruit
- Being Fruitful
Producing Fruit – Most of the church’s attention, I fear, is on the first. We want to be fruit producers. This drives most of modern-day discipleship and leadership. Great lengths will be taken to tweak, genetically engineer, and make hybrids, to increase fruit production. There’s a difference between hard work, tilling the land, preparing the soil, maximizing fruit production, and claiming that we’re the ones who have actually produced the fruit.
So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 1 Corinthians 3:7-8
We are God’s fellow workers. Christ said “All authority had been given to him, therefore Go and Make Disciples.” Matthew 28:18,19,20 Jesus didn’t say that since he’s been given all authority, he’s handing it all over to us to do with as we please. We go and make disciples “in the name of” or “in the authority of” Jesus himself. The production of fruit is never a confirmation of right action on our part. It is always the sign of God working in us through Jesus. Hebrews 13:21 By the way, this alleviates none of our responsibility to obey.
Bearing Fruit – “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.” Colossians 1:6 It is the Gospel which bears fruit. Again fruit bearing is not the result of our own efforts. We can be in a state of maximum fruit bearing, but that also is rooted in the one in whom we live and move and have our being. Acts 17:28 Notice too, that bearing fruit is dependent on God’s grace and truth. Yes, we are told to be fruit bearers (not producers), but this is wholly dependent on God as well. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4
Being Fruitful – The state of being fruitful also originates in God. “”I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you.” Leviticus 26:9 Yes, Adam and Eve, Noah after the flood, Jacob after the wrestling match, and we are told to be fruitful and multiply, but it is always God who makes us fruitful, increases our numbers, and makes us a community/assembly/church. Genesis 48:4
So, It’s time to stop chasing the winds of effectiveness and leadership and start seeking the will of God in Disciple Making.
Beloved, don’t sell your Disciple Making Inheritance
for a bowl of leadership soup.