By Kim Fettig
Are we striving for the wrong thing?
If you ask any believer what their goal is with a non-believing friend or relative, most would reply “I would to like to see them receive Jesus as their Savior and be attending a church”.
That, however, is not the goal in the Bible!
Paul’s mission statement is Colossians 1:28 “We proclaim Christ, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” The word complete is the same as mature, finished, etc. The goal is not “born again and attending a church”! Rather, it is “every man complete in Christ” – becoming mature in Christ.
In Matthew 28:19, 20 we are given the fundamental strategy to accomplish that goal. We are commanded to “go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all I commanded you” Mt 28:19, 20. Being a disciple of Christ is a far higher goal than being Born Again. Both books of Corinthians and Hebrews condemn only being milk drinkers (weak) but promote eating solid food – which implies spiritual maturity. The word disciple is rooted in the word discipline. The foundation of which is “spiritual sacrifice”.
We have lost sight of this Biblical goal and instead pursue “attending church” as the goal.
And that has been a dismal failure.
Some years back the leaders of Willow Creek church – one of the largest mega churches in the nation — published a book called Reveal. In it they stated that their organization has failed at developing mature believers. Their original premise was “get them to attend, get them involved in programs and they will mature in their faith”. Their own book indicated that any measurements of spiritual maturity from before and after indicated no measurable growth
Over time, man took the commands to “appoint elders” and “not forsake gathering (believers) together” and created the Institutional Church. One of the greatest examples of The Law of Unintended Consequences in action.
From that, we have reduced Christianity from a goal of becoming “complete in Christ” to “become born again and go to church”, and if you are really spiritually mature, “go on a mission trip”.
It is interesting to contrast that to how Christianity got started. One (God) Man, with 12 others – for 3 years! Never once did any of them – or their followers “go to church”. In fact – where was the Apostle Paul’s church? There wasn’t one!
The institutional church promotes the concept that you don’t have to grow, work for, and harvest our (spiritual) food. Instead, we could spend a couple hours on Sunday morning, drop some money in the collection and “be a Christian”. We had paid professionals do the spiritual work for us.
Why is it that if you go somewhere to build an orphanage everyone thinks it’s a great thing, but if you haven’t gone to seminary but spend time teaching others the Bible everyone thinks it’s either weird or “you should become a Pastor”? It is because both the paid professionals and the “lay people” have the same expectation? There are 2 classes of Christians: the paid pro and the believers. Yet that is not what the Bible calls for.
Unfortunately, the institutional church, like Willow Creek, may be a good place for Christians to gather, but by their own admission, it won’t create mature believers; the real goal of the New Testament.
In Dave Kahle’s book, “Is the Institutional Church Really the Church?” he points out that the institutional church has spent 530 Billion dollars in the last few years, and not increased the percentage of Christians in this country by even one percentage point, that it promotes superficial Christianity, — the kind the Bible condemns.
So, what is the most effective way to accomplish the goal of making disciples? Unfortunately, it requires a lot of hard work, sacrifice, getting your hands dirty, and is anything but mass production. It is what was modeled in both the Old Testament and the New Testament: One- on-one discipleship.
Moses and Joshua, Elisha and Elijah, Paul and Timothy are all models given in the Bible. Notice that “going to church” isn’t modeled.
Fathers are told to “teach your children when you lay down, when you rise up and when you walk along the way” in Deuteronomy 6. Why don’t most Christian fathers do that?
Because the Law of Unintended Consequences tells them that the youth pastor at church (who was a drug addict, has tattoos, has been born again, and attended seminary) is a much better teacher than a dad who has a work a day job. At best, a great Christian father today “does devotions” at supper time. But that falls far short of real discipleship.
The goal of discipleship isn’t just knowledge. The institutional church can convey knowledge. So can smaller groups. But knowledge isn’t the goal: Spiritual maturity is. In my experience, real spiritual maturity occurs when real life experiences are filtered through the lens of the Bible. That means highly personal matters like sin or struggles need to be placed on the table in a real trust environment. No matter what the chemistry, an individual will be more guarded with a third person present than one-on-one. Only at one-on-one level can real accountability and therefore, real encouragement and deeper learning/maturity take place.
I’m sure God can bring an individual to complete spiritual maturity alone on a desert island, but in my experience one-on-one discipleship has the highest probability over all other forms of ministry in accomplishing the goal.
You won’t find a “program” like that in the institutional church where “going to church” is promoted as a higher order goal than “becoming complete in Christ.”
Kim Fettig does not have a doctoral degree or a Masters in Divinity. He has a work-a-day job. In the eyes of the church he is a nobody with no credentials. His mission is to “present every man complete in Christ”.