Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Church, the Mission, and Disciple-Making

Bob Logan writes on “The Relationship between Church Planting and Disciple-Making.”

He begins with, “Jesus never called us to plant churches. He called us to make disciples.”

He ends with, “Church planting, at its most basic level, is a means to that end: a way to make disciples. If we aren’t making disciples, there’s no real point to most of the structures and activities that “church” usually involves.”

How does a well-developed NT ecclesiology reflect on this?

First, NT ecclesiology considers the Great Commission passage in Matthew 28:18-20, that Logan quotes to identify the mission. What Logan does not talk about the role of baptism that Jesus mentions. In the NT, baptism is a local church ordinance. It is performed by the local church in the local church as part of the disciple-making process.

What this means is that disciple-making in fulfillment of the Great Commission cannot be separated from the local church because if you separate it, there is no legitimate baptism, no NT way for disciples to identify themselves as disciples. There is no way for disciples to tell other disciples, that, “I’m in. I’m with you because I’m confessing Jesus.”

Separation of disciple-making from the church also means there is no biblical way to evaluate, ordain, and remove teacher/leaders. These things all take place in the body of believers, not outside of it.

Second, NT ecclesiology consider Logan’s final point, which I would suggest is poorly stated. To suggest that the church is a means to an end seems a minimization of the body of Christ. It seems a suggestion that church is all well and good so long as it does what we want it to do, but there are other ways to accomplish the mission, and we are free to choose between ways.

The problem is that in the NT, there are no other ways to accomplish the mission. When the apostles went out in fulfillment of the Great Commission, they started churches. Why? Because they apparently thought that’s what Jesus told them to do.

In the NT, church is where it’s at. That doesn’t mean college ministry is wrong. It means it needs to be rooted in and connected to the local church. It does not exist for itself. It exists for the body of Christ, visibly represented in an assembly of believers who regularly assemble.

It is true that many churches have all kinds of things going on that don’t fulfill the mission of disciple-making. Pastors, feel free to reorganize them to make disciples. Or feel free to get rid of them. Make the shape of your church fit the mission of your church.

Ask the simple question: Does this make disciples?

If the answer is “No,” then change it or get rid of it.

So my advice is to adopt Bob Logan’s type of thinking about the necessity of discipleship. Just don’t consider the church as an accessory. It is the mission.

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