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Making Disciples - Have it Your Way!


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#1 Brian Elmer

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Posted 04 February 2012 - 08:16 AM

A fellow pastor recently shared that he was reading the book The Renovation of the Church by Kent Carlson, Mike Lueken, Dallas Willard. I was intrigued, so purchased a copy. I read the book and found it connecting on what I have been wrestling with over the past years - true discipleship and the American Church. Let me make this statement: with all the mega-churches popping up all over America in the past 15-20 years, why is America declining in morality and character? You would assume that with "thousands being reached", that we would have seen a revival of some sorts in our country.

Well, the book is the story of 2 pastors who led a "consumer-driven" large church. You know, the type that we were all encouraged to "keep up with" and model our churches after in all those "church growth seminars". They share how after 10 years of going after the consumer, they made a radical change. They refocused and decided they were not making disciples, but pleasing consumers. Funny how the recent "church growth movement" has stimulated much of this. We have looked at "what that guy" is doing or tried to program our church as "that big church is doing" to somehow help our church get 'with it'. The focus is consumer driven verses real discipleship.

Years ago Burger King penned a motto - "Have It Your Way". It was legendary because now we could order our food "as we wished". I remember that it had a chain effect on other restaurants and before you know it we could "have our way" in most settings. While personalization has it's good points, overall we tend believe we should "have it our way". This mindset has infiltrated the America we live in. It has even entered the church.

In recent years it started, I suppose, with music - "We want it contemporary. No we want it traditional!". I am not sure if either one is more "correct", I just know that selfishness or the "have it your way" attitude entered the church. We then saw programs and curriculum follow suit - what does the "consumer" want? We "kind of" soften the gospel in many instances - almost disguised it in many cases. After all, we wanted folks to stay at our church. We wanted them to like us when they came. Without even knowing it we had in many cases, shifted our churches to a business - trying to make sure we attract and keep our customers.

As I have served in ministry, I have struggled with the trends of the contemporary church to some degree. I do believe in change with time, and not holding too tight to traditions that can be more sacred than the message. But as I reflect on scripture (John 6 along with others), I have struggled with the "modern church". As some contemporary authors have stated - "when was the last time you saw on the church sign the real message of discipleship - come and die, surrender, or take up your cross and follow me? Yes, Jesus came to seek and save the lost. But He also calls to us to be transformed (Romans 12) to walk in Him (Ephesians 1-3). It seems that message has been pushed aside in many churches. We have helped create a self-centered, ever needy church, not willing to surrender their lives to Christ and count the cost. Heaven forbid in our American culture that we would teach the true cost of discipleship.

Of course I am reminded of our founder A.B. Simpson and A.W. Tozer who believed in a taught concerning the "deeper life" - a life of surrender and sanctification. Thank God for that heritage! I do not say that boastfully, but with thanksgiving. We need to be reminded as pastors and lay people, that Jesus did not call us to "have it your way" or come and see if you 'like me'. Perhaps we have gone too far with gimmicks and appeasing the consumer we have lost our effectiveness in really making disciples. What we have as a result is churches full of self-centered people who we are afraid might leave and go to 'the church down the street' if we do not 'deliver the goods'. Well, I would say we have lost our focus, our intent. We have been more concerned about counting 'nickels and noses' than true disciples - people that who are trusting Christ as savior, repentant and surrendered, walking in obedience, and growing in Him.

It's not an easy call, but it is what our master has called us to. Maybe we need to reevaluate our focus, our direction. Let's not be consumer-driven, but Jesus-driven. For that gospel is the only way lives will truly be transformed.
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#2 Joel Stoddert

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Posted 04 February 2012 - 09:52 PM

A fellow pastor recently shared that he was reading the book The Renovation of the Church by Kent Carlson, Mike Lueken, Dallas Willard. I was intrigued, so purchased a copy. I read the book and found it connecting on what I have been wrestling with over the past years - true discipleship and the American Church. Let me make this statement: with all the mega-churches popping up all over America in the past 15-20 years, why is America declining in morality and character? You would assume that with "thousands being reached", that we would have seen a revival of some sorts in our country.

Well, the book is the story of 2 pastors who led a "consumer-driven" large church. You know, the type that we were all encouraged to "keep up with" and model our churches after in all those "church growth seminars". They share how after 10 years of going after the consumer, they made a radical change. They refocused and decided they were not making disciples, but pleasing consumers. Funny how the recent "church growth movement" has stimulated much of this. We have looked at "what that guy" is doing or tried to program our church as "that big church is doing" to somehow help our church get 'with it'. The focus is consumer driven verses real discipleship.

Years ago Burger King penned a motto - "Have It Your Way". It was legendary because now we could order our food "as we wished". I remember that it had a chain effect on other restaurants and before you know it we could "have our way" in most settings. While personalization has it's good points, overall we tend believe we should "have it our way". This mindset has infiltrated the America we live in. It has even entered the church.

In recent years it started, I suppose, with music - "We want it contemporary. No we want it traditional!". I am not sure if either one is more "correct", I just know that selfishness or the "have it your way" attitude entered the church. We then saw programs and curriculum follow suit - what does the "consumer" want? We "kind of" soften the gospel in many instances - almost disguised it in many cases. After all, we wanted folks to stay at our church. We wanted them to like us when they came. Without even knowing it we had in many cases, shifted our churches to a business - trying to make sure we attract and keep our customers.

As I have served in ministry, I have struggled with the trends of the contemporary church to some degree. I do believe in change with time, and not holding too tight to traditions that can be more sacred than the message. But as I reflect on scripture (John 6 along with others), I have struggled with the "modern church". As some contemporary authors have stated - "when was the last time you saw on the church sign the real message of discipleship - come and die, surrender, or take up your cross and follow me? Yes, Jesus came to seek and save the lost. But He also calls to us to be transformed (Romans 12) to walk in Him (Ephesians 1-3). It seems that message has been pushed aside in many churches. We have helped create a self-centered, ever needy church, not willing to surrender their lives to Christ and count the cost. Heaven forbid in our American culture that we would teach the true cost of discipleship.

Of course I am reminded of our founder A.B. Simpson and A.W. Tozer who believed in a taught concerning the "deeper life" - a life of surrender and sanctification. Thank God for that heritage! I do not say that boastfully, but with thanksgiving. We need to be reminded as pastors and lay people, that Jesus did not call us to "have it your way" or come and see if you 'like me'. Perhaps we have gone too far with gimmicks and appeasing the consumer we have lost our effectiveness in really making disciples. What we have as a result is churches full of self-centered people who we are afraid might leave and go to 'the church down the street' if we do not 'deliver the goods'. Well, I would say we have lost our focus, our intent. We have been more concerned about counting 'nickels and noses' than true disciples - people that who are trusting Christ as savior, repentant and surrendered, walking in obedience, and growing in Him.

It's not an easy call, but it is what our master has called us to. Maybe we need to reevaluate our focus, our direction. Let's not be consumer-driven, but Jesus-driven. For that gospel is the only way lives will truly be transformed.


Very well, said, Brian. I too have gotten impatient with the adjectives churches use, such as purpose-driven, program-driven, etc. How about Christ-driven?

#3 JimmyS

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 09:34 AM

A fellow pastor recently shared that he was reading the book The Renovation of the Church by Kent Carlson, Mike Lueken, Dallas Willard. I was intrigued, so purchased a copy. I read the book and found it connecting on what I have been wrestling with over the past years - true discipleship and the American Church. Let me make this statement: with all the mega-churches popping up all over America in the past 15-20 years, why is America declining in morality and character? You would assume that with "thousands being reached", that we would have seen a revival of some sorts in our country.

Well, the book is the story of 2 pastors who led a "consumer-driven" large church. You know, the type that we were all encouraged to "keep up with" and model our churches after in all those "church growth seminars". They share how after 10 years of going after the consumer, they made a radical change. They refocused and decided they were not making disciples, but pleasing consumers. Funny how the recent "church growth movement" has stimulated much of this. We have looked at "what that guy" is doing or tried to program our church as "that big church is doing" to somehow help our church get 'with it'. The focus is consumer driven verses real discipleship.

Years ago Burger King penned a motto - "Have It Your Way". It was legendary because now we could order our food "as we wished". I remember that it had a chain effect on other restaurants and before you know it we could "have our way" in most settings. While personalization has it's good points, overall we tend believe we should "have it our way". This mindset has infiltrated the America we live in. It has even entered the church.

In recent years it started, I suppose, with music - "We want it contemporary. No we want it traditional!". I am not sure if either one is more "correct", I just know that selfishness or the "have it your way" attitude entered the church. We then saw programs and curriculum follow suit - what does the "consumer" want? We "kind of" soften the gospel in many instances - almost disguised it in many cases. After all, we wanted folks to stay at our church. We wanted them to like us when they came. Without even knowing it we had in many cases, shifted our churches to a business - trying to make sure we attract and keep our customers.

As I have served in ministry, I have struggled with the trends of the contemporary church to some degree. I do believe in change with time, and not holding too tight to traditions that can be more sacred than the message. But as I reflect on scripture (John 6 along with others), I have struggled with the "modern church". As some contemporary authors have stated - "when was the last time you saw on the church sign the real message of discipleship - come and die, surrender, or take up your cross and follow me? Yes, Jesus came to seek and save the lost. But He also calls to us to be transformed (Romans 12) to walk in Him (Ephesians 1-3). It seems that message has been pushed aside in many churches. We have helped create a self-centered, ever needy church, not willing to surrender their lives to Christ and count the cost. Heaven forbid in our American culture that we would teach the true cost of discipleship.

Of course I am reminded of our founder A.B. Simpson and A.W. Tozer who believed in a taught concerning the "deeper life" - a life of surrender and sanctification. Thank God for that heritage! I do not say that boastfully, but with thanksgiving. We need to be reminded as pastors and lay people, that Jesus did not call us to "have it your way" or come and see if you 'like me'. Perhaps we have gone too far with gimmicks and appeasing the consumer we have lost our effectiveness in really making disciples. What we have as a result is churches full of self-centered people who we are afraid might leave and go to 'the church down the street' if we do not 'deliver the goods'. Well, I would say we have lost our focus, our intent. We have been more concerned about counting 'nickels and noses' than true disciples - people that who are trusting Christ as savior, repentant and surrendered, walking in obedience, and growing in Him.

It's not an easy call, but it is what our master has called us to. Maybe we need to reevaluate our focus, our direction. Let's not be consumer-driven, but Jesus-driven. For that gospel is the only way lives will truly be transformed.

Hi Brian, I agree! Good article. I am personally struggling with these same topics. It seems like Jesus is taking back his church, and I am so thankful that He loves us, and won't leave us the way we are!!

#4 Gordy

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 08:56 PM

I want to ask a question?

How are we to win souls if we are using "burger King theology" by having it your way? People may not get saved if it is having their way.

#5 Brian Elmer

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Posted 03 March 2012 - 09:01 AM

That's right Gordy, thus the problem... Check this article out as it relates largely to the issue of 'youth-focused' worship. It's been a troubling trend for years now. But again, it stems from a consumer-driven mindset/model.

http://www.christian...-worship-70686/

This article is refreshing as I personally am a music pastor. I have always stated that music should not be made the issue. But when we get obsessed by the consumer-driven mindset, we become focused on the wrong things. Let's be reminded, it's all about Jesus - Jesus Only.

#6 Greg Kensson

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 02:21 PM

Well, the book is the story of two pastors who led a "consumer-driven" large church. You know, the type that we were all encouraged to "keep up with" and model our churches after in all those "church growth seminars". They share how after ten years of going after the consumer, they made a radical change. They refocused and decided they were not making disciples, but pleasing consumers. Funny how the recent "church growth movement" has stimulated much of this. We have looked at "what that guy" is doing or tried to program our church as "that big church is doing" to somehow help our church get 'with it'. The focus is consumer driven verses real discipleship.


It has been said that:
  • In Palestine, Christianity was a relationship.
  • In the Hellenistic world, Christianity became an idea.
  • In the Roman world, Christianity became an institution.
  • In American, Christianity is an enterprise.

Each of these changes was a form of contextualization and thus had some merit. But with each came great loss, and our Christian enterprise will have little impact here or abroad unless we recover the RELATIONSHIP with God and between ourselves. I think you're right on the mark to see discipleship as central.
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#7 Brian Elmer

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 07:28 PM

Reflective response Greg. Ponder this article... http://www.christian...services-71171/

Things to consider in why we "do church like we do". Interesting comments in that article as well...

"Billboards, gimmicks, and church marketing strategies remove the individual cost from proclaiming the message. We have painless ways of bringing people into the church. Inviting your friends and neighbors – there should be a cost there," Anderson said."

"Dr. John Hardin, a historian of business and religion in America, told CP that church marketing not only changes how people relate, or who a church is bringing in, but it also shifts the authority from producer to consumer. "Instead of looking to sacred texts and traditions to shape their doctrine and services, churches rely on the preferences of potential customers," he said."

"And because of this focus on customers, Hardin said the church tends to focus its attention horizontally in attracting new people, and that causes them to lose "their vertical focus on God."

"The problem, Hardin said, is "as the old saying goes: 'What you win them with, is what you win them to.' The switch doesn't work out, if it ever comes, because people came for the bait."

Boy if you think about it, we've gotten pretty good about "doing church" ... why do we need the Holy Spirit? That's a scary thought...

#8 Lori Smith

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 07:40 PM

I love this conversation; I especially love how you have pointed out where things have gone astray. I recently did some research about Jonathan Edwards; it seems he was largely influenced by Greek thought, hence more of God as an idea. He had no concept of a relational God. Certainly he played a big role in how Christianity began to manifest itself in America. It's easy to take an idea and then proceed to market it. However, if we look at how our God represents Himself throughout the Old Testament, we see a deeply relational God. For example in the Book of Hosea, God tells Israel: "I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love" (11:3,4). So many in our world who have grown up fatherless, or who have been abused, would love to hear these sweet expressions coming from a doting Father who loves them. Instead we try to give them religious fast-food. How tragic.
In The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer writes, "Jesus taught that He wrought His works by always keeping His inward eyes upon His Father. His power lay in His continuous look at God (John 5:19-21)."

#9 David Carter

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 03:20 PM

My way right away is probably the wrong way. The way is Jesus.

I believe it was Rev. Harry Reeder who said that the church should be "Christ-centered, and gospel driven".
David Carter

A blood stained cross, an empty tomb
For by His love He met my doom.
And now I stand in His good place
Amazed by grace, in His embrace.

..."Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures..." (1 Co. 15:3-4, KJV)

#10 Living water

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 05:57 PM

I've been asking people for a long time about discipleship, most people get quiet. I don't say that to their shame, but to reinforce what so many have already posted on this thread. Jesus asked us to follow Him, Paul said follow me as I follow Christ. In my view, this our mission. Can anyone give any guidelines, standards, any advice how to do this? Is there another post I haven't found? I am seeking help in this area.

#11 Brian Elmer

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 07:20 PM

Living water - you must pursue knowing Christ - developing a growing relationship with Him. This comes by reading His Word and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform your mind, which will effect your behavior and desires. A disciple is a student of a teacher. You have to be into His Word and walk in the truth, as the Spirit so empowers. Romans 5-8; 12; the book of Ephesians; and James are a great place to start.
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#12 Living water

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Posted 29 June 2012 - 02:11 PM

Thank you Pastor Elmer for your post. I hope I haven't changed the subject, but I talked with someone last night who also was looking for more understanding of discipleship (how to? guidelines, standards, scripture as you have provided). The need is out here just something to think about. Anyway, I understood and know the Romans you pointed out, fighting our flesh and sin with the Holy Spirit. I pray almost daily Romans 12 and I almost can quote James by heart. The one that struck me was Ephesians. Yesterday I read three chapters with in-depth notes and word study under the thinking of discipleship. The word unfolded for me like never before, amazing. I am not a newbie, but my relationship grows with Jesus daily and I thank God for all who help in the process.
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#13 Brian Elmer

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Posted 29 June 2012 - 02:41 PM

Living water - some current books to read that have deepened my understanding are "Not a Fan" by Kyle Idleman, "The Christian Atheist" by Craig Groeschel, "Radical" by David Platt, "Living On the Edge" by Chip Ingram, "Unfashionable" by Tullian Tchividjian. Another that is older is "The Pursuit of Godliness" by Jerry Bridges. I am a reader along with reading the Word. These books most recently, along with others in the past, have deepened my walk with Christ so as to better grasp what it means to follow Him. Key statements in the gospels that Jesus said to His disciples and others about following Him: Matthew 13, 23; Luke 7, 9 & 14; John 3, 6, & 16. These are all through the above books as well with in depth explanation and challenge. I especially like "Not a Fan" and "Unfashionable" as far as discipleship goes.

Glad I could point you to some things that will help. Praise God! What I am afraid of is that there are many churches in America, that aren't teaching the Word and what it means to follow Christ. Thus we have many who 'believe' in God, but there is no evidence of spiritual transformation in there lives. If you go back to the first post, it is clear - churches have to get back to teaching what it means to follow Christ.

#14 Rob Jeffrey

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 07:07 PM

Might I also suggest "The Cost of Discipleship" by Dietrich Bonheoffer.
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"A non-praying preacher and a non-praying Church may flourish outwardly and advance in many aspects of their life. Both preacher and church may become synonyms for success, but unless it rest on a praying basis all success will eventually crumble into deadened life and ultimate decay."
E.M. Bounds

#15 Living water

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 04:39 PM

I love bonheoffer. I've been inspired by this discussion so much I wrote thes two articles. If any one is interested please check them out. http://2danielrusk.blogspot.com/ God bless you all...

#16 Brian Elmer

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 05:17 AM

Living Water - I just purchased a book you would find enlightening. It is called 'Gospel Centered Discipleship' by Jonathan K. Dodson. I am also reading Tullian Tchividjian's 'Jesus + Nothing = Everything'. Both might be helpful in your desire to deepen your understanding of discipleship.

#17 Alex Zell

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 08:06 AM

Amen, Brian! I added your recommended books to my wish list. Multiply by Francis Chan is another resource recently made available at low cost if purchased to give away by a church. We are modeling how to use this tool to disciple others. What I like about it is that it is designed biblically to make disciple-makers instead of just stopping with discipling one person. David Platt has a new book coming out called Follow Me: A Call to Die, A Call to Live which should address the issues of surrender and lordship to Jesus Christ.

#18 Rob Jeffrey

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 06:31 PM

I would like to pose a thought that has been churning in my brain. This past weekend I attended a discipleship conference and although it was very good it seems on some level discipleship is the new church growth movement. At the conference there is the inevitable resource area that consisted of table after table of books on the subject. Everybody has a book, model of what it looks like and and a small group study on how to do it. How Jesus did it, how Paul did it, or how my church did it. I pray it does not become another trend but an honest movement of God to stir us to growth and authentic faith.
"A non-praying preacher and a non-praying Church may flourish outwardly and advance in many aspects of their life. Both preacher and church may become synonyms for success, but unless it rest on a praying basis all success will eventually crumble into deadened life and ultimate decay."
E.M. Bounds

#19 Brian Elmer

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 07:05 AM

“Most people in America, when they are exposed to the Christian faith, are not being transformed. They take one step into the door, and the journey ends. They are not being allowed, encouraged, or equipped to love or to think like Christ. Yet in many ways a focus on spiritual formation fits what a new generation is really seeking. Transformation is a process, a journey, not a one-time decision.”
David Kinnaman, Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity...and Why It Matters

This quote seems to be where we are in America. I trust there will be a return to biblical discipleship. What seems to be an issue is the modern church's approach of 'have it your way' - pleasing, to keep the customer. Transformation of the heart is central to a life with Jesus in the kingdom of God.

#20 Pastor Robert Young

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  • Ensley Alliance Church Pensacola , Fl

Posted 13 April 2013 - 09:00 AM

Discipleship! Discipleship? Discipleship-What exactly is this concept which we understand to be so very important yet know so little about. What is this ideology which has a plethora of books written about it yes so few who have caught the vision. What is it about discipleship that makes believers put on a face of bewilderment and ministers seek for a new topic. Most believers who attend church regularly would think of themselves as disciples because they go to Sunday School and church and Bible Study.. I mean what else is there.. I volunteer and serve and pray..come on what else is there? The answer from my point of view for the 21 century church is compartmentalization. Wow say that 3 times fast...smiles... ok I can't believe that some of you just tried to say that 3 times fast... Here it is you see.. We have become very good at putting things in their place. I have my family things and my employment things my hobby things and my church things. And I give God my all within my church things and yes God does somehow and in many ways cross over into my other compartments, but mostly i do my best to keep them separate. The hebrew term for disciple is taludeem, it ment to become like the rabbi you chose to follow, it grew to mean being covered by the dust of the rabbi. You literally were so close to the rabbi as you walked along that his dust that he kicked up covered you. So.. What does it mean to be a disciple in 21 century America? It ought to mean that I am involved in getting to know Jesus in an intimate, personal way which reflects who I am in every compartment of my life. My focus is to become like Christ. Romans 8 tells us that God Himself predetermined that we should become like or be conformed to the image of His son so He could be the first among many. That is discipleship. To follow Gods determined desire that we His children should be like Christ. Here is a bit of trivia for you. Did you know that after the book of Acts the term disciple is never used again. and used only once in the OT. in Isaiah, The term however, used most often to refer to those devoted to following God both in the old and new testaments, is the word saints. The word hagios in the greek and kadoshe in hebrew mean holy and pure and devoted to purity. The idea of being set apart to be completely devoted to Jesus, now there is a concept.. there is an ideology.. there is a way of life that answers the question what does it mean to be a disciple. My example is Jesus, my workbook is the bible, my teacher is the Holy Spirit, my life plan is devotion to Christ. Wow! and I didn't even have to write a book... smiles... God's blessings upon you all..