the weblog of Alan Knox

Guest Blogger: Focus on delivery does not increase our effectiveness at discipling people

Posted by on Dec 5, 2011 in discipleship, guest blogger | 6 comments

Guest Blogger: Focus on delivery does not increase our effectiveness at discipling people

I’ve invited several people to write “guest blog posts” for this blog. There are several reasons for this: 1) To offer different perspectives. 2) To generate even more discussion and conversation between blogs. 3) To introduce other bloggers to my readers.

(If you are interested in writing a guest blog post, please contact me at aknox[at]sebts[dot]com.)

Today’s post was written to me as an email by Chris. You can follow Chris at his website or on Twitter (@ChrisBranscome).

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[From Alan: In a comment, Chris indicated that he was in “professional ministry” but was considering leaving that profession. In an email, I told him that I would like to hear more about his reasons and struggles. The following is his response, which he graciously allowed me to post here for my readers.]

I think the thing that’s driving me away is that we continue to hold to the idea that if we have better programming, slicker lighting and media, better bands, and cooler facilities, then we’ll be able to do a better job of making disciples. We’ve seen again and again that this focus on the delivery and production of our message doesn’t increase our effectiveness in transforming people.

We work hard to put together friendly events like Fall Festivals and I hear people say things like “if we can just get them on the campus…” While I think it’s nice to do things for the community, I don’t think that if a non-Christian just steps foot on campus, they’ll suddenly meet God in a way that they can’t off campus. I think there’s also the idea that if people come to our worship event, they’ll be ministered to by “professional” ministers, and that this is more effective.

We continue to inadvertently teach, through our methodology, that 1) God is most present here at the Church building, 2) God is MORE present when our productions are better planned, polished, and executed, 3) You’re being most Christian when you attend an event on a church campus, and 4) “real” ministry is carried out by the full time church employees.

Because we believe that the organization and its few leaders carry out the most effective ministry at the organization’s events, there’s a focus on bringing people in rather than on equipping people and sending them out. Evangelism has come to mean “inviting people to a worship gathering.”

We continue to do all of these things in spite of the fact that we KNOW that what we’re doing isn’t creating many new believers or turning believers into more Christlike people.

I know there are exceptions, and I also fully acknowledge that I am where I am today, spiritually speaking, at least in part because of the fact that I grew up in a pretty normal church organization. I think the organization definitely has its place, and that it will continue to be effective for a (shrinking) number of people.

So, personally speaking, I don’t like that working for this kind of organization means that I spend 90% or more of my working hours inside of the walls of a church building, planning and executing things that will take place in the building – things which will only impact (and that’s questionable) people who come to the building. I work within this very different Christian culture, isolated from the rest of the world, the world which we are called to reach.

I hope I don’t sound too cynical or critical. I’m actually coming out of a year and a half period of serious burnout, bad enough that it gave me an ulcer. I was really, really busy with very inwardly focused things, getting ready to launch a new building campaign, etc. My attitude during that time was pretty bad, but with God’s help, things are better. My current strategy is to see if I can find gainful employment outside of the church, but in the mean time, to continue to work as well as I can and focus as much as possible on things that are more effective at making disciples and reaching people outside of the church.

If you know of anyone who needs someone to create some music for them, or do some graphic design or video editing, especially if it’s full time, please let me know! ;-)


6 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 12-5-2011

    Thanks for Chris for his honesty. It is all too rare in a church culture that demands that we all, and especially pastors, put on a smiley “church face” at all times. I wonder how many other men are struggling just like him, men who feel trapped in our ministry culture.

  2. 12-5-2011

    We are called to make disciples. This is not at all the same thing as gaining church members. In this season I have been saying to the Church: The Christian life is about everything else we do besides show up once a week in a church building for service.

    We can only really make disciples where our lives intersect one on one. We are supposed to live together powerfully experiencing God. Walking in the Holy Spirit and the weekend gathering is just to celebrate and share all the exploits with those we haven’t seen in a few days.

    How backwards modern day “worship” looks through that lens.

  3. 12-5-2011

    Arthur,

    I’ve talked with many who share these struggles, primarily through email or face-to-face. That’s one of the reasons that I asked Chris if I could share his email here.

    ToscaSac,

    I agree. I understand the feeling that if we attract many people we have opportunities to disciple all those people. I don’t think it works though.

    -Alan

  4. 12-12-2011

    I just love hearing when people find the freedom of looking at what we do, why we do it and how it affects us. It sounds like you’ve really come upon some buried treasure here.

    It seems like the effects of having “campuses” inadvertently teach people that God and life are two different compartments. That their spiritual life is separate from all the other areas of life. It’s then hard for people to conceptualize the Jesus Christ IS their life. He becomes more like the CEO of a business that offers spiritual food as it’s product. No, they don’t consciously think that. But subconsciously, we’re training this type of mentality. Thoughts?

  5. 12-13-2011

    Michael,

    I agree. This is a great post, and I’m so glad that Chris allowed me to publish it.

    -Alan

  6. 12-16-2011

    ToscaSac:

    I really wish people we get what you say in your first paragraph. If we were all translating our faith into action the rest of the week, how different our corporate worship would be! Corporate worship is meant to be a time of celebrating who God is and what He has done, but how much can we celebrate if we don’t know much about Him and if we haven’t seen Him at work in us the rest of the week?

    Michael Fleming:
    Yes, I agree. The “Campus” becomes the place where Christian stuff happens, the office is where work stuff happens, and the house is where family stuff happens, and never the three shall meet.

    You know, come to think of it, that’s not true. There are tons of men who have no problem taking their work home with them and imposing that upon their families. Would that they would take their Christianity home with them when they get back from church.

    Having said that, I have to add the disclaimer that there are, thankfully, exceptions.

    Alan:
    Thank you for letting me share on your site!