Joe at “More Than Cake” has written a very good post called “8 Obstacles to Making Disciples.” In the post, he lists some hurdles that we have placed between us and our ability to help other people follow Jesus Christ (i.e., disciple people or make disciples). (By the way, Joe says that this list comes from a book by Greg Ogden. You can a link to the book on Joe’s post.)
For the most part, I think the list is a good representation of what we often find among the church these days, and I agree that these are definitely obstacles to making disciples.
Here are the eight obstacles (with a little more info in Joe’s post):
First, the gap between those claiming to be disciples and those living as disciples exists because in many churches, the pastor/elder has been diverted from their ministry calling.
Second, church programs have replaced relationship.
Third, much of Christian life has been reduced to seeking after the immediate and material benefits over living out the lifestyle of a disciple.
Fourth, there is a gap between word and deed because discipleship has been presented as a “next step,” rather then as the natural result for every follower of Jesus.
Fifth, leaders have been unwilling to call people to discipleship because they are too concerned that some will “fall away,” which is code for “attendance will drop.”
Sixth, far too many Christians have an inadequate view of church and see it only as an event or a place rather than a vibrant community.
Seventh, Christian leaders have not provided a clearly defined biblical path to maturity and left to their own devices and definitions, God’s people have exhibited a manifest failure to grow.
Finally, the last obstacle to bridging the discipleship-gap is the lack of personal mentoring.
Like I said, I agree that these are obstacles to helping others follow Jesus that we often find among the church today.
But, reading through the list, I think I see a ninth obstacle that’s not spelled out, but is assumed in the list: an over-reliance on leaders among the church. In those eight obstacles, “leaders” are specifically mentioned in three of them. And, since “programs” are typically the sphere of leaders, #2 above would bring the count to 4 obstacles about leaders.
In fact, I think that an over-reliance on leaders (or actually a reliance on ANYONE else) to make disciples is the biggest obstacle toward disicpleship. And, it could be the most difficult obstacle to overcome.
Why is it the most difficult? Because this kind of reliance on leadership reaches into every aspect of a person’s life. Even if a person’s thinking and understanding changes in regards to leaders among the church, there is still much that must change.
But, I can tell you from experience, change of thinking and change of life can and does happen.
If you’re wondering why so little discipleship is taking place, and you immediately begin to think about church leaders, then perhaps this kind of over-reliance is an obstacle for you too.