Remember these things (Part 3)

Welcome to Part 3 of our series. In Part 1 we remembered what the work of Jesus actually is. In Part 2 we remembered that the work starts when you baptise the first new disciples of Jesus.

Part 3 – Presume all your “Christian” team will leave

I speak to lots of Christians who have a vision to “do something different” or who want to “start a movement” As the discussion unfolds I tend to try and encourage them to focus on the things that are most important. These blog posts are an attempt to do the same. Instead of focusing on team building, marketing yourself to an already saturated Christian world and designing impressive vision and mission statements I’d encourage people to get out there and meet normal people in the harvest and to do whatever it takes to see some becoming new disciples of Jesus.

A common idea is that the best thing to do when pioneering a disciple making movement is to gather a group of existing Christians around you and to form a team. I think this idea needs some thought. I asked the friends I spoke to (see Part 1) about their plans and focus for the first year of their work and they told me about their plans to spend their first year entirely focusing on the small Christian team that were also coming on the journey with them. They hoped to spend a lot of time with this small group of families and to get the “DNA of the vision” really deep into them – but there was no mention of things like prayer walking, learning to spread the gospel and engage with people groups and places in their area or how to meet with people of peace and start gatherings in their homes. It set off all kinds of “Apostolic alarm bells” in my head but I tried to be nice and encouraging as I’ve learned that there are many different ways, giftings and perspectives. As I thought about our own journey though I realised that the Holy Spirit was encouraging me to share a few things with our friends.

So after listening to their team building plans and how they were going to spend a year investing in other Christians instead of the harvest I spoke up and said, “I think you should presume that your Christian team will leave you”.

As I unpacked this with my friend I realised the wisdom that the Holy Spirit was trying to share with us. It wasn’t a comment about the commitment of the christian team but more a reminder that the real work lies is in the harvest not in christian meetings (however cool, trendy or re-organised into homes they may be!) We talked a little about how easy it is to find comfort and identity in building a team and how for many this equates to being successful in ministry. In our experience the real work in the harvest with new disciples can be neglected un-necessarily when we get bogged down meeting with existing Christians. If you’re trying to start a disciple making movement in your region then the best way to equip other existing believers is to treat them as team mates and to take them out with you as you do the real work. Otherwise you’ll waste your time in endless discussions about ministry paradigms, visions and what’s wrong with all the other churches in the area. All of which are a waste of time if no-one is actually modelling something different amongst people who are coming to faith and making more disciples.

So if you have a “Christian team” then I’d encourage you to spend less time socialising with them and more time mobilising them. Take them with you to actually do the work and then you’ll see if they are true team mates or not. Sadly in our experience many enthusiastic christians seem to disappear when they realise they need to actually do something about it rather than just discuss it on the sofa.

Also – in the Kingdom of God things are always moving so it’s good to presume that any team you have may move onto other Kingdom assigments rather than expecting them to commit to your work for the rest of their lives! It keeps things about releasing and sending people rather than about building our own empires.

And on some occasions you will feel alone, let down by others and discouraged. Jesus went through it when His disciples deserted him. Paul went through it when “the whole of Asia” deserted him (2 Timothy 1:15) Are you committed to finishing the work God has called you to regardless of whether you have support from other Christians around you or not? Maybe it’s time to refocus on the work of making disciples in the harvest and finding your co-workers there?

Live it, model it and after you’ve done all that – discuss it!