I recently had a conversation with a student in which I was, as usual, very skeptical – maybe critical. We were talking about the megachurch pastor as not being able to truly make disciples within that model. After my, albeit welcomed, tirade, I took time to reflect on our conversation later. That is when I came to the epiphany that:
in truth, God never meant for His message to be an unmanned communication of words and meaning.
His Scriptures were written by men and delivered to others by those men and their partners in ministry. These writings were by the People inspired by the Spirit and for the People, as the writers were WITH the People. Paul was clear about spending long amounts of time with the disciples. (Acts 14:28) This was normal . . . and not new.
God sent prophets, not just messages from the sky.
God placed priests over them for the connection to God.
In Christ, our Prophet, Priest and King, we see again that God determined that The Messenger, Who IS The Message would be “God with us.” No part of God’s relationship with us or revelation to us was meant to be unmanned – it was never meant to be a message in a bottle.
Now He has sent preachers and teachers and the Body. The Body, like Mr. Morton, walks and talks and loves.
I remember from my evangelism class back in the day in Bible College, principle #2 was that: “The Word of God has self-contained power to bring the sinner to salvation.” I believe this to be true. But the Word is not supposed to be self-delivered, it is supposed to be hand-delivered.
This poses a great problem for us Preachers in the modern, digital age. We have convinced ourselves that filling vending machines is the same as providing a meal; that selling band-aids is the same as comforting a wound; that podcasting is discipleship. This also relates to establishing models of church government, growth strategies and goals that keep a distance between the elders and the people.
Discipleship, which is The model for New Testament ministry- namely, making followers of Jesus- is more than just providing information. It involves Teaching, Training AND Togetherness. This is the formula God has designed and must be followed by all people in all time. Not only have we sought to improve the Gospel in the modern Church, but have sought to improve the delivery as well. We want it all streamlined and sleek.
But, Jesus did not share that notion. He spent large amounts of time with the few at the cost of the masses. He would speak to the masses, but did not entrust himself to them. (John 2:24-25)
Paul did not set up a home office and do quick evangelism and then call that discipleship. As in Antioch, he spent long amounts of time with people: teaching them the Truths of Christ, Training them to live those Truths and share them with others, and being Together with them while they grew.
When we stand back from the people at a distance that cannot be reasonably reached, we fail at discipleship. If we know how long a pew can be away from a preacher before the sound system loses effectiveness, we are failing at discipleship. If we think that recording ourselves, so as to be sent out in digital form to God-knows-who, in God-knows-where IS discipleship . . . we have failed.
Truly, the books and the videos and the podcasts are great and helpful, but they are only one component of three. Stop labeling and sending bottles to 10,000 and go and personally love 10. I promise it will have more effect for God’s Kingdom and bring more glory to His name. And as those to whom you minister with love read the books and watch the videos and listen to the podcast – you can grow with them.