Start With the End in Mind

by | Jun 15, 2021 | multiplication

Why is multiplying disciples so elusive in a Western context?

The reasons, I think, are complex and multi-faceted. Many people believe the cause to be societal. Life is time-consuming and demanding. We’re preoccupied, with no available margin. We’re distracted by activities and committed to other responsibilities.

As significant as those challenges are, they’re just situational; environmental. In other words, if all the environmental challenges we face were miraculously eliminated overnight, would we see immediate, fruitful discipleship multiplication occur?

Personally, I don’t believe we would. I’m convinced there are more fundamental forces in play we simply aren’t aware of.

One of the reasons we don’t see multiple generations of disciples being formed is that we operate with an unclear end in mind—or potentially the wrong end in mind. We engage in “discipleship” activities (sharing the gospel, teaching, prayer, encouragement, Bible study, accountability, etc.) with the intended outcome of producing a mature follower of Jesus.

Sounds good, and biblical, doesn’t it? But if we hope to accomplish the Great Commission it’s actually the wrong end. Because to accomplish the task Jesus gave us, we need to think about the future followers of Jesus: Multiple generations of downstream believers who will result from today’s disciple-making efforts.

“If all the environmental challenges we face were miraculously eliminated overnight, would we see immediate, fruitful discipleship multiplication occur?”

Think of yourself as a runner in the starting block of a relay race. You hold the baton in your hand, and will soon hand it off. When the starting gun fires, you must run diligently and with excellence. But no matter how well you run, your leg of the race is only a set up for the person who will follow you. You must pass the baton on to the next runner if you want your part of the race to make any difference.

There’s limited time and space to transfer the baton. Both teammates are running together, and neither runner can impede the progress of the other or cause them to stumble. And obviously, the hand-off is crucial: The baton can’t be dropped or mishandled.

“We need to think about the future followers of Jesus: Multiple generations of downstream believers who will result from today’s disciple-making efforts.”

This process must happen again and again, repeatedly, for the baton to cross the finish line. How each runner runs their leg of the race is, of course, important. But the event we’re competing in isn’t a series of individual races. The baton must cross the finish line if we want to win the race.

Using the illustration, the baton is the willingness to follow Jesus’ commands and the ability to train others to follow our example. What we do today will either result in the baton of the Great Commission being passed to followers of Jesus five, six or even ten generations from now, or it won’t.

And make no mistake: We are in a race. Every second of every minute, all day, every day, someone in the world dies and enters an eternity separated from God. The next one might be your neighbor.

Millions of people still have never even heard the name of Jesus.

Each year that discipleship multiplication doesn’t happen, the population grows faster than the church.

The pace of our disciple-making matters.

“The event we’re competing in isn’t a series of individual races.”

So, when it comes to the person(s) you’re discipling:

  • When will they be ready to pass the baton to another generation?
  • What’s required to get them ready?
  • What could or should they be doing, but they aren’t?
  • What can you do that they can’t do? What do you know that they don’t know?
  • What part(s) of being a disciple and making a disciple haven’t you modeled for them yet?
  • How accountable are they to their commitments?

Everything you do with your disciple(s) impacts what will happen in the future—multiple generations downstream from you. So start now, and keep the end in mind.

“We operate with an unclear end in mind—or potentially the wrong end in mind.”

 

Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

 

 

Damian Gerke is on the leadership team of 1Body Church. He is married to Cheryl, his wife of 30+ years, and they have three grown children.

Damian has a diverse background that includes leadership and development coaching, vocational pastoral ministry and even working as a design engineer in the aerospace industry. He is the author of In the Way: Church As We Know It Can Be a Discipleship Movement (Again) and Taking the Lead: What Riding a Bike Can Teach You About Leadership. He blogs regularly about faith and church leadership issues here at 1Body.church, as well as leadership and life issues at DamianGerke.com.

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