This is for us

I am fully aware that much of what I write falls into the category of “give them something to think about”.  I am not so much of a “here is exactly what you need to do next” type of writer.  Maybe that’s why my blog hasn’t taken off.

But there is a problem with keeping things at the idea level and never getting to the “how to” level.  And I am seeing it in the church.  It leads to frustration and to a lack of growth.  I will explain.

But first, some reminders for all of us just in case we keep reading and think that this is an article for pastors only, or board members only, or “them” (whoever them is).  This is for us.  As Christ followers we have all been given the role of Disciple Maker.  This is the work we are to be about as the church.  You, me, them, everybody.  So, this is for all of us.

Now then, what is this frustration I am noticing.  Pastors complain that their folks aren’t where they “should be” spiritually.  They tell me they spend lots of time painting a vivid picture of the life they want people to experience in Jesus and what it looks like to be a Christ follower.  But people aren’t getting there and it causes confusion.  Or parents talk to me about how their kids aren’t where they “should be” and the parents don’t understand it because they keep telling their kids where they need to be.  They don’t nag or yell.  The give them lots to think about.  Leaders talk about how hard it is to train new leaders because they don’t seem to “get it”.  It goes something like “I told them what to do.  I told them how we always do it.  But they just don’t get it.”  One more.  The complaints about the folks around us who don’t know Jesus but don’t seem to be responding to the links to videos or articles that we share.

Now, hand in hand with this are the things I hear from the other side of the coin.  Parishioners who feel like the pastor is always mad at them for not being who they should be but not telling them how to get there.  Kids who are confused by what their parents tell them to do without modeling it in their own lives.  Young leaders who are stuck because nobody is helping them take the next step.  Unchurched folks who have no context for the links they receive but who have real questions they wish they could ask.

Ideas to think about are great.  But if all we are sharing with folks is ideas and not helping them “get there”, I believe we are missing most of the disciple making (or leadership developing) process.  So here is what we need to do:

  • Develop the types of relationships with people that earn us the right to be heard. And then in the context of that relationship, help people not only understand the big picture idea that we are trying to share.  Help them know what they need to do next.  And walk beside them through each step.
  • Pastors/ teachers/ leaders – paint big pictures of the type of church God is calling you to be and the type of people He has called all of us to be. But also provide people with very practical “how to’s” and next steps.  God wants you to be a church that prays?    Show me how to pray on my own and with people and for people.  Don’t just tell me to pray more.
  • Parents/ grandparents/ mentors – model for your kids the life God wants them to step into. Be a person of integrity.  Be honest.    Give.  Read Scripture and pray.  All the things you want your kid to do.  Tell them.  Model it.  And then talk to them about it. 
  • Leaders/ leader developers – Invest time in others. Don’t just hope they will “get it”.  Don’t just hand them a task or a job description and walk away.  Help them understand the how’s and the why’s of what you want them to do.  Talk before and after tasks.  Care about them, not just about the job getting done.
  • Disciple makers (so again – all of us) – don’t just give people the big picture. Don’t just send links.  Don’t just invite and hope they figure it out all on their own.  Whether starting with somebody who is exploring faith or helping a fellow Christ follower deepen in their relationship with Christ, be present and available.  Walk with them.  Answer questions.  Show them how.  We all need that.

There you go, some how to’s.  I know it’s work and I know it can be hard and I know it takes time and may even cost us.  But it’s what we have been commissioned to do.  And if you aren’t sure what to do next, ask somebody who knows.  

Marc McAlister
Director of Leadership Development and Church Health, the Free Methodist Church in Canada.