Sunday, November 7, 2010
The words are rather harsh. Spencer might say the reality is rather harsh, too.
A few years back, so many churches seemed caught up in what could only be called a “seeker craze.” Part of it was driven, I believe, by the numerical success of churches like Willowcreek in the Chicago area and Saddleback in California. It seemed like a huge new industry – consulting services, seminars, training sessions, facility redesign (don’t forget the latte bar), building programs. The leadership of so many churches seemed to distill all questions down to two, which were actually one: how to appeal to “seekers,” and how to grow. Numerical growth – membership, attendance, and giving – became the “measures of success.”
Group think became standard operating procedure. No one was allowed to question. There were even some adult Sunday School materials (from best-selling authors – teaching the Bible seemed rather quaint and old-fashioned) that had sections on how to deal with the “theology police” – people who raised questions about the Biblical soundness of the book being studied.
A lot of churches cracked wide open. Relationships were destroyed. Mistrust prevailed. People left.
For many, a major reality check came from – of all places – Willowcreek. A couple of years ago, Willowcreek published an extraordinary statement – that its multi-decade emphasis on “seekers” had shortchanged what the church was supposed to be about in the first place – discipleship, the making and equipping of disciples.
It was only Willowcreek where that had happened. Willowcreek happened to be among the very few churches that admitted it.
Here’s Spencer on how Jesus taught discipleship:
First, “Jesus made disciples through relationship and as a result of observation.”
Two, “Jesus made disciples out of these followers through their constant exposure to his teachings.”
Three, “Jesus put his disciples in a variety of situations that took them far beyond their comfort zones.”
Four, “Jesus allowed his followers to experience the power of the Holy Spirit for themselves.”
Five, “…for Jesus, participation in institutional Judaism – the church of his day – did not equal discipleship or participation in the movement he was making.”
Six, “Jesus created disciples by the power of the Holy Spirit illuminating the gospel in retrospect.”
And seven, “Jesus created disciples who were called and centered in the gospel announcement of war God was doing at the time.”
I read this, and I tremble.
I don’t know this discipleship.
I haven’t seen it for along time.
Nancy Rosback over at Bend the Page has been leading us in a discussion of Mere Churchianity, her post today is "Are you looking at me?" Also see Fatha Frank’s postings at Public Christianity, including "Of Sandlots and Cathedrals," and Melo's "Where We Meet."