“The missional church at the dawn of the twenty-first century
stands or falls on its capacity to make disciples.”
The primary business of the church is to make disciples. Preaching, teaching and pastoral care are each important so long as they serve the singular purpose of making disciples. Jesus demonstrated this priority in His ministry. In the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel, the disciples seek Jesus early one morning and find Him praying. With considerable audacity they disrupt Jesus at prayer and tell Him of the urgency before them that day – the pastoral care load was already mounting. Jesus dismisses the disciple’s agenda for the day with another, going to the neighboring towns that disciples may be made in those places. “That is what I came out to do,” says Jesus as if He is surprised that He has to remind the disciples,
Additionally, Jesus told the disciples clearly and directly that the primary purpose of their ministry is to make disciples. At the close of Matthew’s Gospel, the church locates what has come to be known as The Great Commission. Jesus is prepared to depart from His disciples and has one final word for them. Last words or final words are usually chosen with care. The one speaking sifts through multiple thoughts, multiple concerns to locate the one thought, and the one concern that trumps all others in importance. Jesus’ final thought – His primary concern – is that the disciples understand that they have been called together and apprenticed for three years for one thing, to make disciples,
It is curious that church boards often spend considerable time in identifying and crafting a mission statement for their church. One would think by all that effort that the mission is negotiable. Jesus gave no indication that it is. The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Jesus demonstrated this in His ministry and told the disciples that it is to be their ministry. Making disciples is the main thing.
Alan Hirsch is right – the missional church stands or falls on its capacity to make disciples. Beautiful and compelling worship, thoughtful teaching and preaching and excellent attention to the pastoral care needs of a faith community remain important. Yet, if year after year all of that activity is for the same people, the church will have failed to advance the one thing Jesus said was most important.