I was at an event recently where some organ music was played very briefly, and one guy shouted out, humorously, “Agh Church!”. We all knew what he meant. The church has made lots of mistakes over the years and there are many things Christians disagree about how to do church. But all of it misses the point. Quite spectacularly. Jesus never said we were to build the church, that was his job. The job he gave us was to make disciples. Not converts, not members; disciples. Conversion and membership are of course important, but technically it’s not what Jesus told us to do. If we make disciples, we get the church. But if we build the church we don’t necessarily get disciples.
The fact that we know so little about being and making disciples, shows us how far we’ve drifted from the single most vital task for us. A disciple is someone who is learning to be like Jesus, who follows his ways, who is his apprentice.
Dave Alred is an international elite sports coach. Strangely he is not confined to a specific sport. He is famous for his work as kicking coach to Jonny Wilkinson, the England world cup winning rugby player; and assisting Luke Donald become world no. 1 golfer; he has coached at the top in many fields, including surgeons, pilots, dolphin trainers and business leaders. In a radio interview recently he said many coaches go on to the sports field with their teams but very little learning takes place. There may be lots of teaching, but not much learning. A true coach enables the student to learn. Think back to your best teachers at school, or anyone else, and you see people who asked questions of you, stretched you, invested in you. Here you have an understanding of discipleship. For centuries we have done church a certain way, and somewhere lost sight of learning to follow Jesus. Somewhere it became all about Sunday, instead of Mon-Saturday as well. About knowledge instead of practice. About teaching instead of learning. And somewhere those Sunday practices became stuck in traditions of a bye-gone era, struggling to make it relevant for today’s emerging culture.
Don’t get me wrong. Discipleship involves knowledge, Sundays and teaching, but they’re just part of the equation. We, here at MBC, are dedicated to finding that narrow path again. But as Jesus said, “small is the gate, and narrow the road that leads to life and few find it”. It’s harder, its messier, but it’s worth it because it gets us doing what Jesus wants: doing what he did, and helping others do the same. I’ll sign up for that. Will you?
Oh, one last thing. He said he’ll be with us – all the way!