Thursday, March 3, 2016

Making Disciples or Squeezing Turnips

Recent years have seen an emphasis on changing the scorecard for the church. While bodies, buildings, and budget once reigned supreme, many in the modern church have come to realize that people can show up, serve, and give to a local church and not even love Jesus, or really know God. Now, I don't mean that there is not an awareness of God (though possible), or a growing awareness of God's presence in a life (a good thing). What I mean is that people do certain things, including going to church (and serving/giving) out of habit.

And while this happens, some within the church are actively participating but are not counted among the numbers. (For instance, this coming week, two couple from our church will be gone, so they will not be counted among those present. Yet one couple is attending a church in a nearby town where the husband is preaching. The other is involved in proclaiming the gospel through music and will be doing so in another church this week.) So, the emphasis in many churches is changing to reflect a differing set of measurements. Yet, the objective nature of measuring the old standards, remains preferred in many areas.

The bigger problem is that some of the old measurement standards do not reflect what was important to Jesus who is the one who promised to build His church (Matthew 16.18). Jesus said His people should make it their task to make disciples (Matthew 28.19-20). As was mentioned above, one can be present at church, serve, and give and not be a disciple. But a disciple would do all of those things, and learn to do them not from obligation, but out of love. And the concerns that many have over budget matters, etc. would be resolved in disciples were being made.

Consider the following example. The average church has slightly less than 100 congregants in it. So for the sake of argument, I will use a much smaller number - 50. If 50 people in a church each led one person to Christ and as a part of discipleship process were able to get each new person to give only $10 per week, then after one year, the added budget amount would be $26,000. For a church of 50-100 people, that is a huge increase in the budget. And that is after just one year of one new disciple giving only $10 per week (if that was a title, the person would make only $5,200 per year, but if they haven't been giving, its a start!) (Calculation: 50 people x 52 weeks x $10/wk).

Or consider if those same 50 people, led two people to Christ each year for five years. If each of these new Christians did the same, then using the $10 per week figure, over that 5 year period over $750,000 would be available for Kingdom work. But it isn't about the money, it is about the principle of multiplication, and more importantly the principle of observing the command of Jesus to make disciples. Because more important than the $750,000, is the 1600 new souls in the Kingdom and the impact they will continue to make for the Kingdom.

So how does this relate to squeezing turnips? Perhaps you have heard the expression "squeezing blood from a turnip." The idea is that people only have so much to give. Eventually, to get any more, you have to squeeze it out of them, and that is only so effective. This principle is not new, even if the euphemism is.

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel Israel. We saw a few olive presses as we visited various parts of the country. But one location, near the home of the prophet Micah, we saw two olive presses in the same room. The round press was the "first press."

Olive Press - First Press
The first press was responsible for getting the first oil from the olives. This is the best oil (the virgin or extra-virgin olive oil). The oil was collected to be sold, but more oil remained. So a second press was developed. This press was effective at getting out the remainder of the oil, and it flowed through a small channel where it, too, was collected and then sold (or used for cooking). The oil from this press was not worth as much because it was what remained (the "leftovers") from the first press. But it still had a purpose. The problem was that after going through two different presses, the olive was useless.
Olive Press - Second Press

As Christians, and especially some Christian leaders, we find ourselves in need of getting more out of the people in our churches. Ideally, all people would choose to radically respond to the powerful truth of the resurrection, but most do not (self-included, more often than I would like to admit). If each person in the church could give just a little more, it would radically improve budgets and service within the church. However, if the people of the church were disciples making other disciples then the number of disciples would increase and the first press may be sufficient enough. The reality is that more disciples means even more disciples which will mean more money and more servants as well. But more money and more people serving does not necessarily equate to any disciples. And without more disciples the people currently involved will begin to feel like that olive that has been pressed too long, or in too many ways, to be useful any longer (or like the blood squeezed turnip).

So, before we ask for more __________ from those who currently attend our churches, we need to consider if we are making more - disciples. Only one approach will prove fruitful in the long-run. Only one approach follows the teachings of Jesus. And only one approach will truly be partnering with Jesus to fulfill His promise of "I will build my church."

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