1. From Trusting the Qualified to Releasing the Willing
The first and maybe most important is our view of the common man or woman (I prefer not to use). Most all of us will espouse a concept of the priesthood of the believer. Across the denominational and non-denominational landscape, concepts such as “every member a minister” are used to coax people out of the pew into the battle.
Theological statements such as “the ground at the foot of the Cross is level” popularize the truth found in Galatians 3:28, where Paul declares there is no distinction among ethnicity, gender, or economic status for followers of Jesus. There is equality of access to God through the work of Jesus in this world.
But equality is not the practice. Despite all attempts to the contrary, the control-management mind-set is in operation all around us. Most of us grew up in homes where parents set the rules and made the decisions; and we went to schools where teachers and administrator were in charge. Our health care is delivered in such a fashion that we have little say in diagnosis or treatment. We go to work where we have bosses in charge, who make most of the decisions. So it is only natural that, when it comes to designing organizations to further God’s purposes in this world, we adopt the prevailing sentiments.
The plea to “let my people go” may find its origin in Moses’ relationship with the pharaoh of Egypt, but a litany of books traversing almost every denomination have shouted this epitaph openly. Roland Allen, writing in the early 1900s, says that the movement of the good news “is hindered by a very widespread conviction that we cannot trust untrained men to propagate the Faith.”2 Allen stands in a long line of prophetic voices trying to remove the handcuffs from the common man and tap the greatest potential of the Church.
Who is able to disciple? The trained, equipped, theologically educated, seminary graduate, and, of course, the ordained are. Why? Because we are stuck in the mental mind-set that presumes knowledge leads to spiritual maturity. This confounds me because some of the meanest, unloving people I know are chock full of Bible knowledge. Somehow it didn’t work for them. The truth is, it doesn’t work for everyone. It is not about knowledge but about obedience. Paul told us what knowledge does—it puffs us up (1 Cor. 13).
Until we give up our misplaced trust in subject-matter experts and understand that Jesus doesn’t need the equipped but the willing, we will never mine the wealth of Christ followers and discover the viral power of the good news. As soon as someone begins to express obedience to Jesus, you have engaged a potential disciple-making disciple. All they need is a simple repeatable process to help others do the same thing they are doing so movements can begin.
“But oh no, that couldn’t happen!” many will say. But it did. We all are the result of it happening once. No seminaries or trained theologians, just ordinary people willing to obey Jesus. He started a disciple-making movement with a team not even fully on board with who He was or what he was up to. He started anyway.
We fail to see that the gospel is the power of God, not a person’s knowledge or character.
I can hear what you are thinking—He didn’t have a choice, but we do. So you are saying that all-wise, powerful, and knowledgeable God painted Himself in a corner with the disciples he chose. He didn’t have a choice? Surely you can see that you are defending your paradigm and not thinking clearly about God. He can do what He wants, when He wants, with whom He wants, right?
In ,3 M.I.T economist Daron Acemoglu and Harvard political scientist James A. Robinson conclude that nations thrive when they develop inclusive political and economic institutions, and they fail when the institutions become “extractive” and concentrate power and opportunity in the hands of only a few.
Maybe the church in the west is in trouble because we are exclusive. Is knowledge the currency of the exclusiveness that we have concentrated in the hands of the trained? Our confidence in the equipped has led to a sterile plateaued pattern of growth. We are like the cherry blossom trees in Washington DC. Everyone loves to look at them when they produce those soft pink blooms. They don’t they produce cherries, only pretty flowers. They are ornamental rather than fruit producing, like many churches today.
Christian leaders need to radically and ruthlessly reexamine the faulty theological frameworks built through centuries of misreading the Bible. Movements of multiplicative disciple making don’t happen in an atmosphere of hierarchal exclusivity. People movements throughout history have happened when people’s bias for action is not stymied by wondering if they have permission or if they are qualified. God the Father is in our world reconciling it to Himself (2 Cor. 5:16–21) and ready to be the Teacher (John 6:44–46). God the Spirit is ready to lead people to God the Son (John 16:8–11). It is time to “let the people go” by giving them a simple, repeatable strategy for making disciple-making disciples.