It has been said, there are two, critical questions every successful CEO and business owner must answer. First, “What is your business?” Second, “How is business?”
If we put these two questions to the Church, how would we answer them? “What is our business?” In other words, what is our purpose, or our reason for existence? Defining our business is fundamental to a healthy, growing church. Without a clear understanding of why we exist, we may produce a lot of activity but never accomplish God’s purpose. In other words, we may work a lot, but never produce any product.
The Bible gives us a clear and simple definition of the business of the church. Matthew 28:19-20 says our business is making disciples. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” As we go, we are to make disciples of all people groups. That is our business.
If making disciples is our business, how is business? Are we making disciples? If so, what kind of disciples are we making? The future of the church depends partly upon how we answer these questions. Never before, in the history of the church have so many congregations lost their direction and purpose. I am convinced this is why over 3,000 Protestant churches close their doors every year in the United States.
Before we can answer the second question, “How is business?” we must define the word “disciple.” If our business is making disciples, what is a disciple? The short answer is “someone who reflects Christlikeness in his life.” Disciples in the Bible however, did more than just reflect the likeness of Jesus.
Greg Ogden in his book, Transforming Discipleship, (Intervarsity Press, 2003), gives a more complete definition of a disciple. He says a disciple is “a self-initiating, reproducing, fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.” In other words, a disciple is someone who is a fully committed follower of Jesus, who consistently leads others to become fully committed followers of Jesus. Christlikeness is the goal of every disciple – to reflect Jesus Christ in every area and aspect of his or her life.
Disciple-making is more than preaching the Gospel, or sharing the Good News. According to the New Testament, disciple-making takes place in and through personal relationships. Andrew found Peter and “brought him to Jesus.” Phillip found Nathaniel, and led him to Jesus. (John 1) Disciple-making requires the investment of time and emotional energy in the life of another person. It means walking with that person beyond their initial encounter with Christ into a full embrace of Christ’s claims on their life – until they learn to take up their cross daily and follow Him. Who in your sphere of influence are you leading to Jesus?
This kind of disciple-making is the “business” of the church – leading people to become fully committed followers of Christ who are leading others to become fully committed followers of Christ.
What are we doing both individually and as a congregation in making disciples?
In addition, if business is not going very well, what are we willing to do about it? Here are a couple of suggestions:
- First, we can acknowledge that making disciples is indeed our primary task, our number one priority as followers of Jesus.
- Second, we can adjust and arrange our lives around that priority. That is, we measure and evaluate everything else in light of this purpose. We ask, “How does this program or activity help us make disciples?” In other words, making disciples becomes the stack-pole around which everything else revolves.
If making disciples is the “business” Jesus gave to us as His followers, “How is business?