Chicken or Egg? Church or Discipleship?

I recently heard Rev. Dan Hudson from Sanctuary Church in Manhattan, IL speak at the Movement Conference hosted by LINC – Twin Cities. Now, much of the conference moved me, but none more than an analogy that Dan drew up on a sheet of paper. It has to do with aligning our priorities with Jesus’ priorities in what it means to be a part of the Kingdom of God. To do this, he familiarized us with some computer lingo: Programming language, operating system and application. Here’s how they work together. We need a programming language to do anything with the computer. This is the most basic element. That language allows programmers to build an operating system as a platform for things to happen on the computer. The applications are the actual programs that are run on the operating system.

Drawing the Analogy

So, what is the “programming language” of Christianity? This is the easy one and we can express this many ways. I’ll put it this way: “God’s Work revealed through his Word.“ Things get more interesting when we look at the “operating system” of Christianity. Traditionally we would say the church is the operating system. God’s word touches people to draw us into the church. In the church we live out our Christian lives in different ways. In this framework, the “application” of being in the church is to be a disciple of Jesus. Under this model, the church is the means by which people become disciples. In order to be a true disciple, you really need to “go to church.” One problem. The Bible doesn’t order it that way.

Church or Discipleship?

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus doesn’t tell us to “go and plant churches in all nations.” He tells us to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Here’s how the Bible orders our little analogy.

The “programming language” is the same, but the “operating system is really discipleship, and the “application” is the church. This makes sense. How can we have a church without disciples of Jesus? People who have been touched by God’s word and believe by his Holy Spirit are not “church members” first! We are disciples of Jesus first! We follow Jesus first! We are to be known to the world as Christians first! We have had our lives dramatically altered through the work of Christ! Church is how each individual following Jesus can find encouragement and fellowship, where we can walk together and worship together and cry together and love together. Church is the application of discipleship.

This Changes Everything

For way too long we’ve put church before discipleship. We have somehow developed a mindset where we invite people to church so that the church can teach them how to follow Jesus. The church doesn’t make disciples. Disciples make disciples, and you are a disciple! People who are on the fence about Christianity aren’t usually ready for one of our worship services. So, before inviting them to worship, invite them to lunch… or better yet, over to your home for dinner. Build a relationship and be open about being a Jesus follower. Share your stories of life together and don’t forget the story of Jesus in your life. If they need to be invited to worship, you’ll know it.

Over the next few months, we’ll be looking seriously at how we can shift our ministry focus toward being Jesus followers every day, wherever we are. It’s cool! We all get to do this together. We like to call it “Bethel.”

“…making disciples for Jesus Christ in our church, neighborhood and world…”

Pastor Seabaugh

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