Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Disciple To Purpose

Over the past three years, as I have moved the work of business development under the umbrella of the Church, I have had the opportunity to meet and talk with many, many pastors and church leaders. It is very clear to me that pastors and church leaders are passionate about transformation.  They long and desire to see people transformed, families transformed, communities transformed, and nations transformed for the glory of God.  But I am also beginning to learn of the challenges of transformation from within the church.  In order for transformation to take place, there needs to be knowledge and application.  In my interviews with churches, I am seeing multiple ways that the knowledge of transformation is being given:  through discipleship classes, marriage and parenting classes, evangelism classes, and so on.  The challenge comes in the application.

The formula again:  Transformation = Knowledge + Application.

In my recent visit to Kenya to find out about the application of the Discipling Marketplace Leaders ministry, we interviewed churches that had upwards of forty programs and departments. These churches are keeping their church members very busy in the church, going from class to committee to program.  It occurred to us that some churches keep their members so busy with gaining knowledge, that there is very little time or energy for application outside the four walls of the church.  I ran across this quote that underlined what we were observing: "The devil doesn't care if you go to church or read your Bible, as long as you don't apply it to your life."

The church needs to practice discipleship like Jesus. Jesus taught, but also sent his disciples out to proclaim and even bring the Kingdom of God. Discipleship is not merely about learning but also about transformation which comes through application. That is it's purpose - there has to be a practical outworking and application of the knowledge received in the teaching ministries of the church.  Discipleship without application is knowledge and keeping people busy, but doesn't lead to transformation.

Here are some calculations on our use of time during our key productive years from 20-65 years of age.  There is a total of 400,000 hours.  That time breaks down to 42% at work; 16% with family and friends; 33% sleeping; 5% eating; and 4% at church (based on 7 hours per week, which is generous).  The minority of our time is spent at church.  The majority of our time is spent at work, yet is rare to find a church discipling people to purpose in their place of work.  Instead we build a department for evangelism, rather than equipping people to being evangelists in their place of work.  We disciple people about how to read the Bible, but neglect to show how the Bible points to the Creation Mandate and how we should do our work in the workplace.  The sacred/secular split continues to be a wide gap, where people take off their "Christian" hat on Monday - Saturday, and replace it with their secular hat.  There has been little to no discipling to purpose for how we spend the majority of time in the world.  Yet, we have discipled people to purpose in terms of marriage, family, and church. 

Upon my return to Grand Rapids, Michael and I took a couple of days to ourselves, as is becoming our habit when we are separated for extended periods.  He took me to see the movie, "The Big Short," which is about the economic recession of 2008 (thumbs up on the movie - great cast).  It was amazing to see the overt greed and complacency of people involved in banking, housing, Wall Street, and real estate. It reminded me that this is what happens when we separate faith from our work.  When asked about some of the wrong-doing, several answered that it was "what everyone was doing."  The ripple effect of this greed hurt significant numbers of people in this country and beyond.  It underlined (with an exclamation mark!!!) the need for us as a Church to disciple to purpose.  We need people purposely resisting the temptations found in the Marketplace, with support, backing, equipping, and discipling by the Church. 

This is the work to which I believe God has called me to be an ambassador.  Discipling Marketplace Leaders is one aspect of where transformation can take place in businesses, with rippling effects to communities and nations.

One of the highlights of the recent trip to Kenya was signing a Memorandum of Understanding with CMS  (Connecting Mission Services Africa) with Rev. Dennis Tongoi.  I view Rev. Tongoi as one of the fathers of the Business as Mission movement and have great respect for him.  So for him to find usefulness in the Discipling Marketplace Leaders material and want to bring it to the churches with whom he works in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi, and the DR Congo is very exciting.  I look forward to learn even more about what he and his team learn as they roll this out.

Please pray with us for the churches who are starting this work.  There does seem to be a lot of spiritual warfare around this.  I don't think Satan does want us to figure out how to apply this in the workplace.  We need and covet your prayers for those pastors and churches applying this, as well as for those business people who are seeing themselves as Marketplace Ministers, representing Christ in their workplace.