25 November, 2021

Missing: The Main Thing

by | 24 October, 2020 | 2 comments

Recently I was on our website reading church job postings for ministers. (No, I’m not looking for a new job!) Many include the expected responsibilities of preaching on Sunday mornings and evenings, teaching on Wednesday nights, performing weddings and funerals, attending meetings, counseling, and visitation, to name a few. But something significant and urgent—and biblical—is often missing. Can you guess what it is?

Paul said, “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers . . .” to do what? To preach and teach, marry and bury, and attend meetings? While those roles are significant, the true goal is “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:11-12, my emphasis).

Discipling and developing others—passing the leadership baton to people who will pass it to still others—is a fundamental role and priority for biblical leaders.

The lack of leaders in the church today, both domestically and internationally, is troubling, and there’s an even greater shortage of leaders being prepared for the future. I addressed this problem in my August letter with a four-month call to pray, asking the Lord to send workers into his harvest fields. Prayer is our first response in addressing this issue, but it’s far from our only response. Jesus instructed his own disciples to ask the Lord for more workers even as he was equipping them as harvest workers. We should do the same.

Christlike leaders prioritize reproducing themselves. I love how Leighton Ford put it in Transforming Leadership: “Long before modern managers, Jesus was busy preparing people for the future. He wasn’t aiming to pick a crown prince, but to create a successor generation. When the time came for Him to leave, He did not put in place a crash program of leadership development—the curriculum had been taught for three years in a living classroom.”

Leadership development occurs naturally in churches that have a discipleship environment in place. A failure in developing leaders is the sad consequence of a failure to truly disciple our people. The question is not how many sermons you’ve preached, how many people are in Sunday school classes or how many small groups you have. Success in Christ’s church is (or should be) based on how well we are making disciples who are going and making more disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey everything Christ has commanded. The real question is how well we’re doing at that—our main thing.

A failure in developing leaders is the sad consequence of a failure to truly disciple our people. Click To Tweet

Yet only 17 percent of American churchgoers say they have heard of the Great Commission and know what it means (see Kent Fillinger’s Metrics article). For younger churchgoers (millennials), the numbers are even worse. In what seems like good news, those who categorized themselves as evangelicals were much more aware of the Great Commission and its meaning (60 percent). I hate to be cynical, but that still means only 6 out of 10 of those who identify themselves as believers of Christian teachings and the gospel can even identify and understand the mission Jesus gave his church.

We haven’t truly discipled our people if they don’t know what the main thing is and if they are not obeying it.

Compare this with Disciple-Making Movements around the world where disciples are being made and churches are being planted rapidly. In DMMs, groups of people who are following Jesus and are committed to obeying his commands together gather in small groups or house churches that multiply repeatedly. (DMMs, aka Church Planting Movements, are mentioned in Kip Lines’s article “Unprecedented” and Dave Stewart’s article “Raising the Bar on Kingdom Impact.” Also see “The Phenomenon of Disciple-Making Movements” by Doug Lucas in our October 2018 issue. DMMs use Discovery Bible Studies to help promote the group multiplication process. Our weekly “Discover” studies in The Lookout section are a hybrid of this study method.)

David Watson, author of Contagious Disciple Making, said the development of a Church Planting Movement requires several actions:

• The equipping of leaders. Watson’s definition of leadership includes reproduction of leaders. A leader makes more leaders regularly.

• The obedience-based discipleship of all people. His definition of a disciple includes obedience to Jesus and the reproduction of disciples. An obedient disciple makes more disciples regularly.

• Bible study groups and churches that reproduce regularly.

• Church members who are ministering to their communities, so that the kingdom of God is expanding from individual to individual, family to family, community to community, city to city, and nation to nation.

Perhaps we can learn from Disciple-Making Movements, not simply to copy the methodology, but to restore the simple yet profound ways of Jesus: to make disciples who obediently make disciples. Let’s put that at the top of our job descriptions.


Reminder: Join us in praying daily, through the end of November, asking the Lord of the harvest to send workers into his harvest fields! Each day, Monday through Friday, a Restoration Movement leader shares a prompt to help you pray for future leaders. Subscribe for free to our “Daily Reading with The Lookout” email at www.ChristianStandard.com/newsletter.

<a href="https://christianstandard.com/author/mmackchristianstandardmedia-com/" target="_self">Michael Mack</a>

Michael Mack

Michael C. Mack is editor of Christian Standard. He has served in churches in Ohio, Indiana, Idaho, and Kentucky. He has written more than 25 books and discussion guides as well as hundreds of magazine, newspaper, and web-based articles.


  1. Larry E Whittington

    Knowing what the Bible says and what the Bible means is required to help disciple others. Classes, small groups, and the Sunday sermons must promote this learning and not just [be] an interesting discussion time or fellowship time if the Bible is not the source of discipline. If the Bible is not the basis of the believer’s life, he cannot be disciplined.

  2. Bob Kitchen

    I sooo agree with your evaluation and concerns. This has been on my prayer agenda frequently as I have noted a decline in equipping over the years with a weakness in shortchanging “how” and “why” over “what.” And, one of the biblical qualifications is NOT “he’s a good man.”

    So, who am I to say? I’ve written for Standard and The Lookout from a prospective of being a church consultant, elder in four churches, and on planting teams in several others in Ohio, Michigan, and Georgia.

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