The reason Jesus left His disciples on the planet was to make other disciples. The fundamental reason your church exists is to make disciples of Jesus. To the church at Colossae, the apostle Paul wrote a defining statement about his ministry to the church.
“I have become its (the church’s) servant, according to God’s administration that was given to me for you, to make God’s message fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to His saints. God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.” (Colossians 1:25-29)
The apostle Paul labored with the energy of Christ to present everyone mature and transformed in Christ. Because Paul was convinced that transformation only comes through Christ, he labored to make disciples of Jesus and not of himself.
For a church to be deficient in discipleship is to be deficient in the church’s fundamental reason for existence. If any organization is shoddy in its core reason for existence, it matters nothing if the organization excels at other things. If Apple is deficient in designing computers, it matters nothing if they excel in outfitting and decorating their stores. If Starbucks is deficient in coffee, mastering the art of creating loyal employees means nothing. To be deficient in your core reason for existence is always unacceptable.
We have learned to do many things as church leaders. We build buildings. We design programs. We challenge donors. We staff our churches. We put on events. We rally people around new initiatives. And as our churches grow, we become increasingly proficient in a myriad of other things from branding to facility management. But are we making disciples? Have we become proficient in many things while simultaneously becoming deficient in the one thing that matters most?
When the apostle Paul felt compelled to defend his ministry, he didn’t point to his savvy leadership, the size of his team, the creativity or innovation in his ministry, his speaking ability, or the number of mission trips he was leading. He simply pointed to the transformation in people’s lives.
“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, recognized and read by everyone. It is clear that you are Christ’s letter, produced by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God–not on stone tablets but on tablets that are hearts of flesh.” (2 Corinthians 3:1-3)
Paul essentially says, “I don’t need a resume that outlines my effectiveness as a disciple-maker. Look at the transformed lives, because those lives are the resume. But please understand, I didn’t write the resume. Christ did. And when He wrote it, He wrote it on the hearts of people.” Transformation is the bottom-line end result of true discipleship.