Disciples then members? Chicken – egg thing going on?

Please don’t think I’m picking a fight with Reggie McNeal, believe me, I know when I’m out gunned. On this particular point I tend to agree, but…
Yes, absolutely, we need to make disciples! How does one do that? Disciple is from the Greek word, mathetes, which is student and also a teacher. Pastor McNeal, speaking at the Southeast District Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod’s “Tending the Flame” conference says we should be more concerned about making disciples and not so concerned about making church members. Yea, not so quick.
We have put too little emphasis on making disciples, but seems that this might be a little “chicken-eggish” and I want to make the case that someone should be a member first, then be in more of a relationship to grow into discipling. In fact, Thom Rainer’s book “Simple Church”, would seem to support my thesis.
Rainer’s plan: 1) Let folks get a little comfortable, sit them down at some early point, teach them what they need to function in the church, make them a member.
2) Help them to be a member of a small group, which will be a, hopefully, less intimidating way to be a part of the church. Really grow as a disciple and also learn so that they can grow into facilitating their own group.
3) Finding the gifts that they bring to the church and building a group around like minded persons to serve the church.
The expectation is that the disciple has to start in a position of belonging, being a part of the group. Being a member is certainly going to facilitate that.
The LCMS teaches closed communion, that is you have to be a member to receive the true Body and Blood of Jesus. This is something that Pastor McNeal would probably not take into account since the Baptist church does not hold to a high view of the Lord’s Supper. Reason being, the LCMS wants the person to understand the whats and whys of worship. Why would you try to be involved in something that you really don’t know what it’s about?
I’d like to take it further, for six and a half days a week, we are doing what we should be doing, but certainly in Christian integrity. On that half day, we all get over ourselves and come together on the same basis as the Body of Christ, put aside all our unfounded “opinions” and nonsense, put away our self-obsession and spend serious time focused on God and real worship.
It just seems as if there are too many people who can’t put aside their personal agendas, their personal goals, their own footballs and continue to use their priorities as a way to avoid having to deal with Christ.
So I see this as an issue of being part of worship as a fully participating member of worship. I am very serious about this issue of membership because that is where people take some vows, begin to understand the seriousness of being part of the church, being a part of not just what the church is today, but what it has been over the past 2,000 years. That is truly belonging, being part of something.
I see this as another way of leaving your “stuff” at the door and joining with brothers and sisters and being responsible to them and them to you.
Too often we let people get bogged down in what is often just nonsense, we enable them by giving and giving and giving and we don’t put it in front of them; “This is what is going to address your problems! Maybe not according to your agenda, in your way, your cultural context, it may not be the right size, shape or color, but Christ is what you need.” Sorry, guess I’m going to keep doing it backwards, like the Acts church. Yes, I will do what I can to reach out, but my highest priority is always going to be worship, serving those in the church community, brothers and sisters in Jesus. They are my priority, versus those who remain in the periphery, the shadows, not willing to commit and too often just there to pursue their own agenda. I am not going to be an “enabler” and just keep going along with every avoidance mechanism each person employs. This means those who use their poverty or their disability, or their lack of initiative, alcohol, drugs or some other agenda in order to avoid a real commitment, claim that is what keeping them from Christ. But oh yeah, when’s the Food Bank open?
Yea it really is about maintaining the excuse and expecting someone to keep enabling them.
Does this mean that I expect you to have your act together before you come to church? No! It does mean give and take, being part of the community, not just taking, but learning how to start giving back. It can be done. I’ve seen it. But it’s done when you become a member and make a commitment to growing as a member and a disciple.
Frankly it seems to me there are plenty out there looking for that opportunity. “Yes I need help, but I also need a chance to be part of something that I can give to.” It doesn’t have to be a lot, a little change, a little time, a little service to others here and there. But this Sunday morning put away all the bupkus, come together with brothers and sisters in Jesus and come to worship. You’ve got 6 1/2 days to has out the rest of it. Frankly, I bet that Sunday morning will give you more of an opportunity to work out the rest of it, then the next 6 1/2 days will. Go ahead tell me I’m wrong. In the meantime, quit the “Cool Joe” stuff, or I don’t know the Groucho Marx, “I wouldn’t be a member of any club that would have me as a member”, make a commitment to really come before God. To the church, make a commitment to get people to be a true part of the church and quit the nibbling around the edges. Focus on those who make the commitment, if you can do something for the others then go for it.

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