Choosing the Long Road to Somewhere Instead of the Short Road to Nowhere

Life is filled with tensions. I’m not just talking about the negative tensions of managing relational conflict or figuring out how to pay the bills this month. I’m talking about the positive tensions of where to apply your greatest effort. In the whirlwind of life-as-usual, in the press of demands and limitations, how do you identify what is most important? How do you know where to invest the most and best energy?

If life is full of tensions, then leadership is the ability to navigate those tensions in the most helpful and effective ways, both for ourselves and for those around us. This is never more true than when we turn to the leader’s most valuable asset: their organization’s vision, its forward-looking view of where God is leading.

Every organization in the world that strives to advance its vision beyond itself wrestles with tensions within itself:

  • The tension between delivery and development. How do we deliver what we do with excellence while we develop the next generation of leaders behind us?
  • The tension between progress and process. How do we “ship” today to the most people while we improve what we do so that more leaders can “ship” tomorrow?
  • The tension between moving people and making people. How do we efficiently funnel masses through a pattern of programs while we spend the kind of time with individuals that influences their lives?

Navigating tensions like these is how a leader makes his or her most important contribution to an organization. As the steward of the organization’s vision, the leader must choose what the organization gives its best time and attention to. It is the leader’s responsibility to decide how their organization negotiates between delivery and development, progress and process, moving people and making people.

If we are honest, too often when deadlines get urgent and budgets get tight, we reduce our vision to delivery, progress, and moving people. That is where the most and best time goes when the “tyranny of the urgent” demands it of us.

But the best determiner of whether our vision will truly create the world we hope for is not whether we deliver today or make what-have-you-done-for-me-lately progress that turns the heads of those we report to. Instead, vision becomes reality for those who invest in development and process. The future belongs to leaders whose vision is always about making people and not just moving them.

In other words, in times of greatest urgency, we leaders must make our most counterintuitive move. Instead of trying to maximize our delivery, we must try to maximize our development. Instead of concentrating on progress, we must look at our process. Instead of trying to move people, we must correct our deficiency in making people.

In short, success in attaining our vision lies not with the question we most naturally ask but with the question we almost never ask. We must shift our interest from asking “What’s next?” to asking “Who’snext?”

The unmistakable truth is that our vision is only as good as the people in whom that vision has taken root. And while development, process, and making people are never the path of quickest reward, they are the path of greatest long-term effectiveness.

If, on the other hand, we choose the short path of what most people most value, we will inevitably miss the better path of the better future that got us into our calling to begin with. So today I’m inviting you to choose the harder and longer path of vision. If we recover our focus on who’s next over what’s next, I think we will find ourselves back on the long road to somewhere instead of the short road to nowhere.

> Read more from Dave.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dave Rhodes

Dave Rhodes

Dave is the Pastor of Discipleship and Movement Initiatives at Grace Fellowship Church in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the co-founder of Younique and Wayfarer, and a collaborative partner for 100 Movements, 10,000 Fathers. Before coming to Grace Fellowship, Dave served as the U.S. Team Leader for 3DM and as Lead Strategist for Wayfarer. Dave has authored several books and resources including Redefining Normal: An Open Invitation for Ordinary People Wanting to Become Extraordinary Disciples. Dave graduated from Palm Beach Atlantic University and went on to graduate from Beeson Divinity School with Master of Divinity. Dave is married to Kim and the father of 3 fabulous children—Emma, Izzie and Frankie. Normal-and-then-not-normal-fun-facts: Dave enjoys playing golf, watching college football and eating chicken wings—and maybe eating chicken wings a little too much.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Seven Truths About Authentic Discipleship

One of the ways you know you’re making progress is that you stop having the same discussion over and over again.

If you’re discussing the same issues on your team or at home year after year, you’re probably stuck.

When it comes to much of the discussion around discipleship, I believe we’re getting it wrong in the church.

We’re stuck.

What if the popular understanding of discipleship is producing some of the ill health and even stagnation and decline we see all around us in the church?

And what if you could do something about it by rethinking what you mean by discipleship?

Different Day, Same Conversation

From my earliest days in ministry, I’ve had a conversation about discipleship that repeats itself again and again.

It goes like something like this:

Me: People need to reach out more and focus more of their time, energy and resources on evangelism.

Other person(s): That’s a great idea but what we really need to focus on is discipleship. There’s such an immaturity in Christians today that we need to focus on growing the ones we have first. And besides, evangelical churches are known for producing shallow, immature Christians.

Pretty compelling logic.

Unless, of course, it’s wrong.

Flabby Christians

I agree that often Christians in the West are immature. I agree our walk doesn’t always match our talk.

But I also think the average North American Christian is about 3000 bible verses overweight.

The way many leaders approach maturity is to assume that knowledge produces maturity. Since when?

It’s wonderful that people understand what they believe, but knowledge in and of itself is not a hallmark of Christian maturity. As Paul says, knowledge puffs up. Love, by contrast, builds up. And some of the most biblically literate people in Jesus day got by-passed as disciples.

The goal is not to know, but to do something with what you know.  I wrote more on why our definition of Christian maturity needs to change here.

7 Truths About Authentic Discipleship

Here are seven things I believe are true about biblical discipleship church leaders today should reclaim:

1.  Jesus Commanded Us To MakeDisciples, Not Be Disciples.

The way many Christian talk, you’d think Jesus told us to bedisciples. He commanded us to make disciples. The great commission is, at it’s heart, an outward movement.

Could it be that in the act of making disciples, we actually become more of who Christ designed us to be? It was in the act of sharing faith that thousands of early Christians were transformed into new creations.

I know personally I grow most and learn most when I am helping others. It gives me a place to apply what I’m learning and to take the focus off myself and place it on Christ and others, where it belongs.

2. Discipleship Is Simply Linked To Evangelism.

The thrust of all first century discipleship was to share Christ with the world he loves and died for (yes, Jesus really does love the world).

You can’t be a disciple without being an evangelist.

And for sure, the opposite is true. You can’t be an an evangelist without being a disciple. But somehow many many people would rather be disciples without being evangelists.

3. A Mark Of An Authentic Disciple Includes Getting It Wrong.

A common criticism of churches that draw in large numbers of outsiders and newer believers is that these new followers of Christ get it wrong as often as they get it right. They might not realize that reincarnation isn’t biblical or struggle to understand the faith they’re stepping into.

What if that’s a sign that their discipleship is authentic?

After all, Peter didn’t get it right most of the time when he was around Jesus. Many leaders in the early church needed correction. And even Paul would later confront Peter about his unwillingness to eat with Gentiles.  And yet Christ chose to build the early church on Peter and Paul. Imagine that.

4. A Morally Messy Church Is…Inevitable

One stinging criticism of churches that are reaching people is that many of their attenders don’t bear much resemblance to Jesus.

These new, immature Christians can be

  • swayed by powerful personalities
  • still be sexually active outside of marriage
  • have questionable business practices
  • end up in broken families
  • be too swayed by the culture
  • not know how to conduct themselves in worship
  • doubt core doctrines like the resurrection

If these issues remind you of why you so dislike growing churches or megachurches, just realize that I pulled every one of those problems out of 1 Corinthians. The church in Corinth struggled with every problem listed above and (I think) every problem growing churches today struggle with.

And last time I checked the church in Corinth was an authentic church Christ loved.

The fact that you have these problems may actually be a sign you’re making progress with the unchurched. You don’t want to leave them there, but when people really start engaging with Christ, tidy categories are hard to come by.

In fact the most morally ‘pure’ people of the first century (the Pharisees) were the very ones Jesus most often condemned. Go figure.

5. Maturity Takes Time And Is Not Linear

It would be great if there was instant maturity in faith and in life. But it never works that way.

You can’t expect a 3 year old to have the maturity of a 13 year old, or expect a 23 year old to have the maturity of a 43 year old. When you place expectations on people that they are just not able to bear, you crush or confuse them.

And yet we do that in the church all the time. People grow and mature over time. And our progress isn’t always as linear as a 101, 201, 301 progression would make it. In fact, I know some 23 year olds who are more mature than some 43 year olds.

Expose new Christians to the love of God and community, to great teaching, great relationships, and solid accountability and over time, many will grow into very different people than they were when they first came to Christ. They may grow at different rates and in different measures, but I believe Jesus talked about that. Just don’t judge them after a few months or even a few years.

6. Christian Maturity Was Never About You Anyway.

Christian maturity has never been about you anyway. It is certainly not about how awesome you are compared to others, how smart you are, how righteous you are, or how holy you are.

It is about Jesus. And it is about others.

It was never about you anyway.

7.  Love Compels Us

If you love the world, how can you ignore it? Jesus said the authentic mark of his followers is love. He defined the primary relationship between God and humanity as one of love. The truth he ushered in is inseparable from love.

The primary motivation for evangelism and discipleship is the same; it is love. That should characterize both the discussion about evangelism and discipleship and also the way we go about both.

This isn’t an exhaustive treatment of discipleship and evangelism, but in the time it takes to sip a coffee I hope it helps some way advance the conversation about evangelism and discipleship in your church.
And if we advanced our understanding of discipleship in the church, maybe the church and our culture would be transformed.


Read more from Carey.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

7 Truths About Authentic Discipleship

One of the ways you know you’re making progress is that you stop having the same discussion over and over again.

If you’re discussing the same issues on your team or at home year after year, you’re probably stuck.

When it comes to much of the discussion around discipleship, I believe we’re getting it wrong in the church.

We’re stuck.

What if the popular understanding of discipleship is producing some of the ill health and even stagnation and decline we see all around us in the church?

And what if you could do something about it by rethinking what you mean by discipleship?

From my earliest days in ministry, I’ve had a conversation about discipleship that repeats itself again and again.

It goes like something like this:

Me: People need to reach out more and focus more of their time, energy and resources on evangelism.

Other person(s): That’s a great idea but what we really need to focus on is discipleship. There’s such an immaturity in Christians today that we need to focus on growing the ones we have first. And besides, evangelical churches are known for producing shallow, immature Christians.

Pretty compelling logic.

Unless, of course, it’s wrong.

I agree that often Christians in the West are immature. I agree our walk doesn’t always match our talk.

But I also think the average North American Christian is about 3000 bible verses overweight.

The way many leaders approach maturity is to assume that knowledge produces maturity. Since when?

It’s wonderful that people understand what they believe, but knowledge in and of itself is not a hallmark of Christian maturity. As Paul says, knowledge puffs up. Love, by contrast, builds up. And some of the most biblically literate people in Jesus day got by-passed as disciples.

The goal is not to know, but to do something with what you know.  I wrote more on why our definition of Christian maturity needs to change here.

Here are seven things I believe are true about biblical discipleship church leaders today should reclaim:

1.  Jesus commanded us to make disciples, not be disciples.

The way many Christian talk, you’d think Jesus told us to be disciples. He commanded us to make disciples. The great commission is, at it’s heart, an outward movement.

Could it be that in the act of making disciples, we actually become more of who Christ designed us to be? It was in the act of sharing faith that thousands of early Christians were transformed into new creations.

I know personally I grow most and learn most when I am helping others. It gives me a place to apply what I’m learning and to take the focus off myself and place it on Christ and others, where it belongs.

2. Discipleship is simply linked to evangelism.

The thrust of all first century discipleship was to share Christ with the world he loves and died for (yes, Jesus really does love the world).

You can’t be a disciple without being an evangelist.

And for sure, the opposite is true. You can’t be an an evangelist without being a disciple. But somehow many many people would rather be disciples without being evangelists.

3. A mark of an authentic disciple includes getting it wrong.

A common criticism of churches that draw in large numbers of outsiders and newer believers is that these new followers of Christ get it wrong as often as they get it right. They might not realize that reincarnation isn’t biblical or struggle to understand the faith they’re stepping into.

What if that’s a sign that their discipleship is authentic?

After all, Peter didn’t get it right most of the time when he was around Jesus. Many leaders in the early church needed correction. And even Paul would later confront Peter about his unwillingness to eat with Gentiles.  And yet Christ chose to build the early church on Peter and Paul. Imagine that.

4. A morally messy church is…inevitable

One stinging criticism of churches that are reaching people is that many of their attenders don’t bear much resemblance to Jesus.

These new, immature Christians can be

  • swayed by powerful personalities
  • still be sexually active outside of marriage
  • have questionable business practices
  • end up in broken families
  • be too swayed by the culture
  • not know how to conduct themselves in worship
  • doubt core doctrines like the resurrection

If these issues remind you of why you so dislike growing churches or megachurches, just realize that I pulled every one of those problems out of 1 Corinthians. The church in Corinth struggled with every problem listed above and (I think) every problem growing churches today struggle with.

And last time I checked the church in Corinth was an authentic church Christ loved.

The fact that you have these problems may actually be a sign you’re making progress with the unchurched. You don’t want to leave them there, but when people really start engaging with Christ, tidy categories are hard to come by.

In fact the most morally ‘pure’ people of the first century (the Pharisees) were the very ones Jesus most often condemned. Go figure.

 5. Maturity takes time and is not linear

It would be great if there was instant maturity in faith and in life. But it never works that way.

You can’t expect a 3 year old to have the maturity of a 13 year old, or expect a 23 year old to have the maturity of a 43 year old. When you place expectations on people that they are just not able to bear, you crush or confuse them.

And yet we do that in the church all the time. People grow and mature over time. And our progress isn’t always as linear as a 101, 201, 301 progression would make it. In fact, I know some 23 year olds who are more mature than some 43 year olds.

Expose new Christians to the love of God and community, to great teaching, great relationships, and solid accountability and over time, many will grow into very different people than they were when they first came to Christ. They may grow at different rates and in different measures, but I believe Jesus talked about that. Just don’t judge them after a few months or even a few years.

6. Christian maturity was never about you anyway.

Christian maturity has never been about you anyway. It is certainly not about how awesome you are compared to others, how smart you are, how righteous you are, or how holy you are.

It is about Jesus. And it is about others.

It was never about you anyway.

7.  Love compels us

If you love the world, how can you ignore it? Jesus said the authentic mark of his followers is love. He defined the primary relationship between God and humanity as one of love. The truth he ushered in is inseparable from love.

The primary motivation for evangelism and discipleship is the same; it is love. That should characterize both the discussion about evangelism and discipleship and also the way we go about both.

This isn’t an exhaustive treatment of discipleship and evangelism, but in the time it takes to sip a coffee I hope it helps some way advance the conversation about evangelism and discipleship in your church.

And if we advanced our understanding of discipleship in the church, maybe the church and our culture would be transformed.

> Read more from Carey.


 Would you like to learn more about authentic discipleship? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Discipleship >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

John — 10/15/16 10:54 am

Gospel according to Luke that the harvest is ripe but laborers are few. I think we tend to be Peter. Some (hopefully most) of us "get it" in time. (Ref. Baptism of Cornelius).

Ted Shoemaker — 10/26/15 6:40 pm

I'm not clear as to whether Carey Nieuwhof is pitting evangelism vs maturity, big church vs deep church. There is no need to do so. Each one supports the other. Perhaps Nieuwhof is gifted (or motivated) in terms of one; and I may be gifted/motivated in terms of the other. We each need the other. Xaris, Ted Shoemaker

Curt Kekuna — 10/26/15 11:47 am

Very insightful and comforting to know others question what's popular or current! You helped me understand the stirring in my soul concerning the focus of discipleship. Thank you.

david bartosik — 10/18/15 11:49 pm

I love your #2 "Discipleship is simply linked to evangelism." Shouldn't that lead us to deepen in our thinking? John Piper said, "Thinking serves feeling. God gave us the ability to learn and reason, so that we might admire and treasure him above anything else. Right thinking is for deep feeling." Shouldn't we want to help people think deeply about God so it naturally flows out of their life? And if its not flowing out of their life the conclusion should be it hasn't changed them as much as they think or as we would hope? It seems to me that it will return us to more thinking not more empty actions right?

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.