“This evening, the Iraqi army invaded Kuwait. The United States will not stand by and watch an ally be overrun by a dictator.
“Therefore, I call upon every American citizen to travel to the Middle East to fight the Iraqis and help free Kuwait. Private citizens, gather your weapons – guns, knives, hatchets, pitchforks – whatever you can find. Book your plane tickets to Kuwait, and bring plenty of cash for food, transportation, medical care, etc. And may God be with you in this righteous cause.”
And the American people said, “Huh?”
This didn’t really happen. But what if it had? What if the President called upon untrained, unequipped, unsupported American citizens to travel 12,000 miles from home to fight a foreign army?
Two things: you’d have seen very few volunteers. And those who did go would have been routed. Quickly.
So what did President Bush really do? He sent in the military. Well trained. Well equipped. Well supported.
My little historical rewrite is designed to illustrate how ridiculous it is to expect men to make disciples without training, equipping and support. Yet this is exactly what many preachers and men’s ministers tell their men to do.
Many times I’ve been admonished from the pulpit to go out and make disciples – on my own, with little or no support from the church. “Just go out and find a handful of guys and start discipling them,” they say.
The few men who try this are usually routed. They quickly find themselves in over their heads. They have a bad experience, so they never try it again.
They become afraid to make disciples.
Disciple making is hard. It’s not a quick, one shot operation. It’s a slog. And it is absolutely, positively not meant to be done alone.
Jesus sent his men out two-by-two. Even before this, he built a very efficient disciple-making network.
First he trained 12 men. He paired them. Then sent them out to minister. They returned rejoicing.
Then he sent out 72 more. The Bible is not clear how these second-tier disciples were tutored, but I can work a calculator: Six pairs of apostles, each working with twelve men, could have trained the 72.
How effective was this disciple-making structure? Even the demons submitted to these men. (Matt 10:17)
The church often calls upon individuals to go out and serve God courageously – but we do not build the support structures around them that will enable them to succeed.
So what’s the answer?
We need to start thinking like a general when it comes to evangelism and discipleship.
A general’s first thought is training. How prepared are his men? Are they ready for the challenge that awaits?
His next concern is his supply lines. How will he get food, weaponry, medicine and vehicles to his frontline troops?
In the same way, pastors and men’s ministers should be thinking about training and equipping their people first. It’s important to build support networks around their members, so they can do the hard things Jesus called them to do.
Admittedly, the military generals have an advantage: their troops work for them full-time. They have to obey orders. Pastors command part-time armies full of reluctant volunteers who constantly flake out.
And Jesus had an advantage: he could perform literal miracles in real time. Feeding 5000 hungry men out of a lunch pail will get men’s attention.
Pastors and men’s ministers should realize that a call from the stage “to go out on your own and make disciples,” would rarely bear fruit. If anything, it would set men up for failure – to the point they will be afraid to ever minister again. Our churches are full of Christians who are paralyzed because they were burned last time they tried to minister in Jesus’ name.
If we’re serious about turning common men into disciple makers, our call to them must be along these lines: “We’re going to create a support structure around you so you can become disciple makers. Within this structure you will have a sacred role and an important function that only you can fulfill. We will train you and depend on you – and you can depend on us. When you are ready we will send you and a buddy to fight together. It will be hard. There will be victories and defeats. Through it all you will not be left behind. Now who’s ready for battle?”