I ran across a quote in a book I am reading and thought it had something to say to the way we do church in the west. So much of the evangelical approach to discipleship has been information-based over the last many years. Is that good enough today? Information is at our fingertips through Google. Beyond that, information alone doesn’t seem to produce dynamic, committed and transformed Christ followers. If information alone would do that, then we would be the most Christlike generation in the history of Christendom. By anyone’s sane estimation we are not.
A few years ago, General Motors hired a man named Robert Lutz to help turn around the ailing automaker. Bob Lutz is not exactly a touchy-feely, artsy-fartsy kind of guy. He is a craggy, white-haired white man in his seventies. During his career, he’s been an executive at each of the big three American automakers. He looks and acts like a marine, which he once was. He smokes cigars. He flies his own plane. He believes global warming is a myth peddled by the environmental movement. But when Lutz took over his post at beleaguered GM, and The New York Times asked him how his approach would differ from that of his predecessors, here’s how he responded: “It’s more right brain…I see us being in the art of business. Art, entertainment and mobile sculpture, which, coincidentally , also happens to provide transportation.”
Let that comment settle in for a moment. General Motors says it is in the art business. The art business. And the person leading GM into this right-brain world isn’t some beret-topped artiste but a seventy-something piss-and-vinegar former marine. ~~~Daniel H. Pink, A Whole New Mind
Disciple-making is the process where a Christ follower is transformed into the likeness of Jesus of Nazareth. I have believed for years that you can’t make an intellectual connection with someone until you have made an emotional connection. Art moves us emotionally. By the way, this is one of the transcendent distinctions we have as humans over the rest of the animal world. We are artist. We get that from the one who placed his image into and onto us.
God created (did art) in the book of Genesis and then evaluated it by saying, “It is good.” Look at that world “evaluated.” I see in it the word “value.” God assessed the value of what he created. He judged it to be “good.”
Entertainment is present in the contemporary church. Some scoff at this as if it is not a serious way to make disciples. And I agree that many preachers try too hard to be popular, hip, cool and relevant. (For many churches every Sunday is “Youth Sunday.”) That is their persona. They are very intentional about that. Sometimes in our efforts to be hip, cool, relevant we might have become course and flippant with the Gospel. Going for the cheap laugh at the expense of the weightier matters of sin and holiness.
Recently I watched a Youtube video of Pastor Francis Chan of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley. One of the rising stars of the new church. But read these words that he spoke to a convention in Atlanta:
I’ve being led by the right or wrong desires of the people. God calls us to give people what they need, based on His word, regardless of whether they stick around. Jesus led. Few followed, but He kept leading.
Last summer, I came to the shocking realization that I had to share with my wife: If Jesus had a church in Simi Valley, mine would be bigger. People would leave His church to attend mine, because I call for an easier commitment. I know better how to cater to people’s desires so they stick around. Jesus was never really good at that. He was the one who said, “He who loves father or mother… son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matt 10.37). I’m much more popular than Jesus.
Pastor Chan said these words with conviction and heaviness of heart. He said that he has determined to change his approach to disciple-making.
But entertainment/art is here to stay. Some ‘old school’ church goers might need to get used to it. Funny, we will pay a lot of money to go to a theater and see Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables. Or go to some outdoor amphitheater and see Jack Johnson or Dave Mathews and be moved in our souls, but the minute something like that comes into the church we scream of “selling out to the world.” Well as my friend Gary has said to me on a couple of occasions, “Build and bridge and get over it.”
Knowledge alone is not the answer. Been there, done that. In the 50’s our country was dominated by an evangelical culture. Today there is more data available in the history of the Christian world. And some of the most petty and immature people I know today are knowledge-bound believers.
I am not sure about this because I was not there, but I doubt Jesus had a set curriculum for making disciples. Can you hear Jesus saying, “Now, in our last meeting we discussed the following items? I gave you some homework and learning objectives. Let’s see how you did. Everyone hand your papers to the right and I will collect them now. Be ready for a pop quiz on Tuesday.”
No, I want to believe that Jesus used life and His relationship with His Father as the curriculum. And I can imagine story after story (story is art) around campfires as that band of first believers followed Jesus from town to town.
Churches would do well to never diminish the need for knowledge. Paul reminds us that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. And along with good information we might advance the Kingdom further if we couple with that great knowledge, beauty, song, story, and dance—-art.
Disciple-making is not complicated. Older believers live your life transparently before younger believers and tell the story. Your story is His-story. It is a good story. It is the canvas He is using to show the world who He is. Let Him do it. Disciple-making is an art.
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”—Genesis 1:31