What is a disciple-making culture?by Brian Upshaw
For three years I lived in New Orleans. Now that's a place with a distinct culture! Historically, Monday in the “Big Easy” was wash day and with it came the tradition of eating red beans and rice. In New Orleans, you don’t shop for groceries; you “make groceries.” New Orleans is a city known for its food, music, history and, like it or not, Mardi Gras. That's culture!
While your community may not be as flamboyant as New Orleans, it has a culture, too. So does your home. So does your church. Culture is like air. When it's taken away or changed, you notice. Culture is what is natural and normal in your environment. It is the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, architecture, habits, behaviors and values that color the world around you. Culture dictates the way things are.
The new five-year strategy of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is titled, “Impacting Lostness through Disciple-Making.” Included in the strategy statement is the commitment of North Carolina Baptists to strengthen existing churches and plant new churches by “creating a disciple-making culture.” When we talk about a disciple-making culture, we think of it as an environment or a climate in which followers of Christ order their everyday lives around their call to love God expressed by loving others, which results in producing more followers of Christ; it is disciples making disciples. You may recognize at least two biblical foundations in this definition—The Great Commission and the Great Commandment. The phrase “disciple-making” is from the Great Commission in Matthew Chapter 28, when Jesus commands His disciples to go make disciples. That’s the idea. Jesus is very clear in His desire that those who are His followers (disciples) should be persuading and helping others to become His followers (disciples). The last half of that definition is a reflection of the Great Commandment in the idea of ordering our everyday lives around our call to love God resulting in loving others.
In his recent commentary in World Magazine, Anthony Bradley challenges that the focus on being “radical” or “missional” discourages ordinary people from ordinary things for the glory of God. I believe that culture is observed in the ordinary. Bradley’s challenge begs us to ask the question, “For the disciple of Christ, what is ordinary?” The way believers answer this question is foundational to creating a disciple-making culture. As we examine the call of Christ, we cannot settle for anything less than the complete surrender of our lives to follow Jesus, thus becoming fishers of men (Luke 9:23, Matthew 4:19). In short, an “ordinary” Christian is a disciple who makes disciples.
Unfortunately, there is more talk in the church about making disciples than actual disciple-making. Simply put, disciple-making is not really our culture. For many, church culture is merely religious activity. You may initially disagree with this statement, but let me challenge you to look at your church’s calendar for the last six months. Were you busy in activity that helped multiply disciples or were you just busy? Look at your personal calendar. Were you busy investing in others for the sake of the gospel or were you just busy?
So, for discussion: In your opinion, what does a disciple-making culture look like? What would change if you began trying to create that culture in your home? Your church? Your neighborhood? As North Carolina Baptists we must awaken to our Lord’s command to impact lostness through the making of disciples.