When Jesus first appointed the Twelve he gave them a title. We call them disciples (followers), and our mental picture is of 12 blokes following Jesus around, watching him do stuff. But Jesus gave them the title apostles (sent ones).Right from the very start Jesus signalled to his followers that they were going to be sent out on his behalf. What they heard Jesus preach and saw him do, they knew they would be doing too. They weren’t just rent-a-crowd to cheer. They were being apprenticed.
I wonder what signals we send to those who come into our churches or grow up in them? Do we tell them explicitly that they need to learn this stuff, because they are going to be preachers, they are going to be pastors, they are going to be leaders, they are going to be missionaries? Do we signal to them that every week counts, that every Bible study counts, that every prayer meeting counts, because they’re going to be out there starting new ones? Or do we signal to them that when they join our church that they’ve arrived, and should settle down and tithe for a few decades?
Are we hoarders or senders? Are we tamers or trainers? What if we measured success not by how many people a church gets, but by how many strong disciples a church sends?
A church of 100 that grows by 10 each year will have 1,100 people after a century. But a church of 100 that grows by 10 each year, and sends out 20 to plant a like-minded church whenever it reaches 120, will after a century have a network of over 107 million… What a difference the subtle signals – that betray our definition of success – make.