We Make Shoes
After 21 years in pastoral and missionary work… the wheels came off. I was burnt out. Recovering from burnout has been a difficult and slow process, but thankfully life is a lot better now.
One thing that I did have during my time of recovery was plenty of time to think about everything. I had sensed for quite a while that some things were missing in the way that we “do church”, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what those things were. After sitting back on the sidelines for a while and just watching the game being played, I would like to share some thoughts with you about what I believe are some things which are missing in the church today.
WE MAKE SHOES
Just imagine, for a moment, this slogan hanging on the wall of a great factory. “We make shoes.” Obviously, it is a shoe factory and was started by the founder to make shoes. The factory exists for this purpose and the managers and leaders are very proud of the factory and its calling. After all, shoes are a very important part of life.
However, there is a problem in this factory. Not a lot of shoes are made considering the amount of people working in the factory and the money that is spent to run it. Everyone knows this and is a little saddened by it, but year after year the factory continues in the same way – busy, bustling, but still only producing a small number of shoes. Every now and then new campaigns are launched and the excitement level rises. For a short time, it seems that the production line has come alive, but sadly at the end of the year the result is still the same and very few shoes are made.
What do you think about the managers and the workers of this factory?
They mean well and believe in the slogan and they truly hope that the next year will produce more shoes, but they do nothing to significantly change or even to talk openly about the problem.
WE MAKE DISCIPLES
This is the founder’s motto for the church (Matthew 28:19-20). Its primary function is to be involved in the process of making disciples. The motto is on the wall, and we all believe it. It’s just that in many churches there aren’t a lot of disciples being made from year to year. Should we just hope for more for the future or is it time to have a good look at ourselves and see what may be missing in the church?
1. A Sense of Urgency
The early church buzzed with excitement and activity. There was a sense of urgency about telling people about the gospel. The consequences were far too serious to not take the task seriously as the disciples knew that the people around them were on their way to everlasting punishment in hell unless they accepted Jesus and His grace into their lives. The possible imminent return of Jesus also fueled this passion and
sense of urgency.
Is there a sense of urgency in our churches today? Do we still believe in the eternal consequences for people who do not accept salvation? The topics of judgement and hell don’t seem to be mentioned all that much in churches and in the conversations that Christians have amongst themselves or with those who do not know Jesus in their lives. Sure, there is busyness and many challenging words of commitment
expressed in our worship services, but is there a burning sense of the urgency to the task that we have been called to do?
2. An Openness to Evaluation
A lot of change has occurred in the past year as a result of the global economic crisis. Businesses and organisations have had to carefully review their effectiveness and re-invent themselves, perhaps even more than once, to be on the cutting edge. Businesses have had to be very quick to spot products and programs that weren’t being successful and immediately modify or discontinue them if they’ve wanted to stay viable.
In what ways has the church stopped to review and re-invent itself? I find that churches can become very defensive when anyone suggests that there is a problem. Somehow, they feel that evaluation leads to a blame game. Either the pastors and leaders are slacking off or the people just aren’t making the grade. However, it doesn’t have to be like that. Honest and open evaluation is absolutely necessary to the health of any organisation, but more crucially in times of social change.
What business would keep the factory going in the same way if, year after year, just a few shoes were produced? What outlet would not reconsider its placement if only a very few people dropped by even just to look at the shoes? What factory would keep making shoes that no one was buying?
When was the last time you were asked to give an account of your life as a disciple?
How is your relationship with Jesus?
What is your personal strategy for reaching outwith the gospel?
How did you go last week?
What is Jesus speaking to you about at the moment?
These are all valid and important questions, but so often no one is asking them. Christians come and go from church services and small groups and
often only share bits of personal news and items for prayer. Accountability is different than sharing. Accountability means that I want to grow and
serve, and I belong to a system that is designed not to judge me but to keep me on track. It is human nature to fall behind if there is no accountability. Disciples need to give an account. Leaders need to give an account. Churches and denominations need to give an account of what they have done for Jesus and their plans for increasing their effectiveness in the future.
Who is asking the tough questions?
We can be so afraid of accountability, and maybe we should be as it could expose our ineffectiveness in fulfilling our primary calling. Accountability is confronting, but for those who want to produce fruit for their Saviour, it is a necessary part of the process. So often churches base their evaluations of their performance on event attendance and overall financial contributions. There is so much more to being
fruitful as a disciple than simply attending or helping at events(Jn 15:5). What is spiritual fruitfulness? How can I know that I am on track as a disciple? How can my church family help me to become more fruitful?
Coaching takes a person at the skill level they are at and works with them to produce greater results. As I look back on my time as a pastor, I regret not doing more coaching. Jesus coached his disciples. He lived with them, trained them, released them, and then gave them feedback on their performance.
This is a very different model than the one we find in most churches where there is a weekly teaching time and more teaching and discussion in small groups. Sometimes I hear people who have been Christians for many years say that they need more “deep teaching”. If the goal of the teaching is simply to know more, then I see a real problem with this attitude as I believe that the goal of teaching should not be just the attainment of more knowledge but a closer relationship with Jesus and more fruitful service for Him (2 Tim 3:16-17).
What worker in any occupation in the world has had as much teaching about their role as the average Christian? And yet we still wait for more before we can be effective. The disciples went out with minimal information, but they knew enough and they relied on the Holy Spirit. As I look at the New Testament, I see Jesus giving more “on the job” training and coaching rather than just teaching.
5. A complete surrender to Jesus
An intrinsic component of our call as disciples is to follow Jesus and surrender our wills to Him (Lk 9:23). Sadly, churches fill people’s lives with things to attend and help with. Once created, these programs require ongoing energy and commitment to maintain even if they are ineffective. In all the busyness, programs, and man made agendas do we, as disciples, have the time and freedom to simply ask “Jesus what are we doing today?”
The whole universe belongs to God and yet we become so possessive of certain things. I like the words of that classic hymn “all to Jesus I surrender”. We need to surrender our lives, our little power domains, the sense of ownership of our church, the need to do our own thing, our feelings of theological superiority over others, and denominational pride and allow Jesus to unite us as His people marching under one
Just imagine what Jesus could achieve if all of His disciples simply listened and followed Him. Jesus knows what He is doing, but do we know what He is doing? These are some of the things that I believe are missing. Whether they are accurate or not, at the end of the day let’s remember:
WE MAKE SHOES