Kierkegaard once warned of the danger Christians face when they stop being in tension with the popular mentality.
There has been such an exciting evolution of methods for church growth, evangelism, and discipleship. I have tried my hand at quite a few – some with great success, and some not so great. It all happens so quickly with numbers being cranked out like a copy machine that there is scarcely enough time to take it in. Our culture loves numbers as the definer of success. Take TV ratings for instance. The success of shows is based on how many people watched an episode. If ten million watched the show, then it was a success. If half a million watched it, then it was a failure. Yet quality shows that have been hailed by critics have often had low viewing numbers resulting in cancelation. Sometimes I wonder if Jesus had a reality show, if it would be canceled because it’s not exciting. So the question is: how do we measure success in reaching the world for Christ?
I will admit, as a leader, I love numbers. They just feel good and affirming when they are high, and discouraging when they are low. But I ask myself this question often, despite the numbers, how many followers of Jesus are being produced with our methods? Not converts, or those who said a prayer, or filled out a card, but independent followers of Jesus who have decided to serve Him no matter what?
A. W. Tozer would have put it this way, “We say we are saving them, but to what?”. In other words, am I saving people to Jesus, or to my Christian subculture? Am I saving them to a person, or an idea? I have known church people who if their Church building burned down or closed, they would not know what to do with their lives. Their Christianity is based on a subculture, not on Christ. It’s no wonder why in some parts of the world, Christians called themselves “followers of Jesus” so not to be confused with the Western Christian subculture.
A question that may be helpful comes from the mandate of Jesus before finishing His earthly assignment, “Go make disciples”. He never said go crank out minions, slap a bible in their hands and teach them our “Christianeze” language that can only be decoded on Sunday morning.
In our methods, are we living the dangerous Christianity Kierkegaard mentioned that will never be opposed by the culture but will guarantee to draw the crowd?
We welcome numbers if they result in true disciples being formed, but never because of some shallow definition of success. This kind of Christianity may or may not produce great numbers. But one thing is for sure, it will always be in tension with the present culture.