Marks of a Disciple Making Culture - Intentionally Focused

Just as no book’s written by accident, no sculpture’s sculpted by chance, no disciple making culture’s developed without intentionality. What’s intentionality? It’s on purpose actions designed to reach a specific destination. And it’s essential to developing a disciple making culture. Intentional sits opposite from “relational” on this key disciple making scale and it cannot be ignored.

Today we’ll put our magnifying glass on intentionality; the third mark in our series on disciple making cultures. First, we looked at the importance of Big Vision Delivered One Heart at a Time. Holding clear a vision that can only be accomplished with God motivates us to both depend on Him and lay down our lives to make it happen. Second, we looked at the need to be Relationally Driven, an especially difficult task in our systems culture. Relationally driven cultures function within the messiness of relationships that are intentionally cultivated with the principle of love.

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Ministry without intentionality is like a road trip without a GPS. You’ll end up somewhere, but probably not where you’d hoped. Pastors who embark on such journeys know the direction they want to go, but have no particular destination in mind. They pull out of Dayton, OH knowing they want to head South, but have no preference whether they end up in Florida, Texas, or Panama! When storms or intersections demand decisions, they survey the landscape and take a turn. In other words, they lead responsively, not proactively. Such reactive leadership is jarring to followers and short-sighted. Intentional leadership is characterized by clarity of vision and clear, purposeful movement towards that destination.

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Intentionality, however, doesn’t necessarily lead to disciple making. In fact, most churches are proactively intentional about increasing their numbers of butts, bucks, and baptisms. All good measurements, but none of them equal disciple making Jesus-style. Disciple making pastors don’t just do things on purpose, they do the right things on purpose. Intentional disciple making pastors make decisions with a very specific destination in mind.

It goes back to the old incorrect adage that “practice makes perfect.” In truth, practice doesn’t lead to perfect, only perfect practice leads to perfect. In fact, imperfect practice is counter-productive, leading to both bad habits and false perceptions of progress. In the same way, intentionality must be rooted in the soil of developing disciple makers in order to grow a disciple making culture. Jesus was a master at this type of intentionality.

There was nothing accidental about Jesus’ life. He was on a mission for God and maintained clarity around His central purpose (John 4:34, 5:19-20). His purpose was centered on developing His disciples to carry on after Him. In John 17, prior to the cross, Jesus reveals His purpose by saying, “I have brought you glory by completing the work you gave me to do,” and “they [the disciples] were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.”

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In disciple making cultures, leaders embrace the call of developing disciples. Disciple makers know that developing new disciple making disciples is the game, not gathering large amounts of people, baptizing many, or even getting them in the Bible. Still, for most pastors, a paradigm shift must take place. Since Sunday services are the focal point for most churches, pastors are tempted to equate the big for best. Disciple making pastors view Sunday mornings like minor league baseball managers. Unlike major league managers, whose goal is to win every game, minor league managers use games to develop their players. The outcome of the games is a reflection of their players’ growth, not the focus of the team.

So where does intentionality begin in a disciple making culture? It begins with your life with God. Just as “flesh gives birth to flesh and Spirit gives birth to Spirit” (John 3:6), intentionality gives birth to intentionality. Day by day, decision by decision are you making decisions based on the true north of being a disciple and making disciples or is your attention captured by that which glitters and shines?

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • To what degree are you being very careful how you live? (Eph. 5:15).
  • Are you living in faith as it relates to non-Christians?
  • Do your choices reflect a commitment to be a disciple worth reproducing?
  • Are you denying yourself so that you can be an influencer and developer of disciples?
  • Is your focus on developing disciple makers or to “win” on Sunday mornings?