Attempting to do ministry against the strong man

There seems to be a running dialogue among church leaders about how much of our resources and energy in the church should go into the Sunday morning hour and how much should go into discipleship.

Some say that all Sunday morning will do is grow you a crowd, but real discipleship rarely happens in an audience-oriented large group setting. Sunday morning is only valuable if accompanied by life-on-life discipleship and chances to put what you are learning into practice.

Those who lean toward Sunday morning counter however, that Sunday morning is where your best teacher will communicate the Gospel, and where you will most teach people vision, doctrine, and how to worship. Furthermore, they point out that the quality of the Sunday morning experience is the single-biggest factor in determining whether someone comes to your church. Quite simply, you cannot disciple people who aren’t there, and what you do on Sunday morning determines whether or not they will be there. You can have awesome discipleship opportunities, but if Sunday morning stinks, then you’ll simply be discipling each other. Many of them use the phrase, “Sunday morning, stupid.” Sunday morning determines

What is the answer? Of course, you have to have both and there is truth in both. However, let me explain why we here at the Summit, while trying to make our Sunday morning quality truly excellent,  spend a lot of money on things that don’t necessarily increase our Sunday morning numbers.

I’ve really been intrigued by Jesus’ parable in Luke 11:21-26 about the man whose house is held by a “strong man” (representing a demon), drives him out, only to have that “strong man” go back and get 6 of his buddies who come back and re-takeover the house. Now, there are 7 strong men holding this man’s house captive rather than just one. Jesus surmises, “The last state of the house is worse than the first.”

In order to get the strong man out and keep him out, Jesus says, a “Stronger Man” (v. 22) must be invited in that can protect the house against the strong man. That “Stronger Man,” is, of course, Jesus Himself.

The meaning is clear enough: Any attempts to reform our lives, or take by our lives from the “strong man,” Satan, will ultimately fail unless we allow the “Stronger Man,” Jesus, to take possession.

Traditionally this parable has been applied to those people who are trying to reform themselves. They cannot. The enemy is just too strong. But I think there is another application, especially for church leaders, in light of the question I posed above.

I think it demonstrates to pastors just how much damage we are doing when we lead people to initial decisions but don’t invest much in their continuing on to committed, full-orbed discipleship.

When we lead people to make decisions on Sunday morning, we are seeing “the strong man” driven out. This is great. But unless people learn, through the process of discipleship, to let Jesus pervade every part of their lives, ultimately we are setting ourselves up for failure. The “numbers” we can boast may make us feel good, but we are dooming people to “repossession” by the enemy.

God has not called me to collect names of people who drive out the strong man, but to see people filled with the Stronger Man, to see their whole lives transformed as He takes possessions.

My parents’ walk with Christ took off as a result of a church that was as committed to taking them deep with the Stronger Man as they were in seeing them cast out the strong man. If the church my parents had encountered simply got them to make a decision and baptized them, but not taken them on with God, my life would probably look radically different today.

We’re not after numbers of decisions. Not at all. We’re after numbers of disciples. And disciples are not people who get moved by a message, check a box, or get baptized. That is only the beginning. Disciples are people who become an active part of God’s community, pouring their lives out in service for the Kingdom.

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  1. cb scott   •  

    Excellent. Thank you for writing this article.

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