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College Football & Discipleship

(Photo by Matthew Hynes, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

College football finally gets started in a week. The Nebraska Cornhuskers play Northwestern in Ireland in what’s termed Week 0! Most know that in Nebraska, there are two seasons: football season and off season.

Off season has seemed particularly long this year. It can be that way when you only won 3 games the previous year. 

Mostly 25 years of faded glory.

Not that there would ever be a question in this community, but clearly the best (one of the best?) defensive linemen in the last decade or two has been Ndamukong Suh. Powerful. Quick. Smart. Quarterback sacks! Tackles for loss!

So, where’s all of this going?

I was back in Nebraska last month for a quick visit with a few of our PLI friends and partners. 

I was trying to explain the challenge before pastors today:

  • Trained for a world that no longer exists. (Could you imagine a group of pastors 25 years ago fielding the type of questions your pastor fields as weekly fare today?)
  • Still expected to sustain and grow ministries and programs that used to be fruitful a few short years ago.
  • Looking at the long climb of learning to disciple the “few” to reach the “many” (like Jesus did) and building momentum.
  • All while a “customer-oriented” congregational culture pushes against the gentle rhythms of reproducible discipleship.

I took a chance with 2 wise churchmen. I explained: “Here’s the deal. Ndamukong Suh is one of the best defensive linemen to ever play the game of college football, right?” Heads nodded! (I don’t think my illustration would have worked as well in Iowa City or Norman or Columbus, but it works in Nebraska!) Encouraged by their endorsement I explained: “How do you think it would have worked if Suh was asked to also play quarterback of the offense as a defensive lineman.” A slight grumble. A chuckle. Suh, a 300 pound quarterback? 

So, pastors today who were trained to excel in one position are now asked to play another position while still playing the “original” position.

The big miss? We still think of getting “members,” attracting crowds by our programs or preaching or whatever, “assimilating” into the church to participate in classes and groups and serving and giving!

And we’re only beginning to awake to the invitation that Jesus modeled and gave to “go and make disciples.” The few that can be “sent” to reach the “many.”

Make no mistake. Ask a pastor how to disciple people in a reproducible manner so that others can “disciple” a “few” to reach the “many,” and they’ll shrug. Because whatever we’ve done, whatever we’ve received in the way of being discipled, was almost never offered in a way to replicate.

Let alone create a congregational culture that embraces it!

You see, most churches don’t realize that the things that used to be fruitful and aren’t today are not coming back. And, most churches don’t realize that they’re having much less impact than they think on reaching people that don’t know Jesus. And, most churches don’t realize that trying to maintain what they have been doing prevents them and their pastor (and staff) from venturing into playing a “new position.” And, most churches don’t realize the urgency of getting a few people pioneering a new pathway quickly is vital to their future.

But, it doesn’t need to be this way!

Discipleship to Missional Community (D2MC) gives leaders the vision and tools to shift the culture of the congregation.

1,000 Young Leaders disciples and equips young adults to reach and gather their peers into community.

Multipli’s Genesis Leader gives all of us a vision and story and skills to turn our everyday worlds into fruitful places to speak truth and grace and impact lives.

One young adult In Appleton, Wisconsin, stated her reality well:

“To me, the world is a dark place! I know God wants me to do something. But, I don’t know what. And, I don’t know how. So, I don’t do anything.”

Her pastors encouraged her to enroll in 1,000 Young Leaders.

Today? She has a plan. She’s excited that she’s bringing Gospel light into that dark world. She has tools. She is being discipled in the words and ways of Jesus. She sees the Spirit at work. She has confidence in sharing the Gospel. 

I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.

1 Corinthians 4:16-17

Take a minute. Name a couple of people that you believe in who know God wants them to begin doing “something” and share this with them. OR, reach out to Raechel and schedule a conversation to uncover what might be best for you or your congregation.

We don’t need to be doing this alone! We can allow the words of Scripture to transform us in new ways in community for a particularly challenging world around us.

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