The #ReimagineFORUM Chat with Damian Gerke
5 Questions / 5 Minutes (or less)
A timely chat for church leaders struggling through a pandemic
but are searching for a way into the future, not a return to the past.
#1 ~ You wrote that your book "is an examination of how the church can be transformed. .. to become less of what makes the church ineffective in its mission." Why is it important to assess "what makes the church ineffective?"
Damian===> If we’re not willing to ask ourselves about areas of ineffectiveness, then we eventually will believe that we’re doing everything right. There’s no incentive to be transformed, because there’s simply no need for it. Eventually this leads to hardened hearts that aren’t sensitive to the Lord and are calloused to spiritual growth and maturity.
#3 ~ Back Cover: "We can be IN THE WAY without being in the way." Please unpack what that means and how it can help us reimagine how the church makes disciples?
Damian===> The only model of church as we know it in the West is what is often called the “legacy” church (Sr. Pastor, weekly congregational meetings for worship and teaching, major emphasis on teaching, etc.). Much of the systems and processes of this method of church operations actually block the disciple-multiplying process—I think it’s unintentional, but it’s real just the same. In the Way lays out a ministry approach that was used in the first two centuries in the early church, and is currently being used around the world to see millions of people come to faith and to see the grow in both size and maturity. If we can embrace this “new wineskin” of a Disciple-Multiplying Movement (DMM) approach, we can remove the barriers that currently exist in the legacy church model. Every believer can be equipped and released to go and make disciples that make more disciples.
#3 ~ You include a "Definitions" section at the beginning of the book. How do you see "Discipleship" + "Multiplication" + "Simple Church" working together in a disciple-making church context?
Damian===> Discipleship in the Bible is not just maturing an existing believer in their knowledge of doctrine, the Bible and theology. Discipleship is a process of moving a person toward obedience to living out Jesus’ commands (e.g. John 8.31, 14.21)—which can begin even before conversion to faith in Jesus. As disciples obey, they reach out through their relationship network and teach and equip others to do the same. This creates a (relatively) rapid reproduction that multiplies the number of disciples (instead of adding). These disciples and future disciples gather in groups to conduct “simple church” that focuses on three foundational things: Loving God, loving others and making disciples. Because the simple churches can meet anytime or anywhere, they replicate quickly.
The churches continue to be connected along relationship lines so that mentoring and growth are assured. The end result is a viral growth of disciples and disciple-making simple churches.
#4 ~ How do our presuppositions and perspectives influence how we design our disciple-making systems and structures?
Damian===> Massively! If our perspectives on disciple-making aren’t correct, our disciple-making activities won’t produce more and better disciples. For example, if we believe that discipleship is one believer helping another believer mature in knowledge and personal sanctification, then our approach is going to:
- be internally-focused in the church (since reaching unbelievers isn’t really part of the process)
- take a long time (since sanctification is a life-long process)
- replicate incomplete qualities of a disciple (because Jesus defines a disciple as someone who obeys his teaching, not just someone with superior knowledge"
- limit our impact (because we won’t be growing the numbers of disciples among the lost).
#5 ~ You wrote: "In the West - and especially the U.S. - we are simply more comfortable when we are exercising control." How does that shape our style and impede our effectiveness of making disciples?
Damian===> I use “control” here in a leadership context, and I mean it in a neutral sense—without the negative or dysfunctional associations we often assign to it. Control is the typical management approach used by the legacy church leaders. By that I mean controlling all aspects of the church’s operations (e.g. the teaching, the communications, the programming, etc.). It’s partly a secular management approach, but it’s also a legacy of the Protestant church’s (and Catholic church’s before it) hierarchical leadership structure. Legacy church members grow up in this environment, and learn that they can’t (or shouldn’t) take initiative to go and make disciples (Matt. 28.19-20). The alternative to control is to release church members, giving them the disciple-making authority that Jesus’ left his followers. They can be free to make disciples apart from the programming and controlling management of the church’s structure. Of course, for this to work effectively requires that they be equipped in a completely different way that they are currently.