As we pursue our activist causes, we need to make sure we keep the main thing—disciple-making—the main thing.
“The beginning of adult life is when you ask the question, ‘What do I want to be remembered for?’” —Bob Buford
A hero maker is a person who shifts their focus from being the hero at the center of their own story to becoming the catalyst for others to more fully experience their unique role in God’s unfolding story.
Heroes focus on conquering, accumulating and building a legacy by what they do and what they leave behind here on earth. Hero makers focus on who they invest in and catapult forward beyond their own capabilities. Heroes add while hero makers multiply.
Heroes are remembered for what they did, while hero makers are remembered for whom they invested in.
So, which is it for you? Hero or hero maker? What or whom? Addition or multiplication?
If you want to be a hero maker, you must first embrace and then keep the main thing the main thing. The first two essential practices of hero making—multiplication thinking and permission giving– are important. But, the third essential practice, disciple multiplying, gives us the motive and mission for doing what we do.
Like the rudder on a ship that controls its path, disciple multiplying gives direction to the hero maker’s journey. Without it, our efforts might produce good fruit while missing the target Jesus is calling us to.
Dave Ferguson, author of Hero Maker: Five Essential Practices for Leaders to Multiply Leaders, says that this third practice of disciple multiplying is simultaneously the most important one and the hardest one.
KEEPING THE MAIN THING THE MAIN THING
Activists vigorously advocate for a cause or issue. Their passion gives voice to their heart. Their cause gives them reason to get out of bed in the morning and to lie awake at night. Some are blessed with thoughtfully pursuing the thing they want to be remembered for.
I’m an activist. I’m guessing you are, too. In fact, most of our friends, neighbors, peers and co-workers are activists for something. We live in a time when everyone seems to passionately champion a cause. For most of us, our activist causes are inseparable from our longings for a legacy that will live beyond our earthly years.
I find myself asking if it’s possible that the rise in our activist culture is also a contributing cause of the historic levels of division in our nation? If you’re like me, your gut tells you we’ve gone off track. Too often, our activism is rooted in the wrong motives, using language and strategies inconsistent with the One in whose name we come.
As Christians, it’s vital that we have a solid biblical foundation for our activism. Otherwise, our activism becomes idolatry. While most of us activists are sincere in our passions and burdens, the plethora of causes and voices is creating a whole lot of unproductive noise. We are fragmented; our individual causes are like planes without an airport. The current context of our activism often seems disconnected from the One we seek to honor.
What if our activism, while rooted in good intentions, is fueled more by our own narcissism than by our faith in God? Is our passion more about our message than Jesus’ gospel? Are we focused more on our voice being heard than proclaiming his Word? Are we more about our scorecard and success than accomplishing Jesus’ mission? These are tough questions, but important ones to ask.
JESUS, AN ACTIVIST FOR ____
I challenge you to read all of the red-letter words in the four Gospels and focus on Jesus’ activism. Be careful not to single out individual verses that support your particular cause; look for the underlying thread that runs through his ministry.
What do you find? If you were writing His epitaph—“Jesus, an activist for [fill in the blank]”—what word would you fill in? You only get to pick one or two words. What would they be?
Let’s start with what would not be on the list. Let me make it personal. I’m an activist for church planting and multiplication. I’m willing to give the rest of my life to seeing the percentage of U.S. churches that ever reproduce increase from less than 4 percent to greater than 10 percent. I’d like for Jesus’ epitaph to end with “church planting and multiplication.” I often act as if it does. My passion would seem to indicate it.
But no matter how passionate I am about my cause, Jesus was not primarily an activist for church planting and multiplication. He cares about it, but he knows that if we focus on making healthy biblical disciples, we’ll get church planting and multiplication as one byproduct of the fruit.
What about social justice? Racial reconciliation? Urban revitalization and community development? Multiethnic churches? Refugees and immigrants? Environmentalism? LGBTQ rights? Equality? Political ideology? Missional? Church growth?
Nope. They aren’t Jesus’ core cause either, though he cares deeply about these and other issues.
It’s sobering to realize that if I elevate my cause to be above his—even if my cause is multiplying his church—I’m practicing a form of idolatry.
Jesus gave us a clear, compelling and primary cause—intended to tie all of our other worldly efforts for good together: Jesus, an activist for disciple making. The kind built around the full surrender to his Lordship. The kind that looks different than the world, and in its full maturity, has no choice but to multiply and result in people mobilized to make a difference in the injustices in the world.
We must make disciple making the main thing that ties everything else together. Focusing on healthy disciple making as his primary goal and cause will bring much more vibrant results in the other areas we seek to champion.
Puritan minister Cotton Mather used a great metaphor to describe the consequences of elevating our secondary callings (including our activist pursuits) above our primary calling to be disciples who make disciples. Mather describes a rowboat propelled by two oars. One oar represents our primary calling (to be disciple makers and multipliers) and the other oar our secondary calling. Put no oars in the water and you drift with the winds of culture. Put only one oar in the water and you spin in circles.
When our activist causes take priority over our primary calling to multiply disciples, it’s like having only one oar in the water. No matter how loud we trumpet the message of our cause, we just spin in circles. Only when we put both oars in the water do we make forward progress.
KEEPING IT SIMPLE
Sometimes we make things harder than they need to be (or were intended to be). We choose to focus on the complexities instead of the simple questions that give us guardrails and guidance for how we live life and lead our churches.
When you want your team to do something, you look for the simplest, clearest way to communicate your goal. When my wife wants me to fix something in the house, she doesn’t mince words.
Jesus didn’t mince words either. When I read Scripture, I see no wiggle room in the fact that Jesus commanded us to make and multiply disciples. He was crystal clear! It’s not intended to be complex.
In the simplicity of His strategy, Jesus knows that if we focus on making disciples the way he did, we will see kingdom multiplication. If we cooperate with him in this simple strategy, the Holy Spirit will produce the harvest.
The core of any multiplication movement is disciple-making. It is the first and critical dimension of kingdom multiplication. The question is simple: Are you focused on producing biblical disciples who make disciples that plant churches that plant churches as your primary motive and cause?
Unfortunately, we don’t always hear and embrace the simplicity of Jesus’ command. Instead of focusing on disciple-making as our core purpose that drives all of our programming, we tend to align our activities around other motives. With the wrong motives, we find ourselves pursuing the path of the hero rather than the hero maker.
Without disciple-making that multiplies and produces new communities of faith—we have little hope of moving the multiplication needle. We won’t see the number of reproducing churches in the United States increase from less than 4 percent to greater than 10 percent. And we’ll fall desperately short of Jesus’ call. When we don’t see new disciple-making churches birthed, we limit our future capacity for disciple-making. We unintentionally stunt the Great Commission math.
As a community, let’s commit to keeping Jesus’ main thing our main thing. Let’s leverage our unique gifts and calling to be activists for good. But let’s also position our activism so that our primary fruits produce a movement of biblical disciple-makers. In doing so, we’ll unleash a movement of love and transformation on the world.
We have six more Hero Maker Regional Events this fall in cities near you including, Washington DC, Southern California, Northern California, Houston, Chicago and New York City. These events are affordable and easy for entire teams to attend together. Click here to join 1,000s of other like-minded leaders who are seeking to become better hero makers (i.e., disciple-makers).
Todd Wilson is co-founder and director of Exponential and author of numerous books, including More: Find Your Calling and Live Life to the Fullest Measure. For more, OutreachMagazine.com/exponential