Where do you go when you need information quickly? Like millions of people around the world, many times I’ll go to Wikipedia, the world’s largest free online encyclopedia. I love being able to type in any subject or person and immediately get the key information I need. While it may seem as though Wikipedia had overnight success, it was actually a bit of an accident. In 2000, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger started an online encyclopedia called Nupedia. The goal was for Nupedia to include contributions written by experts. Before an article could be posted, it had to go through a rigorous scholarly review process that could take many months. This strategy proved to be painstakingly slow and ineffective. When Nupedia unplugged it’s servers in 2003 only twenty-four articles had been posted while another seventy-four were in the review process. There weren’t very many articles but the ones posted were scholarly and professional. In 2001, one year after Nupedia launched, Wales and Sanger started Wikipedia as a feeder system for Nupedia. The world “wiki” actually comes from the Hawaiin word meaning “quick”. Their idea was to allow non-professionals and non-experts the ability to contribute and write articles that the Nupedia scholars would review. By the end of 2001, volunteers had submitted more than 20,000 articles. It took the experts three years to create twenty-four articles and the non-experts one year to create 20,000 articles. Crazy! According to the most recent statistics, contributors from around the world have submitted 35 million articles in 288 different languages. As of February 2014 there had been 18 billion page views and nearly 500 million unique visitors each month. Do you see this? Wikipedia exploded because it went viral and people were empowered. Surprisingly, most surveys reveal that the information submitted by volunteers was as accurate as traditional encyclopedia entries. So what does any of this have to do with church planting and discipleship? A lot.
Unfortunately, many churches today function much more like Nupedia than Wikipedia. They knowingly or unknowingly create ministry structures and environments where only the “experts” or “paid staff” can lead or be empowered in ministry. Volunteers are expected to just show up, sit in the pews, contribute financially, and serve in the more menial tasks of ministry, but they cannot be entrusted with discipleship or expected to make disciples. Discipleship should be left to the paid professionals. Really? This wasn’t Jesus pattern or vision. Jesus made disciples and commanded ALL of us to go and make disciples in Matthew 28:19, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” I believe Jesus saw the church as a movement much more like Wikipedia where each believer was empowered and able to contribute to the mission. This is what made the early church so powerful. Imagine if the situation in the church were reversed. Imagine if every believer, not just the experts, were engaged in the Great Commission and discipleship. Imagine if every believer just made one or two disciples in the next year, the amount of Christians would double or triple. Then imagine if every Christ-follower made disciples who themselves were committed to making disciples. The gospel would explode just like Wikipedia did. In essence, Jesus’ strategy for reaching the world with his life-changing message was to make disciples who would then make disciples.
Take a look at what Jesus communicated to his disciples right before he was arrested in John 16:5-7 that captures this idea, “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” The disciples were having a hard time understanding why Jesus had to leave. Jesus was trying to tell him that his bigger strategy was for the Holy Spirit to be in all of them. FOR MINISTRY TO BE MULTIPLIED.
Then again, look at what he said in John 20:21-22, “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. Empowerment. Multiplication.
Here is what I want you to see:
1. Jesus spent the majority of his time pouring into men and women who would then reproduce his ministry to the world. JESUS MULTIPLIED DISCIPLES AND WE ARE CALLED TO MULTIPLY DISCIPLES. (II Timothy 2:2)
2. Many people fall into the trap of thinking they aren’t qualified, they don’t know enough, or their life is not perfect enough to be used of God. Wrong. You have things to contribute. As a friend of mine used to say, “if you know just a few more scriptures than someone else, you can teach them and begin to make a disciple.” LIKE THE WIKIPEDIA EXAMPLE, WE KNOW MORE THAN WE REALIZE!
3. Jesus entrusted responsibility to ordinary, imperfect, flawed people. Jesus empowered a man named Peter who was a rough, brash, impetuous person who denied Jesus multiple times, yet he became one of the most important leaders in the formation of the church. Jesus empowered a woman named Mary Magdalene who had seven demons cast out of her according to the book of Luke (Luke 8:2). She had a broken past, but Jesus entrusted her to share the resurrection story of which all of Christianity would ultimately rise or fall. WE DON’T HAVE TO BE EXPERTS.
4. You have a ministry and contribution that no one else can make. Think about the life of the Apostle Paul, who wrote in Philippians 1:12-13, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.” Paul recognized and understood that God had placed him precisely where he was to testify about Christ. He was able to reach the palace guard with the gospel. WE ARE UNIQUELY PLACED AND UNIQUELY EQUIPPED TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE RIGHT WHERE GOD HAS US!
This is exactly our passion at Renovate. We don’t want to just create a crowd for Jesus or a group of people who primarily want to be entertained, we want to see an ever increasing community of Christ-followers empowered to take the gospel into every part of our community. Men and women who are committed to being disciples and making disciples. After all, this is FOLLOWING THE LEADER.