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What is the difference between Church Planting and Disciple Making?

Submitted by Macka on Tue, 03/05/2024 - 13:41
Two types of bee hives, natural and man-made

Which focus is better (church planting or disciple making)?

As someone who participated in church plants many years ago, I am shocked to see how many of these endeavours have survived, nevertheless thrived!  Why is that?  The team I was a part of, as a very junior member, was very experienced. We did nothing without God.

The answer came to us years later and recently I saw a very good analogy in nature. 

As a hobby beekeeper, I have seen two types of bee hives.  Natural Hives and Man-made hives. 

First, there is the traditional wooden box bee hive.  Someone has to first make it, as close to the native beehives as they can while allowing easy access to the bees and their honey.  It is painted to protect it.  It is placed usually where it is convenient for the keeper and not necessarily for the bees.  Then you have to attract some bees to occupy it or transplant a colony into it and hope that they decide to stay.  There are a lot of introduced problems with a man-made hive.  You can introduce disease into it.  It may not be suitable for the type of weather in that area. It may be the wrong size for the initial colony.  If it is too large it will be hard to keep the eggs warm, there will be too much real estate for the bees to defend against attackers.  They will not be able to keep up with the necessary housekeeping and repairs, etc.  If it is too small the colony will swarm and leave for a better site and all your work is lost. 

Compare that with the other option, a native bee hive.  It is always just the right size and is made perfect for their needs at the time.  It is in the best place for the bees (close to food and water, and safe from predators off the ground or inside a rock).  No one had to construct anything or teach them how to do it.  It is made with readily available materials. No one had to convince them to make the hive and use it. 

Bees naturally make hives

 It is in their nature!  Some points might be at odds with the people around them though.  They will build a hive where it is convenient to them, not us.  It may be messy and disorganized to our way of thinking.  It will be hard for us to get a good look inside the hive without destroying it, but it is perfect for them right now.  (Check out the picture above closely.)  One is costly and just hard work and the other one springs up from nowhere effortlessly.  One of these types of hives grows and multiplies a lot more easily than the other.  Can you guess which one?

Disciples and churches are the same as these bees!

In the Bible we are commanded and encouraged to go out and make disciples and not “churches”.  Churches are costly and a lot of hard work to set up and keep.  They have a high failure rate over the long term as they tend to get stuck in time and not fill current needs.

On the other hand, disciples will always tend to group naturally.  In the West, the difficulty can be stopping them from forming so tightly that they stop growing altogether and become too inwardly focused. Leadership should always remind them of how they got there and the work that is still to be completed. 

Like the letterbox, it may look messy and disorganized from the outside.  It may not be the most convenient place for every outsider, but it is very healthy and vibrant. They will soon do what disciples do naturally if they are true followers of Jesus, and that is grow and spread. All a good shepherd has to do is keep them on the good grass and water, keep the predators away, and fan the flames of faith and growth. Oh, perhaps one last thing, get out of the way when the time comes?  (The old queen will go and leave the young queen in a good position to carry on.)

I submit that you should do what Jesus commanded us to do and go make disciples.   If we get this right, church formation will naturally follow!  God willing, church networks will follow.

A post note on Shepherds:

As a beekeeper, you see two types of people interested in bees.  The first is a Hive Keeper.  They are obsessed with owning or collecting bee hives.  They spend little time with the actual bees, some are scared of the bees but they won’t admit it.  Some are only focused on the honey.  Their hives are riddled with problems due to neglect.  The common problems are overcrowding (swarming) or unchecked disease. Either way, their hives and their enthusiasm often die fairly quickly. 

The second types are Bee Keepers.  They lovingly tend to their bees, anticipating any problems before they arrive. The bees for the most part thrive and produce good crops of honey as a result.  This style takes up a lot of time face-to-face with the inside of the hive. It requires understanding the nature of bees and caring enough to create conditions that allow them to thrive.

Perhaps you can see a real-world analogy here also?  Which Keeper or Shephard would you prefer?  Which one would you want to be?  For those that are shepherds, I submit that to please the Lord we should be good shepherds (unlike those in Ezekiel 34).

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