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Are Disciple Making Movements Anti-Institutional?

In this article, we will explore the importance of community and generational leadership in the context of traditional churches. We will also discuss the role of church history in shaping our understanding of the church’s mission and identity.

The Power of Community and Culture

As human beings, we are naturally influenced by the community and culture we grow up in. Our expectations, values, and behaviors are shaped by the people around us. This is why having a strong community is crucial for personal growth and development.

In the context of the church, community plays a vital role in helping believers understand and live out Christ’s likeness. When we have people around us who model what it means to follow Christ, we can learn and grow exponentially faster. The apostle Paul understood the importance of this when he said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

To facilitate this kind of growth, we need a movement of churches and communities that are maturing and inviting others to mature as well.

The Need for a Movement

To facilitate this kind of growth, we need a movement of churches and communities that are maturing and inviting others to mature as well. It’s not enough to simply exist as a church or organization; we need to actively invite others to follow us as we follow Christ. 

This creates an environment where generational leadership can take hold and the DNA of the movement can be passed down.

The Danger of Institutionalization

However, there is a danger when organizations start to take on a life of their own and become more focused on their own growth and success rather than the advancement of God’s kingdom. 

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The conversation shifts from how to become like Christ and move His kingdom forward to how to climb the ranks of leadership within the organization. 

This shift leads to a closed set mentality, where the focus is on maintaining the status quo and excluding those who don’t fit the mold.

The Importance of Church History

To combat this closed set mentality, it is crucial to be aware of and connected to the history of the church. 

Church history reminds us that we are part of a larger movement that has been ongoing since the days of Jesus. It connects us to the continuity of the faith and helps us understand where we fit within the grand narrative of Christianity.

By studying church history, we can see how previous generations of believers have grappled with the same questions and challenges we face today. 

We can learn from their successes and failures, their triumphs and struggles. Church history gives us a collective identity within the global church and helps us understand what it means to be part of the people of God.

The Biblical Story of Church History

The biblical story itself is one of church history. 

It traces the genealogy of the people of God all the way back to Jesus and His disciples. We are the product of the apostles’ discipleship and the teachings they received from Jesus. Our history is rooted in the witness of the New Testament and the foundation laid by the early church.

Understanding ourselves as emerging from the people of God gives us a sense of identity and purpose. 

We are not just individuals or local churches; we are part of a larger story that spans centuries. 

We are continuing the work that has been happening since the days of Jesus.

Jesus and the Pharisees

To illustrate this point, let’s look at a story about Jesus and the Pharisees. 

When Jesus was in Jerusalem, he stirred up controversy by healing on the Sabbath. The Pharisees accused him of breaking the Sabbath laws, to which Jesus responded by saying that even they would rescue their donkey if it fell into a pit on the Sabbath. Jesus challenged their understanding of the Sabbath and their identity as children of Abraham.

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Jesus told the Pharisees that if they were truly children of Abraham, they would recognize who he was. 

He emphasized that their identity was not just tied to their lineage, but to their recognition of him as the Messiah. Jesus put the Pharisees in a historical context, showing them that they had strayed from the story of Israel’s history and were missing out on the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Our Identity as the People of God

Similarly, as the people of God today, we are a product of the apostles and Jesus’ discipleship. 

Our genealogy traces back to Jesus walking on the earth and teaching his apostles what it means to be his witnesses. We are also connected to the story of Abraham, as Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise given to him.

Understanding ourselves in this historical context helps us see that we are not alone in our journey of faith. We are part of a larger community that spans generations. We can learn from those who have gone before us and pass on the core teachings of the New Testament to future believers.

The Importance of Humility and Contribution

In light of this understanding, it is important for us to approach our role in the church with humility. 

We should not see ourselves as replacing everything that came before us, but rather as building off the foundations that have been laid. We should have a posture of learning from others and recognizing that we don’t have all the answers. 

There is a contribution mindset that calls us to both contribute to the church’s mission and learn from others who have gone before us.

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Tim Keller, a well-known Christian author and pastor, reminds us that we are not as bad as we could be, but we are also more loved than we could ever conceive. This reminder of God’s grace and love should humble us and prevent us from thinking that we are always right and others are always wrong. 

We should approach our interactions with others in the church with grace and truth, recognizing that there is a mix of both in every situation.

As church planters and leaders, it is important to have a long-term perspective. 

Our goal should not just be to plant churches for the sake of numbers, but to raise up generational leadership and pass on the core teachings of the New Testament. We should strive to create a foundation that can be built upon by future believers, ensuring the longevity of the church and its mission.


In conclusion, understanding our place in the larger story of church history and approaching our role with humility and a contribution mindset is crucial for the growth and maturity of the church. 

We are part of a movement that spans centuries, and we have the opportunity to learn from those who have gone before us and pass on the core teachings of the New Testament to future generations. 

Let us embrace this responsibility and strive to be faithful stewards of the faith we have received.

We should strive to create a foundation that can be built upon by future believers, ensuring the longevity of the church and its mission.

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