Doubts & Discouragement


Part 1 – Identity Crisis
Part 2 – Reduction in Giving
Part 3 – Reduction in Attendance

Pastors, if you journey into DMM, you will definitely face doubts & discouragement along the way.

The doubts can sound like this, especially as you’re dealing with the costs I mentioned in the previous articles.

Is this really worth it?
Am I sure I heard the Lord correctly?
What if this doesn’t work?
Am I setting myself up to fail?
Are people even interested in disciple-making?
What if everyone abandons me?

Can this even happen in America?

Doubts aren’t fun. But I’ve found that when I have doubts, they drive me to the Lord for reaffirmation of the vision. And that’s a good place to be.

Over the past few years that we’ve been pursuing DMM, I’ve had my fair share of doubts. Some of them sounded like the ones I mentioned above. Each time they have brought me to my knees with a desperate request for God to reaffirm what he’s told me & our team to do.

And guess what has happened almost every time? Through Scripture, prayer, other believers, mentors, or disciple-making books, he reaffirms the vision. My doubt dissipates & I get back to doing what I felt God telling me to do.

The Lord has given our team so much reaffirmation over the last few years that I remember recently praying, “Lord, we’re going through a tough time right now, but you don’t even have to give more affirmation if you don’t want. You’ve given us so much already. We’ll keep persevering even when it gets hard! Seeing our people group reached is worth any cost!”

I’m encouraged by Matthew 28:16-17 where it says, “Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!” The disciples witnessed Jesus’ life, his teaching, his miracles, his death & his resurrection & some of them are still doubting. Isn’t that crazy?

You know the good news?

In the next 3 verses, he still gives this group of doubting disciples the Great Commission. I’m so glad that doubts don’t disqualify you.

Pastors, you will have doubts as you pursue DMM. Let those doubts draw you to Jesus rather than away from your mission.

Pastors, not only will you struggle with doubt on your journey toward movement, you’re also very likely to face discouragement.

I’ve found the greatest discouragement comes when people that you love & that you’ve done ministry with for years decide to move on. People in your church. People on your staff. People in your family. I’ve had good friends both on our staff & in our church decide to move on. It stings. It can be discouraging.

Here’s the truth. Just because God has given you a vision doesn’t mean he’s giving everyone else that same vision. God can lead people to pursue different visions. And that’s ok.

Some people in your church will come to you & say, “I love what we were doing before, but this new disciple-making vision isn’t for me. I’m going to go to another church where I can get on board with the vision.” That’s totally ok. Don’t let this discourage you. It’s going to happen… a lot. God can lead you & that person to do 2 different things. It’s not that they’re wrong & you’re right. You can both be right. Bless them. Encourage them. Support them. Send them. You want them pursuing the vision God has given them, even if it’s not the vision God has given you.

Having said that, don’t let these conversations overshadow all of the people in your church that are excited about the new vision. Sometimes we only hear from the people that aren’t on board with the vision & not the people that are fired up to chase this vision with us. Don’t let the voices of those leaving overshadow all the voices of people staying.

Also, remember this.

Your most important job as a pastor is to lead your elders/team to seek the Lord, listen to his voice, do what he says & leave the consequences up to him. You aren’t the Senior Pastor. Jesus is! He gets to decide on the direction of his church & your job is to listen & obey.

What every Christian SHOULD want most from their pastors/elders is that they’re seeking the Lord, hearing from him & casting HIS vision to HIS church. Notice I said what every Christian “should” want. If we’re being honest, that’s not what every Christian ACTUALLY wants. Many Christians are wanting the leaders of their church to do what THEY want them to do. They want to attend a church that THEY like. They want to attend a church that caters to THEIR needs.

I don’t blame the sheep, though, for this attitude. I blame the shepherds. We’re the ones that set it up this way. The American church is widely criticized for being consumeristic. There’s a lot of truth in this. The way we do ministry invites people to come, “consume” it, & when they don’t like what they’re “consuming,” to move on.

The traditional American church model is not primarily missionary in nature where the goal is to “produce” rather than “consume.” If you look at the way 99% of worship centers are built in our country, it’s designed for consumption. Rows of chairs facing a platform at the front where people get up, perform, & give the people sitting in those rows something good to “consume.” When it’s not as good as it used to be, they move on. The American church, by its very design, is consumeristic in nature. Many pastors I know would admit this, but most are at a loss as to how to change it.

In The Kingdom Unleashed, Jerry Trousdale confirms this when he writes:

Among the laity, the dominant consumerist worldview in the culture affects how people view the church. We have a range of options for churches, and we go to the one that best meets our perceived needs. We ask, “Do I get anything out of the preaching?” “How is the children’s program?” “What is the youth program focused on?” “Do I like the music and worship style?” This, in turn, feeds back into our culture’s preference for specialization and expertise, as we rely, for example, on the Sunday School to provide our children’s spiritual education, in effect sub-contracting our responsibility as parents to church volunteers. The consumerist mentality also leads pastors to tailor their preaching to appeal to the “felt needs” of the congregation, often drawing more from pop psychology and self-help books than from the Scriptures, and eventually moving toward Prosperity Gospel, “health and wealth” preaching.

When pastors/elders initiate change at a church, most people are thinking about whether THEY like it or not, not whether the pastors/elders have heard from the Lord or not. That’s very dangerous, but it’s often true. We need to shepherd people away from this. It’s Jesus’ church. Not ours. We need to do what he wants, not what we want. It’s not about us. It’s about Him. We need the pastors/elders that are leading Jesus’ church to listen to Jesus & do what Jesus says whether people LIKE it or not. The church is supposed to be missionary in nature, not consumeristic.

As pastors, we must obey the Lord & leave the consequences up to him. It’s his church, not ours.

Trousdale also warns us of the opposition that can come when we follow the Lord into a disciple-making vision:

Experience shows that the opposition to Disciple Making Movements often comes not only from the outside but from Christians who do not understand it or who reject its premises. DMM practitioners have been ostracized from their denominations, have lost friends, have been vilified and slandered, all from within the Christian community. As Christians grow in their discipleship, opposition from both inside and outside the church is inevitable, and we need to be ready for it.

Are you ready for it? Have you counted the cost?

Remember these encouraging words.

Joshua 1:9This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.