Albert Einstein wasn’t trying to explain disciple making in the church. But, like most pastors, Einstein thought there was something missing. The famous scientist was convinced of a yet-undiscovered framework that tied together the two known forces (gravity and electromagnetism) in the physical universe.
For decades he worked on equations and experiments to prove the framework existed. Despite forty years of effort, he went to his grave still convinced, but unable to prove what he called the “unified field theory.”
The concept of a unified field can be a game-changer in disciple making. It’s a foreign concept to most, so let me explain it this way. Imagine you knew nothing of baseball as a sport, but as a child your Dad gave you a big leather glove and taught you how to throw a moderately sized white ball. Next, he taught you how to catch.
Once you had that down, he bounced the ball to you quickly and taught you how to catch those. Then you learned how to catch balls that came from high in the sky. After that he taught you how to catch the ball and then touch someone with it quickly. Finally, he gave you a rounded piece of wood and instructed you how to stand and swing the piece of wood so that you could hit the ball. He even taught you how to catch the ball with your bat, so that the ball would dribble slowly out in front of you. You loved it!
You’d learned virtually all the skills of baseball, but still knew nothing about how they related to the whole. Without the unified field of baseball to connect and hold these individual parts together you can’t see the bigger picture.
Now, imagine one day being taken to a major league baseball game. Almost instantly you’d discover the unified field for all those skills you’d been taught. Baseball would provide a framework through which all of those skills would have new meaning and significance. On the one hand you knew the game already, on the other hand you were learning it for the first time.
Many of the church’s challenges exist as a result of a yet-undiscovered framework that ties together the two chief commandments (to love God and to love others). Churches know they need to do those two things, but struggle to connect them together. Churches that lack disciple making can’t see the bigger picture.
Justin Gravitt, author of this blog, is with Navigator Church Ministries. They have made available to you, The Start Small Grow Slow Strategy, which you can download for free here.
When a church lacks a unified field, confusion shows up in its practice. Think about it: most churches are primarily focused on either loving God (through exegetical preaching, deep Bible study, worship services, and vigilant watch over their own lives) or on loving others (by serving the poor, connecting in fellowship groups, sharing with skeptics, and mission trips). In spite of being called to do both, most churches don’t have a framework that binds the two together. Without big picture clarity priority is impossible.
When churches make disciples like Jesus (not just discipleship) they discover a unified field that brings clarity and context to all that Jesus did and all that Christ-followers are called to do. Churches miss disciple making when they can’t see the bigger picture. And since they can’t see the bigger picture, they emphasize some components while neglecting others. When disciple making is embraced as the unified field of following Christ it requires that we love God and others.
We love God by submitting our entire life to Him.
At a local level, this means going wherever, to do whatever, whenever He asks. It means suffering so that we may know Him better and become more like Him. It means making disciples because we’re in the middle of His story, rather than Him being in the middle of ours.
We love others by putting their needs above our own.
At a local level this means sharing their burdens, being patient, risking rejection for the sake of conversation, and being generous. It means intentionally making disciples because we want others to have the joy and fulfillment God has given to us.
And to do either of these things, we must engage in all the normal things that churches teach members to do. But we do it with a purpose that goes well beyond ourselves. That’s the power of a unified field. It may or may not change what we do, but it changes why we do it. It gives us a perspective that carries with it a depth that’s draws others to Christ because He is lifted up in word and deed.
Though Einstein never found the unified field for the physical world, Jesus revealed the unified field for His followers. He did it by boiling the faith down to two commandments (Mt. 22:37-40), by lifting Himself up as the example (Lk. 6:40), and by explicitly telling His followers to do what He had done (Mt. 28:18-20).
By Justin Gravitt. Used by permission.
Justin Gravitt is the Dayton (Ohio) Area Director for Navigator Church Ministries. Read more from Justin at his blog, One Disciple to Another, where this article first appeared.
Source: Unified Disciple Making Theory