We are used to culture being something rarely thought about, something that goes unnoticed. But a culture of disciple-making doesn’t come easy. It’s a culture formed by people who are willing to fight for relationship, get on their knees in prayer, and strive to grow both spiritually and relationally. Jesus showed us the power of disciple-making culture. Are we willing to lean on him and live out that culture?
Brandon Guindon, author of Disciple-Making Culture, speaks about the barriers we can face while living out a culture of making disciples. He shares how he’s learned to overcome the barriers and pursue Christ above all.
In this episode, which is part four of a five-part series, you’ll find:
- Three barriers faced in shifting to a disciple-making culture
- Encouragement to leave busyness behind
- How disciple-making culture can be counter to American culture
- A reminder that we are taking part in a spiritual battle
- That Jesus modeled his dependence on God
- Motivation to lean into the Holy Spirit
An interview with Brandon Guindon
Chad Harrington: Today, we’re continuing our mini-series about disciple-making culture, with an interview of Brandon Guindon. These interviews provide some rich texture to Brandon’s book called Disciple-Making Culture, and today we’re going to dig into the greatest barriers for creating this kind of culture in your church. Brandon’s going to handle the external, internal, and the spiritual barriers that most people face when trying to make this shift at their church. The content is going to be very helpful for you. I trust, but it’s only supplemental to the book. The book gives you the whole picture. So take a listen to one senior pastor’s endorsement of the book and how it’s helped him.
Bob Reed: Yeah. I’m Bob Reed, I’m lead pastor Salt Life Church and have had the privilege of now transitioning two different churches to becoming relationally disciple-making churches. And this book that Brandon has written is one of the best books I have read on disciple-making. And so my encouragement to you, especially if you’re a senior pastor, is if you’re, if you’re wrestling with, What does this look like? How do I do this? What are the ways that you need to go about it?
I’m telling you outside of the Bible, this would be the next book that I would absolutely pour yourself into.
Ask all kinds of questions in order to be able to understand what does it look like for you personally to lead this and then for you to be able to lead this throughout your organization. But I’m telling you, this book will be a gold mine for you, and I would highly encourage you and not only read it, but then take your staff, your elders, and those that you’re discipling through it as well. It’ll definitely pay you back big time.
Chad: Order your copy of this discipleship.org resource at discipleship.org/books. Now let’s hear an interview with the author of the book who is also a church planter, pastor, and disciple maker. Here’s Brandon Guindon on the great barriers toward cultivating a disciple-making culture.
We’re here with Brandon Guindon, he’s the author of the book Disciple-Making Culture. It’s a discipleship.org resource, and we’re doing a special series on disciple-making culture, which is the title of the book. And today we’re talking about the greatest barriers to creating this kind of culture, where, as we’ve talked about Brandon, where making disciples is not just what we do, it’s just who we are. That’s how we think about ourselves. It’s natural and you almost have to try to stop it to keep it from happening.
External Barrier: “Jesus-Fix”
Chad: And so we’ve hit on different elements last episode, in this special series. We talked about developing a culture of this among church staff. We talked about just stories of disciple-making and in the first one we talked about, what is it? And what’s our motive it, but I want to go to sort of the heart of it, which is the challenge when you look at any good story, it’s like, it’s really just about overcoming challenges. And so that’s what I wanted to do today. We talked about stories in the last episode, but today I want to hit stories of barriers. And I know you’ve got probably hundreds of stories, but if you could talk about some of the top three barriers in sort of a narrative context, I think that would be a great thing for our listeners to be able to witness is what challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
Brandon Guindon: Yeah, I think again, from our other podcasts when we started the place of this is who we are and we’re living this out and we’re creating this culture. We live in this culture because people are involved, because there’s, there’s, it’s just because of life, we’re going to face barriers. We’re going to face challenges, and that, that’s completely it’s okay. It’s expected. We can sometimes paint this picture that everything is all rosy and great and all these wonderful success stories and those things happen. And they’re true and they’re great, but there are truly are barriers. And so I think Chad, when you ask that question, what comes into my mind is really three areas of barriers. And really the first barrier is an external barrier, things from the outside. And so I want to illustrate that by a story.
Of what I, what, I mean. I was preaching on a Sunday morning and we were done. I was standing out in the lobby and there had been a family that had come up a couple times and I had met them and recognized them. And when I was standing there talking to them, the husband said to me, he said, “You know, Brandon,” he said, “I really appreciate your focus on discipleship. I think the church really needs that.” He said it to me and he said, “But we’re just, we’re a really busy family. And I know that you really want people in small groups. And I think that’s good too.” And he said, “but you need to understand.” He says,
“Our family’s just so busy. We really just want to come to Sunday morning and get our Jesus-fix and go home.”
And initially, I was like, Wow, your Jesus-fix.
He actually said that. That is an “And I quote,” and I went, Wow. So Jesus is a drug, I guess. I couldn’t, I could believe it, but I was kinda taken aback. I was like, Oh, okay. And I think they came back maybe one other time, but because there’s just such an intentional directed focus and our culture is just very set that this is who we are, but it brings out this external barrier. And the external barrier that I’m talking about is, I think the culture that we’ve created from the church, but the outside, the view of Christians that come into the church, or are church hopping or they just really want to go around and get what they need and then go home. And it’s even the American mindset.
The American mindset is a buffet—serve me, take care of me—mentality.
And if you don’t, then I’ll just go find it from somewhere else. And that barrier is real. It’s very counter to the culture. We’re asking people to be in community, to be committed, to love others, which means:
- I need to sacrifice.
- I need to give of myself.
- I need to serve others.
A lot of those things can fly in the face of not only just some of the American mindset, but unfortunately, which is no different in some cases, the church mindset.
So we have this external barrier to where people that are coming into the church, I would say often to people, just give us four weeks, come four weeks in a row, get in a group. Try. And I think that you’ll see that it’s different. Because I know this, even that guy that told me he was just getting his Jesus-fix, he has relational needs. He needs the gospel. He needs to be in community. He needs to serve others. He needs to because that’s how God wired him and that’s his plan.
Internal Barrier: Busyness
And so this external barrier that we face is really the mindset of not only Christians, unfortunately, but just the American mindset in general, or the Western mindset in general. And so I think that’s a big barrier. A second barrier that if I can just continue on with that is an internal, and I’ve mentioned a little bit before, is staying focused on what the goal is. And one of the things that I am struggling with my staff teases me is I don’t celebrate well. I accomplish what we’re doing, and we move on to the next thing. And I have to be reminded that people will aspire to what you celebrate.
Within your church, the internal barrier can become about just accomplishing the next thing or focusing on the task, or just getting busy.
And we really have to stay focused on, What has Jesus called us to do? And living that out and not being distracted. We need to celebrate the successes of disciple-making. We need to celebrate the culture and the fruit that’s being produced from it. So internally we need to stay on mission. And when we get distracted, now we can get off the rails really fast, and that can become a barrier. So the busyness, the distractions, the, the desire to do new things and, as I’ve said on our earlier podcasts, we chase shiny objects. Those things can become internal barriers that can really take away from, from what we’re doing. And they’re, man, I face them all the time and I have to have the discipline to continue to stay focused.
We’re in a Spiritual Battle
And then the third one that I would just throw out there is the spiritual battle, that we can’t, forget that what we’re going to focus on in accomplishing the Great Commission, that Satan’s going to come after us, that we’re in a spiritual battle, and not want to see the church be successful at making disciples. That’s why I think like things like division and disunity within the church. Satan does that. Because when we’re not friends with our staff, when we’re have fought with each other, when the church isn’t clear, when there’s division and disunity, we’re never going to be a healthy disciple-making culture. That’s counter to the very thing that Jesus called us to, and Satan wants to disrupt that to cause disunity. And so we have to fight for it.
We have to know that there is a spiritual battle.
And so I love stuff that I’ve learned and heard from Shodankeh Johnson. I know your dad, Chad, is great friends with him, and he’s just been an inspiration to me. But we really call our people to pray and fast.
It is part of the culture to not just talk about it, but to do it.
I personally fast one day a week and pray, not out of arrogance or bragging, but because I know that that’s what’s needed to live this out, to pray and fast and that God calls us to, and to fight that spiritual battle through prayer. And so those are really the three things that come to my mind as being barriers that we have to push through them. We could, I’m sure, come up with more, but those are the three big ones:
- spiritual battle
Chad: That’s really helpful. One of the things that you mentioned there at the end was about prayer and fasting. And my publishing company, Him Publications has released a book called Revival Starts Here. It’s a Discipleship.org resource. We partnered together on it and we had over 40,000 people in Nashville this year go through that book. Or at least they got a packet with the book and we all prayed together and fasted in different ways. There are different levels of fasting that you can choose. And together for thirty days, we prayed for the city of Nashville, and Brandon, I think that what Dallas Willard says is right that,
It’s not the strong who pray and fast, it’s the ones who are weak.
And we know that Jesus fasted and he was strong, but in some sense he had flesh, and so he was weak, like we all are, in the sense that he had a body, his body wasn’t all powerful.
Jesus Modeled Dependence
Brandon: And I think he was modeling for us. Chad. I think he was modeling for his disciples, a dependence on the father and showing, yes, I agree with you. There is a weakness, the flesh, but also when things are hard or when things are, or we’re doing spiritual things, or we’re wanting, God’s, the Father’s clarity, any of those things too, that we pursue and have a heart of prayer and fasting. I think Jesus models it.
Chad: Right. And I want to make sure that this is clear. I don’t think Jesus was weak. I think he was entering to our weakness as a human. Right.
He was showing us what it looks like to be weak in the sense of submitting himself to the disciplines of humanity and even death on a cross.
And I think what you’re saying is if we take a step back, we’re in a spiritual battle and the place in which Jesus was the most extreme in prayer was in the desert. It was in the garden of Gethsemane, where he wrestled, where he faced temptation, and that was real. It wasn’t just like, I’m Jesus, like I’m impervious to anything, it was like, no, otherwise it was meaningless, right?
When we’re doing this thing called creating disciple-making culture, of course the enemy is going to attack us.
Especially if you’re leading the charge.
One of the things I love about what you say, Brandon, just whenever you’re talking about culture, you say that it starts with you. And I love that you emphasize that in the book at the beginning, middle, and the end, it starts with you. On the other hand, it permeates the whole culture. But if we’re thinking, okay, I can’t control everybody. I can influence people. But when you are in a leadership position, whether you’re the lead pastor, whether you’re a key deacon or an influential, I guess, volunteer, or just leader in the church, lay level, I guess we could call it. Although I think we’ve talked a lot about, there’s not really a lay level versus pastoral divide in the kingdom of God. That’s somewhat manmade, but whatever position you’re in, when you start taking ground and Brandon, you’ve experienced this for longer than I have, because you’ve been in ministry for twenty plus years.
But when you start taking ground, there’s a target on your back. Like, you’re gonna face battle. And we’ve got to do these things together. And one of the things that our church has done, Brandon, just to piggyback off of what you’re saying about prayer and fasting is, the elders of our church here in Franklin, Tennessee, just South of Nashville at Harpeth Christian Church, they pray and fast together.
Like the elders of our church are doing that every week. And then they invited the church into that. And so now as a church, one day a week and they picked Monday, we all pray and fast. I’m like, Come on people like, can you pick a better day than Monday? And then I was like, wait, I’m just weak again. So let me, let me get on board. This is something we’re doing together.
We’re fighting not only for relationships with each other, but we’re actually fighting an enemy.
And so on the other side of it, the result is that we cultivate this culture of strength. So Brandon, what thoughts does that spark in your mind as I sort of carry on the thought that you initiated there?
Look to the Heart-Level
Brandon: Well, I think, first is that we identify that there are these barriers and really, the spiritual barrier and the prayer and the fasting and us being dedicated to it. As I’m just reflecting even in our own, my own life, and our own church. Yes, as I said, we do pray and fast, but is there even more than I could do? Not in the sense of tasks, but a dependence, even being more dependent, more weak and dependent on the Lord and how much am I trying to do in my own strength?
And I would just want to encourage everybody that, whether you’re shifting a church, whether you’re planting a church, whether it’s, as you said, you’re just, you’re just starting. Or you’re a lay leader, a staff elder, wherever that you are in this, in this process, that yes:
It starts with you.
And I think the starting place is from this spiritual, doing spiritual battle and for your church, for this culture. And so, that to not just overshoot that and run right to the mechanics, run right to the programs, to really dedicate and commit yourself to prayer and fasting. And again, whether it be a shift or it be establishing something new.
Chad: Right. And I, I think that this is a heart-level thing at its core. I think a lot of people, Brandon, especially coming out of certain kinds of church growth models, are looking for, what’s going to grow my church. And that’s really their main metric. We’ve talked about this before in a previous podcast. But what we’re talking about here is, it goes beyond that, it can include growth and it should, how fast that happens depends on your surrounding culture, or maybe even your dedication to it, but really at a heart-level, have you had that gut check?
Am I willing to do what it takes to work through these barriers?
You mentioned in the first podcast episode of this special series, that it’s hard work. I mean, the word discipline is very much like disciple.
And yet sometimes we separate the two from our life in Christ. But the truth is, is when Christ called us to follow him, he said, “And pick up your cross daily,” that’s hard work. And so we’re not just talking about a walking through the daisies. There are mountaintop experiences. But I think Brandon, one of the things that you hit on all the time is this is hard work, but, oh man, it’s so joyful. And that’s where we’re going to go in our last episode, which is coming up next in this special series on disciple-making culture. It’s the joyful rewards of investing into a lot of these intangibles. I mean, How do you quantify love, right? How many feet you wash, well, it goes deeper than that. And that’s what we’re talking about is culture Brandon. I’ll let you have the last word for this episode.
Lean into the Holy Spirit
Brandon: Well, in each episode, I’ve, I’ve wanted to leave everybody that’s listening with some type of inspirational thought and something that you to tell you, I am a coach at heart, that you can do this and that it is worth it. That as difficult as it can be to roll up the sleeves and get in into the lives of people and to fight for relationship and to, to face these external barriers when people that come into the church and they just want their Jesus-fix, as I said, and go home, when internally there’s so much busyness going on in the church and it’s hard to stay focused.
You will face spiritual battles. Know not to face them in your own strength. Lean into the Holy Spirit.
Know that this is his thing. This is the Holy Spirit’s. The church is his, it’s Jesus church. It’s led by his Holy Spirit. You can let go of some of those things that you’ve picked up and said, taking ownership of, it’s not ours to own and to really pursue the Lord through prayer and that these things are, are going to happen. This cultural shift or this culture will be formed, and it starts with us on our knees in prayer and fasting. And I just want to encourage people to do it, to not assume it, to not treat it lightly and to maybe grow or push yourself, to be a person dedicated to prayer and fasting more than you ever have.
Chad: Thanks, Brandon.
Hey, thanks for listening. That was Brandon Guindon. To get his book on this topic called Disciple-Making Culture, go to himpublications.com. We’ve got just one more episode in this mini-series, which is coming out soon.
Until next time.