Emotion is no substitute for activity

Emotion is no substitute for activity.

Activity is no substitute for production.

 (Production is no substitute for reproduction.)

— Dawson Trotman

The first two phrases above have been well known and applied to a number of situations.  Dawson Trotman, viewing them from a spiritual point of view, added the third phrase.  In his mind, not only emotion and activity; but production also falls short of what Christ desires of us as His followers.

An emotional response is the intended target of the televison and movie industry.  All too often it may be the predominant response to a spiritual message as well.  Whether it be a speaker, a book, a DVD, or a conference, all that may be received is an emotional high.  The message may have been intellectually stimulating, one with which we agreed wholeheartedly and recommended to others.  We leave with a sense of satisfaction, having agreed with and having been stimulated by the words spoken.  The following day, however, we typically struggle to recall the subject matter which had stirred us so greatly the day before.  Emotions come quickly, and leave just as quickly.  I have heard some describe a message as “powerful” and “life-changing,” yet no power or change ever became evident in their lives.  It is apparently all too easy to be satisfied with an emotional experience without a corresponding response in our lives.  Emotion is no substitute for activity.

Leroy Eims describes activity without production in Chapter 5 of his book, “Lost Art of Disciplemaking.”  “Visualize a large manufacturing plant in your town or city that produces shoes.  The management has invested great sums of money and many man-hours into the plant to produce the finest shoes possible.  Money has been spent on salaries for the employees, machinery for shoemaking, and materials from which the shoes are to be made.  The plant is now in operation with hundreds of workers scurrying to and fro.  Machines are running full blast, and activity is at a maximum.

One day the president asks the production manager, “How many shoes have we produced so far?”  “None,” the manager answers.”  “None!”  the president exclaims. “How long have we been in operation?”  “Two years.”  “Two years?  And still no shoes?”  “That’s right,”  the manager says, “no shoes, but we are really busy.  In fact, we have been so busy that we are all nearly tired out.  We’ve been very active at our job.”

Now let’s put a cross on top of that building and transform it into the church on the corner-your church.  Again, there is much activity.  Men and women are working hard.  The budget is higher this year than ever before.   The church is very active. The objective, however, is not to produce shoes but disciples.”

A pastor friend of mine once described what he saw in the church as a large funnel at the top where people, events, committees and programs all entered but with a very small trickle of disciples emerging.  His church had spent several years developing the correct mission statement, but despite all the activity there were few disciples produced. He was describing the fact that activity is no substitute for production.

Many have been productive in their spiritual lives.  Much fewer have led lives that were reproductive.  When Les Spencer brought a man to Dawson Trotman, Dawsons’ reply was “you teach him.”  Dawson had a vision for what the Lord would do in the lives of others, not just his own life.  Many years ago when I initially started the practice of Medicine in Wichita, I had the opportunity to lead a number of people to the Lord.  Although this was production, there was no reproduction.  They were converts, but they were a long way from being disciples.  I did not have the vision of the importance of training people to do for others what I had done for them.  I was attempting to fulfill only a part of the great commission. After my exposure to the Navigators, I saw the importance of the concepts taught in Colossians 1:28-29 and II Timothy 2:2.  I learned that production is no substitute for reproduction.

Why is reproduction seen so seldom?  Production can involve a matter of minutes; reproduction takes years.  Production can be accomplished with a message; reproduction requires your life.  Production can occur when it is convenient; reproduction is costly.  It is one thing to find a lost sheep; it is another to put them on your shoulders and carry them back to the fold.  It is easy to be content when a new convert becomes established in their faith and becomes active in a church.  To continue an investment in that individual until they are equipped for their ministry will take additional years.  In II Timothy 2:2 we see four generations:  Paul, Timothy, faithful men, and others also.  We can only be assured that we have adequately transmitted our lives when we can see these succeeding generations in a persons’ life.  Our goal should be to continue contact and ministry with individuals until the people they are discipling are actively discipling others.  The Christian message is always just one generation from extinction.  We are perpetually in danger of becoming like the people described in Judges 2:10:  “There arose a generation that knew not the Lord.”  Psalm 78:5-6 describes our task as follows:  “He decreed statues for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.”   It is my conviction that this applies to spiritual children as well as physical children.  It is only generational vision that will assure the fruitfulness of our ministry throughout the coming years.

May the Lord multiply His grace through your lives as you serve Him.

In Christ,

Richard Spann

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