Part 1 of 3
Your church won’t change its heart and mind, “take ground” or work together as effective parts of the church body unless it does this one thing – DISCIPLE.
How did we end up building “skyscrapers” that gather in but don’t disperse world-changing Christians? Why have many of our “body” parts atrophied, reducing the Church’s impact in modern-day society? How could 93% of churches not be growing? Because we didn’t disciple adequately. Our members don’t love Jesus enough. They don’t pray enough. They aren’t bold enough in sharing their faith. They don’t look enough like Jesus.
Does “the member is not the ‘customer’” mean churches should pay less attention to them?
No, in fact it’s the opposite. Churches should focus more on their members; however, the orientation of that “internal” focus should shift dramatically.
Members are the conduit through which the Church accomplishes its objective in the world – the Great Commission. Therefore, ministry inside a church is actually more important than ministry outside its “4 walls” – because the internal dictates how much impact its members will have externally. If members ARE the Church, then you train them much like a company trains its employees. Companies don’t survive if their employees aren’t trained to be effective at their jobs. Likewise, your members are “insiders” – they are your church’s and Jesus’ workforce, His hands and feet.
A major point of this blog series is: Who a church views as its “customer” will determine how it conducts ministry inside the church. In other words, rather than catering to members/visitors with programs designed to attract and retain them, a church who truly sees its members as the church and the community as its “customer” would spend much more time challenging them with programs designed to disciple and prepare them to impact the world around them.
Are your members disciples?
If not, how do you get them there?
Once they are disciples how do you deploy them to maximize their usefulness for the Kingdom?
Those are the questions we will explore over the next 3 weeks.
Discipleship…the key to growth
If your members aren’t disciples they can’t make disciples. That’s why Jesus spent most of his time discipling 12 men. Through those first disciples, the Christian faith spread like wildfire.
Those disciples looked like Jesus. They acted like Jesus. Jesus was loving, selfless and compassionate. He attracted a large following. So did his disciples.
Nothing has changed. Disciples are still the key to growing the Kingdom and your church. Yet, are most churches in the U.S. building enough disciples? The litmus test is whether Christianity is growing in America today. The answer is no.
If disciples are the means by which Jesus intends for people to come to Him then the most critical function of the church should be to make disciples. (By the way, discipleship begins with leading people TO Christ. Then it transitions to leading them IN Christ.) Churches only have limited access to people each week, so if they spend any of that time not making disciples, they’re wasting it. If a new program or strategy is not going to help make disciples, throw it out.
3 questions should drive every church’s strategy and decisions:
- What is the next step for each person to grow in Christ?
- Are people changing, looking and living more like Jesus?
- If not, why and what do we do about it?
What is a disciple…really?
Some pastors believe they have a church full of disciples, but do they? What does a disciple look like?
Different people give different answers. A fully devoted follower of Jesus. A student of Jesus. A follower of Jesus. A follower who reproduces more followers. Someone who lives like Jesus. All of these are true to a large extent.
If any or all of those are accurate, then to discover whether our members are disciples, we have to see how well their lives align with the attributes of Jesus. Are they…
- not able to walk by the needy without helping them?
- broken-hearted for the lost and fully committed to their salvation?
- selfless to the point of stepping far outside their comfort zones for Jesus?
- wholly dependent on the Father, living and giving by faith?
- willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the gospel?
If you examine the lives of most members and regular churchgoers, would they look a lot like that? How could their lives and hearts not be radically changed when they truly get who Jesus is and what He did for us? Yet how much time does the average church member spend studying the Bible or praying or journaling each day? How many go to church every Sunday and even pray each morning, then essentially forget about God the rest of the day? How many folks in your church does that describe?
What a disciple is not:
- Simply a believer – They’ve only taken the first step on the path to becoming a disciple
- A Christian , or someone who acts like one – Not necessarily a disciple
- An active church member – Hearing sermons, attending small groups, and serving at the church doesn’t mean they’re living like Jesus
- A person with great head knowledge – Understanding and heart change are two different things
Why aren’t we making more disciples?
As we’ve discussed, churches have become more cautious about challenging members. True discipleship is:
- Hard Work – Much more time consuming than our modern day discipleship methods (which we’ll discuss next week)
- Costly – Luke 9 points out how much hardship being a disciple of Jesus entails
- Risky – How far from their safe, secure existence will members have to venture to “Go and make disciples”?
It’s your turn…
Are most churches laying out all of those cards? Are they providing the level of depth necessary to build a church full of disciples? Are small groups and sermons sufficient to help members take on all the attributes of Christ? Please provide your feedback and we’ll discuss those questions next week.