Difficult Decisions on Discipleship
Here’s a question for you to ponder with your leadership team: what changes can we make to produce real spiritual growth in our congregation? Tony Morgan captures some of the reasons churches don’t produce spiritual growth; I have adapted them for our use.
We focus more on Bible teaching than Bible engagement. We have all known church members who have studied their Sunday school lessons for decades but live and act like the Scriptures are optional for Christians. Spend time discussing specific ways people can live out what is being taught. For example, ask your members to write on their information card the initials of one person they have forgiven in the past week.
We haven’t developed a pathway of focused first steps. Growing congregations have learned how to simplify Simple Church. The church we attend offers four “next steps” each month: new members received on the first Sunday of the month, new members’ information session on the second Sunday, volunteer sign up the third Sunday and baptism on the fourth Sunday. It is that simple!
We are more concerned with activity than growth. Increased activity does not grow mature Christians. Let your leadership team discover through research what produces mature Christians, then experiment with ideas to make it happen.
We haven’t clarified the church’s role. The church is not the main source of feeding spiritual hunger; Jesus is the bread of life. Christians must be taught and held accountable for taking the initiative in developing an intimate, daily relationship with Jesus.
We haven’t raised the bar. The objective is not to get more people to belong to your church! The goal is to produce fully devoted followers of Christ. It is possible to have a sanctuary full of people with only a handful of actual Christ-followers. Be aggressive in leading people out of their comfort zones and toward the crucified life.
We have created a church staff/pastor dependency. Your ego may feel important when people look to you or your staff for the answers to spiritual questions, but this dependency is unhealthy for you and for your people. Rather than feeling like you have to prove your spiritual success and prowess to them, use your leadership skills to lead them to be successful in their own spiritual walk with God.
We focus on what people should do rather than who they should become. Churches are experts at hiding the goal – being conformed to the image of Christ – by spending valuable time and space advertising the buffet of busyness they offer. This does not mean you should not have activities, but maybe you should evaluate those activities, events, groups and services with the idea of eliminating some of the doing and encouraging more being like Christ.
Every church which is on mission with God lives with the tension of growing spiritually mature disciples, so do not be discouraged if your congregation seems to be failing in this area. Plan the time in your leadership team meetings to have a full discussion of the topic, do some detailed research on solving the problem, and start with what you can do.