Recently I’ve been reading two really good books that raise an important question.
Renovation of the Church: What Happens When a Seeker Church Discovers Spiritual Formation by Kent Carlson and Mike Lueken
Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen and Steve Cockram
Here are some quotes from these books to give you an idea what the question is.
“In the final analysis ministry is not about our outward success. It is not a numbers game. If our organization is growing while the actual percentage of nonchurched people in our area remains the same, we are not accomplishing our mission. If our communities are not dramatically influenced by the churches in our area, we are not living out our faith in any radical way. If followers of Christ are barely distinguishable from the nonchurched people around us, the kingdom of God is not advancing.” (ROC)
“…one of the most crucial skills for pastors and church lay leaders is to manage church decline when people are leaving because they see, finally, what Jesus is asking of them.” (ROC)
“The problem is that most of us have been educated and trained to build, serve and lead the organization of the church. Most of us have actually never been trained to make disciples.” (BADC)
“If you make disciples, you always get the church. But if you make a church, you rarely get disciples.” (BADC)
“Jesus has not called you to build his church. In fact, in all of the Gospels he mentions the church only two times. One time he mentions it, it’s about conflict resolution. The other time? To say that he will build his church. Our job, our only job and the last instructions he gave us, was to make disciples.” (BADC)
“If you’re counting converts, budget or buildings first and foremost, you’re not counting the things that Jesus counted.” (BADC)
You’re probably getting the picture by now. Jesus told us to make disciples. He did not tell us to grow churches. In fact, quick growth makes disciple-making much harder. This doesn’t mean quick growth is bad, but it does mean it’s not the point and that if we have quick growth we better be sure we’re making disciples and not just celebrating our outward success.
Another problem is that many churches don’t even know if they’re making disciples or what that would look like (I suggest Breen’s book if that’s you). At least if we know we’re not making disciples we can do something about it. If we have no idea if we are or not we’re stuck.
So a question…is your church making disciples? How do you know? What does it look like? Is that a higher priority than filling up the building on Sunday or small groups during the week?