Making Disciples - Not Members

As I shared in the district clergy meeting on Tuesday, keeping up with metrics in Vital Congregations is not antithetical to making disciples of Jesus Christ: metrics are an important tool. It’s taking the pulse of your congregation. It gives you a baseline to see where you are and where you might/might not be going. In the task of making disciples, however, we have got to move from our current understanding of membership toward a biblical and spiritual model of discipleship. In United Methodist circles, this means (to borrow from Gil Rendle):

If we're about institutional survival, we probably deserve to die. But if we believe making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is our mission - and that this is the most sacred thing we can do - we'll be all about that! And we certainly need to keep asking ourselves how we might measure discipleship and making disciples. How do we measure the difference made as a person moves toward becoming a disciple? Asking that question will help us get toward the task at hand!

So with that being said, I'm going to rip off Joey Reed's blog, "I'm Done 'Growing the Church,'" as this gets to the heart of the matter.

Enjoy. Or be irritated. Or both. Just be forewarned that while some people might not like this message, others are desperate to hear it.


I’m Done “Growing the Church”

Pews. Stop filling them. (Photo credit: boxchain)
Yes, you read that right. I’m done.

No more outreach strategies to fill the pews. No more ideas to draw young people. No more switching out the hard stuff for lighter fare in hopes that we will appeal to a larger audience.

No more “growing the church.”

It seems that every time I sit down to think of ways to lead people to Jesus, I find a new way to “align a program” or “bring focus to an issue” — or worse, I find good people who mistakenly think that my job is to be a chaplain, or just their “professional visitor.” Gotta get those visitors to close the deal and join up.

Too many people think that mission of the Church is to swell the ranks and fill the pews. Too many people think that this task is my job. Too many people find me a failure for not getting this done.

So. No more just “growing the church.”

Unless. Unless you mean something different when you say, “Grow, Church.”

Perhaps you mean, “Growing in Grace.” Perhaps the church is learning to become more mature about forgiveness. Maybe that would mean that the churches in the USA would be more willing to reach across boundaries of age, race, gender, and politics (yeah, I said it) in order to develop real relationships.

I would love to grow that church.

Maybe you mean, “Growing in Love.” That could mean that the church is learning to become more selfless. That could turn into giving our time and our money to help people who are in a bad way — even people we don’t think really deserve it.

I could see myself growing a cool church like that.

Maybe you mean “Growing in Depth.” Would that mean that people were learning to accept their flaws without glossing them over? Would that mean an outbreak of patience and kindness that only comes from realizing that we are all screwed up in one way or another, and God loves us anyway? Would that mean that folks realized that they are unqualified to do ministry – just like the minister – and would commit to doing ministry anyway? Would that mean that you realized the value of what you have in Christ is too valuable to not give it away?

I would give my right arm to grow that church.

What do you mean when you say, “Grow the church?” Because if you are looking for growth strategies that capitalize on market demographics and creative sales pitches, I’m probably busy that day you want to talk.

What do you mean when you say, “Grow the church?” Because if you are trying to find ways to impress kids, add some flash to your worship, and pray that they will give enough to pay for the brand new $2.3 million, 2500 seat worship center, I’ve got another appointment to keep.

But if you mean that you are interested in growing disciples into deeply committed Christians, let me invite you to pull up a chair, stop pulling out your hair, give up on pulling up your own bootstraps, and let’s get down to brass tacks.

- Posted on February 7, 2013 by Joey Reed