How do we determine whether a church is successful or not? Is it the size of the church service on Sunday morning? Is it the size of the church budget or the number of activities for kids, young adults, women, etc.? There are many criteria that we could use, but the real question is whether we are doing what Jesus has called us to do. The only standard that counts is His. If we are not do- ing what Jesus has called us to do, then it does not matter how many people we can get into a building on any given day of the week.
So what has Jesus called us to do? In Matthew 4:19, Jesus says to Peter and his brother Andrew, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” We are to be followers of Jesus who, with God’s power, make other people followers of Jesus too. We call this discipleship. Jesus confirms this calling for us all in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” Paul clarifies this calling in 2 Timothy 2:2, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” This is what Jesus has called the Church to do – to make disciples who can make disciples. Everything we do as a church must be evaluated on the basis of whether it helps us accomplish the goal of making disciples who can make disciples, both within our own culture and cross-culturally in every people. That must be our standard for success as the Church.
So how are we doing overall? Are we effectively making disciples that are making disciples? As I reported in my editorial in the Sept.-Oct. 2009 issue, over half of our young people are walking away from the church in college. Josh McDowell says that unless something is done quickly to change this situation, the current adults will be “The Last Christian Generation.” According to George Barna, only a small minority of the people in our pews hold to sound biblical doctrine. Even fewer share their faith with others. The overall American church is not growing. At best it is barely hanging on against the onslaught from a hostile secular culture. Our common model for doing church is for people to “pray the prayer and sit in a chair” and listen to the pastor. It is not making disciples who can make disciples. The global missionary effort will never succeed if we simply bring this broken model of doing church to every tribe and tongue. But if we make disciples who make disciples, as God has designed His Kingdom to grow, the gates of Hell will not stand against the onslaught of Christ’s advancing Church.