What is the Problem?
Like the culture at large, our church culture in America is centered on entertainment, not on equipping people as effective disciple-makers. The pastor is the â€œperformer,â€ and the people are the spectators. Most churches think they can grow if only they have a gifted speaker who can draw a crowd on Sunday morning. They spend much of their energy, time and money on perfecting the Sunday morning â€œshow.â€ How many churches focus on looking for pastors who have a demonstrated ability to make disciples who can make disciples? There is nothing wrong with having a wonderful worship service, or a pastor who is a great teacher, but if that is the main focus of a church then it is out of focus on what really counts.
Disciple-making takes place through intentional relationships where spiritual life and maturity can be passed on from one person to another. A pastor cannot personally disciple hundreds or thou- sands of people by himself, but that is what our current church model expectsÂ him to do. The Sunday morning sermon is not discipleship. We need a new biblical model for doing church that equips all believers to be disciple-makers, not just the pastor. Here is one notable example from which we can learn.
From its founding, Real Life Ministries of Post Falls, Idaho has been committed to creating a new model for doing church. They determined that absolutely everything they did would be to achieve the goal of making disciples who can make disciples. They are based in a small town of just 26,000, but in just 12 years they have grown from a church plant of four couples to 8,500 members. They have also established six other church plants in their area, each with over 1,000 members. From 2002-2006, they were the fastest growing non-de- nominational church in America.
Every year hundreds of people come to faith in Christ for the first time through their 600+ home-based discipleship groups. It is not the pastor of the church whoÂ is leading these people to faith. It is the disciples of this church making newÂ disciples. The late Avery Willis, former director of operations for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptists, believed this was the best model of church-based discipleship he had ever seen, and he gave the last days of his life to promoting it. NavPress has also been so impressed with their work that they are partnering with them in developing discipleship materials.Â The church provides frequent training for church leaders in their discipleship model.
We need to learn from each other if we are to develop new church models that work. The global Church must learn how to make disciples who can make disciples, or the task of discipling the nations will always remain a distant and unattainable vision. We must answer Godâ€™s call to radical disciple-making.
This article was originally written for Mission Frontiers.