Why are so many people not growing deeper in their relationship with God? There was a recent study done by Eric Geiger and Ed Stetzer for writing the book Transformational Groups, a study that oversee 2,300 churches sponsored by 15 denominations. Less than half of those churches said they had any plan in place for discipling people, and only 60 perfect had anyone responsible for any level of spiritual formation among children, students and adults.
Why is this the case? Let us look at three key reasons.
- “Pastors have been trained to act as caregivers rather than transformers.”
Scripture calls the Pastor to do one thing, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,[e] to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:11-13) The book that was written by Eric Geiger, “Design To Lead” mentions the model within our church is often misunderstood as the ministry is done by the church as the congregation so often misunderstand that they hire the pastor as they give their offering to the church.
The average pastor spends 95% of their time taking care of their members rather than transforming and leading them to be like Jesus. Discipleship ultimately at the end of the day by definition is, “Leading people to learn to live and love like Jesus and inviting them to do as well”. For example, most pastors perform hospital visitation, or perform weddings, or become a funeral directors of dying congregations. All of these are important and crucial, yet the reality is that those environments fail to encourage people into a life of discipleship.
- “The focus of most churches now is how to survive a little longer.”
Many will disagree with this statement, but if you’re honest like me, it is the elephant in the room. A wise man told me once in my as part of Masters while I was in Grad school (Seminary) “Leadership development isn’t fast and our tendency is to quit.” If we want to be missional, we must become patient in the messy process called discipleship. However, so often the numbers just don’t match up as we are using the wrong metrics. Many churches and church leaders have fallen in the trap of gauging success in the church by the ABC’s of growth: Attendance, Buildings, and Cash. This as you know is a very unbiblical model isn’t it? When we look at the life of Jesus, Jesus didn’t draw large crowds for the sake of counting heads or logging attendance. Jesus never gauged effectiveness by these criteria, “nickels & noses”. Therefore, we have declined so far they have reached the point of no return, so why bother with discipleship of discipling others?
3.“Pastors either gets apathetic, frustrated or exhausted and ultimately gives up on even the thought and moves on”
Part of this is for using the wrong metrics; we place this unrealistic expectation upon ourselves and often will keep ourselves busy with other things so we don’t have to face the reality that Christ at the ends doesn’t determine the maturity of the church by counting Christians, but he weighs the depth of them. Instead what if we weight them with these 5 categories as follows?
This leads to so many pastors / staff leaders to give up on even the thought of the miraculous and have bought into the secularism of our time. For many church members, the church is little more than a club where they go to find comfort and fellowship with old friends with little thought of the stranger at the gate. Many pastors have succumbed to a corporate mentality where climbing the ladder of success is the only goal in life.
So, what’s the solution?
Let’s begin by acknowledging and to agree upon that the solution doesn’t lie in a program. Programs don’t grow people – never have, never will. People grow people. This doesn’t diminish the fact that programs are bad and we must toss them out, but Jesus came for the people. As Dr. Robert Colemen said it well in his book, Master Plan of Discipleship – “Men were his method of winning the world, not a program. Men who would bear witness to his life and carry on his work.” With this in mind as a model today, this will require more concentration of time and talents on fewer people in the church while not neglecting the passion for the world.
I often say to our leaders, you yourself are the curriculum. What people see in you should have a tremendous impact on their lives. The question we must ask is do we ourselves truly and fully have a crystal clear definition and understanding of the gospel? If then, do we live in such away that the gospel is demonstrated and people see how we live and love Jesus with all our lives? If it doesn’t, then you have found the problem. Take your Bible and go off and don’t return until your heart burns to become more like Jesus.
Today’s church rises and falls on its leadership. If you’re a disciple making leader, your church will follow … it might take some time, but they’ll begin to follow you (or they’ll get fed up and leave, which is just fine).