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A Picture of a Vibrant Church in the U.S. in 2030, Part 2 of 7: Making Disciples for Life

No one single shift did more to change what emerged as a vibrant church in 2030 than the rapid development of relational discipleship/apprenticeship. A disciple investing their time, energy, skills, and life in others to make better followers of Jesus. 

It’s hard to imagine that a decade earlier it would have been unusual for most Christians to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Jesus. 

Jesus had only three years to invest in the disciples to be like him and live like him. By the power of the Spirit they changed the world.

Here was reality a decade earlier in 2020…

  • Churches focused on making members, volunteers, listeners, attenders, but strangely not disciples.
  • Pastors and a relative few were stressed, tired, frustrated, and discouraged by the lack of commitment demonstrated by members.
  • The lives of people inside the church were not appreciably different from those outside the church.
  • Pastors had been taught to preach, teach, administer sacraments, conduct meetings, administer programs, visit the sick…but few had modeled for them how to invest in/disciple/apprentice people around the Word of God. 
  • Cultures of congregations tended to center around a personality, politics or programs…seldom discipleship.
  • Church “scorecards” remained slavishly focused on counting only Worship Attendance. And Offerings. Both lagging indicators. Both swatted away the strategic shift to making disciples instead of attenders.

For the first time I’m getting the tools to actually start discipling people.

D2MC Washington, DC, participant

Jesus preached to the crowds but discipled only a few. He…

  • Invited the few: “Come, follow me.”
  • Challenged the few: “You give (the 5000) something to eat.”
  • Invested in the attitude and behavior of the few.
  • Developed competency of the few. 
  • Built courage in the few.
  • Modeled compassion to the few.
  • Demonstrated the Mission to the few: “Zaccheus, I’m coming to your house today.”
  • Loved the few…no matter what. 
  • Loved the few…too much to leave them where they were.
  • Created accountability for the few.

Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

(Matthew 7:24)

Jesus invested in the few to reach the many.

Churches stopped aiming at the many and only getting a few. They started doing what Jesus did. They began to shrink the gap between what people heard and how they lived.

The few disciples did in Acts what Jesus did in the Gospels because Jesus invested in the few. 

This single shift a decade earlier of slowly learning to disciple a few who could disciple a few more…did more to change the trajectory of congregations than anything else.

  • Once dying congregations experienced surprising vitality.
  • Urban congregations began to stabilize.
  • Small rural churches that were frequently ignored captured a vibrancy of mission.
  • Large churches watched consumers become Kingdom contributors.
  • Churches with no one under the age of 60 regained a new vigor.
  • Isolated outposts began to engage their neighborhoods and represent Jesus.
  • Young, disaffected millennials experienced authentic love and belief and growth.

You’ve had countless Christian guardians, but you don’t have many spiritual fathers…. So I encourage you to imitate me.

(1 Corinthians 4:15-16)

…All because people began investing their time, energy, skills, and life in the discipleship of others. They learned a simple model that ordinary people who had been discipled could now disciple others who could disciple still others.

For many, the Christian faith captured a new level of joy and fulfillment unlike anything they had experienced…even in the face of adversity. 

So, how about some conversation around the leadership table at your church!

(You can still invite your leaders to this conversation.)

  • Take an honest look at your congregation:
    • Is there a “gap” between what’s being taught and how people live?
    • IF you discontinued a popular ministry/program or changed the time of the worship service in your congregation would “consumers” go somewhere else or would they reinvest themselves in helping each other grow?
    • Do you have more disciples or volunteers in your church? Disciples are interested in listening and following Jesus no matter the cost. Volunteers need to be reminded of the vision, thanked, encouraged, constantly recruited. 
  • Is it possible that the biggest problem in your church is the inability to disciple people in the words and ways of Jesus? 
  • PLI’s Discipleship to Missional Community (D2MC) equips leaders to invest in a culture of discipleship that is bearing fruit. It’s not the only way. But, it’s “a” way. What would keep you/your board from learning more and contacting Raechel with your questions? Now! And stop helplessly procrastinating and start investing in the single greatest shift that will impact the future of your church!

D2MC changed my life. Seriously. I will never be the same. Thank you.

Congregational Chairman in Nebraska

One Response

  1. John Denninger says:

    good words – I like the perspective of looking at the now present moment from a decade in the future. We live in an amazing time of huge potential.

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