The question that comes up many times in church meetings is how to grow the church. Hours upon hours are poured into brainstorming ways to reach the lost and ways to effectively draw people into the church. In today’s culture, the church finds itself always competing with the world’s attention grabbers! In this never ending competition, the upper hand seems to always go to the world. I’m not sure if it’s good intentions or desperation which leads many in the church to seek out better ways to lure people in to hear the Gospel. Some churches use high profile speakers to head line a church event, some use self-help topics designed to be series that target the ills of society as an outreach by inviting people to come in for help and advice, and some use books other than the Bible to inspire it’s people on various subjects as how to be a better father/mother, how to live a successful Christian life, how to lead and be lead, some even go as far to promote a life change gospel that promises to make all your problems better, etc. in hopes to compete with the world around them. In all of these new culture driven events and programs where is the art of Biblical discipleship? If the church follows modern culture, the church will grow and grow quickly. I must ask the question, “Does church growth indicate how God is blessing our ministries?” Another question I must ask, “The people being drawn in by the new church outreach programs, are they being drawn in because of someone witnessing the true Gospel to them, or where they invited to hear about a self-help topic, to experience the music service and worship, or someone to make them laugh? Is the emphasis being put on the Gospel first and foremost or is the emphasis put on the outreach program with the Gospel being down on the list?” Are new converts being disciple Biblically or are they being lead to believe that church work is discipleship?
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
First of all, we need to clearly define the church. The simple answer is the church is the body of believers. To be a member of the church you must be born again by the power of the Jesus Christ. The church and the preaching is for the building up of the body of Christ, therefore the church is not solely a place for those without Christ. A big part of preaching is the Gospel and I do not dispute that fact, but the church must be used to preach on the spiritual things of God that the natural man( a person without Christ) cannot understand(1 Corinthians 2:13-15). The church needs to prepare the body of believers and teach them how to be Christ followers
The next thing we need to focus on as the body of Christ, is what did the Bible say about bringing people to the church? Should we invite our friends and family to church with us? Should be use Gospel tracks? Should we invite strangers to church? Should we witness to people when we are outside of our church? The answer to all of the above questions is “YES”. I’m afraid that many who want to spread the Gospel have not been truly taught how to be a disciple.
Here is my simply outline for church growth:
- Grow the body of believers with the preaching of the whole council of God.
- Encourage the body of believers in God’s grace and patiently teach them the doctrines of the faith.
- Enable the body of believers with the Gospel by teaching them how to witness and live Godly lives that reflect the power of God in this lost world.
- Take time with each person by addressing their questions and concerns.
- Lead them by example.
In the above examples, I’m giving an outline to make disciples out of people to teach them how to “cast their nets” and spread the Gospel(Matthew 4:19).
What is the fading art of discipleship? What do I mean when I make this statement
When we build up the body of Christ by empowering them with the Word of God, then the power of the Gospel is truly seen when they go out into the world to witness the good news of Jesus Christ. When we rely upon the Gospel and truly disciple our fellow believers, then the Holy Spirit will use the Gospel to convict and draw people to our church. This method was used in the Bible and it is the only method that works because it is by the preaching of the Gospel that mankind is saved.
I fear that too many times we worry about how we can bring people to Christ when the answer is in the Bible that we are holding in our hands. I think instead of brainstorming about how to use relevance/culture to draw people into the church, we should focus more on teaching the children of God about our Christian culture. I think we should drop all the book studies etc. and dig deep into the Bible. I believe if we simply follow the Bible’s instructions then we will see true growth as Christians mature. We will witness the power of the Gospel as it reveals itself in their lives as they grow in Christ. I know that life changes happen and these types of changes can be seen in almost every religion, but the difference is only the Gospel can truly change the heart of mankind. It is the power of God that we are a new creation and are born again. It’s by the preaching and spreading of the Gospel that the real only lasting power of life change happens and that is through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let’s get back to discipleship first and focus on building up the church using only the Word of God. I would love to hear more about door to door witnessing from the true church instead of 95% of the time when a missionary knocks on my door it is a Mormon or Jehovah Witness. As we ponder and brainstorm how to reach modern people with culture/relevance, cults like the Mormons and Jehovah Witness are tearing the streets up using an example laid out in the Word of God. These cultist know their doctrines and why, they are very good at what they do. How well do you know your faith, your doctrines, and can you back them up with the Scriptures when questioned? I don’t know about you, but it seems the Mormons and Jehovah Witness cults have one up on us in the department of discipleship. We have the truth and we need to put that truth into full practice.
Want to see real change? Then build up disciples and feed them only on the Word of God. Teach them to study, to pray, to be mindful of the Holy Spirit, lead by example, and do all in your power to help them when they are in need. In America and around the world, we need disciples who will take the Gospel out to the highways and hedges compelling mankind to repent by spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
If we promote volunteering for the church as discipleship, then we are putting the carriage in front of the horse. Discipleship is simply setting under a godly elder who nurtures us as we are taught the deeper truths of our faith. Basically we are taught how to use the armor of God and how to correctly wield the sword of the Lord which is the Word of the Most High.
I pastor friend once told me, “If you bring them in on entertainment, then you’ve got to keep them entertained. If you bring them in on the Gospel, then all you need to do is feed them with it.”