Put yourself in the shoes of a pastor.
Jesus has given you the command to “make disciples”. This is also the general mission to His original disciples, to every Christian, and to the local church (which you are responsible to lead).
Imagine sitting at your desk on Monday morning. As the pastor of a local church you wonder, “How did our church do at the task of making disciples last week?”
You want to know if your church is making progress or not. Are you doing the right things to make more disciples? Are your church’s ministries helping achieve this goal? Are your members growing in their own followership of Christ and helping others to know and follow him? And as the leader of the local church, are you leading in a way that is tangibly seeing new disciples made?
It is an important question. How do you know how you and your church are doing at making disciples?
Yesterday I made the comparison between the movie Moneyball and the church. In this movie the Oakland A’s learned to use a different set of statistics preparing to win ballgames. They discovered some of the traditional stats, while being interesting and somewhat helpful, were insufficient. In order to be successful in their stated goal of winning games, they needed some new ways to measure the productivity of their players and their activities.
I believe the church needs some new ways to measure how we are progressing in the goal of making disciples – a command given to us by the Lord himself. The traditional statistics of attendance, offerings, salvations, and baptisms are important – but they probably don’t measure the underlying activity necessary to consistently make disciples. We need some better measures.
This is not a new observation, Thom Rainer recently wrote a new book about this subject titled, “Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations.” It is an important topic that should be on the mind of church leaders and individual Christians.
Yesterday I laid out some different measures which could be helpful. Today I want to write about why I think those measures are important and my basis for that conclusion. I’ll start by listing the category to measure and then explaining the rationale.
1. Friends – making new friends and spending time with unbelieving friends.
- Rationale – At its very core the Great Commission is about moving towards those who don’t know Christ with the Gospel message. It is about encountering new people. God loves people! He saw us in our sin, moved towards us in love, and allowed His son to die on the cross and rise again for the world (1 John 4:10). We can’t “make disciples of all people” without moving towards those people. This means Christians must intentionally intersect with the unbelieving world around us. Jesus was a “friend of sinners.” Following his example we must move towards people, make new friends, and spend time with them.
- The measure…
- How many new friends did our congregation make last week?
- How much time did we spend with our unbelieving friends last week?
2. Gospel “Attempts”.
- Rationale – Making disciples starts with making friends; but doesn’t end there. At some point a person must be introduced to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This may not happen the first meeting with a new friend or the 5th or the 15th; but it must happen at some point. Evangelism takes place when the Gospel is shared. We are responsible for the act of sharing the Gospel not a person’s response to the Gospel. People understand the Gospel through exposure to the Word of God. This may be a few verses in a few minutes; or it may be an extended Bible study over multiple weeks.
- The Measure:
- How many times did our members share the “basics” of the Gospel with someone?
- How many of our members had a 30-minute Bible study with an unbelieving friend?
3. Growth and Community.
- Rationale – Beginning a relationship with Christ takes very little information. But growing in the Christian life means learning more and more about Him and what it means to live for Him. Much of the Christian life revolves around community with other believers. In the New Testament we see Christ-followers worshipping and praying together; learning together; caring for one another; meeting each other’s needs, etc. A person grows best when they have some kind of a mentor and a regular time of study. The idea of a Lone Ranger Christian is foreign to the NT. Thus, a disciple will be spending regular time in the Word and growing in community with other believers.
- How many members had a 30 minute Bible study with a believing friend (as a mentor or being mentored).
- How many members participated in a church small group.
- How many members attended one of the church’s worship gatherings.
- Rationale – A growing disciple understands the necessity of serving their local body of Christ. Paul is very clear about this in his letters (1 Cor 12 &13, Romans 12). A disciple also understand the importance of good works as a way to witness of Christ’s love for the world (Eph 2:10). Therefore it would be great to know how many church members are serving in their church and in the community.
- Served 1 hour in a church-based ministry.
- Served 1 hour in our community.
Great, fine, dandy! But how would this actually work on a weekly basis?
Here’s a thought – have a “My Week as a Disciple” card in every pew (or padded, pew chair). The card would look like this:
My Week as a Disciple of Jesus
- Gospel Contacts
1) I made ___ new friends this week. Their names were ___________________________.
2) I spent _____ hours with my unbelieving friends last week doing ____________________ (activity).
- Gospel Attempts
3) I shared the basics of the Gospel with _____ people last week. (Death, burial, resurrection and having faith in Christ.)
4) I had ____ Bible studies with unbelievers last week (at least 30 minutes for each.)
- Growth and Community
5) I had a ____ Bible studies with Christian friends (at least 30 minutes for each.)
6) I went to a _______________ small group (fill in the blank with your leader).
- Giving and Serving
7) I served at least 1 hour in ___________________ ministry at our church.
8) I served at least 1 hour at ___________________ in our community.
Of course there are MANY other things we could measure. How much did someone read the Bible? How much did they pray? Did they spend time in personal worship? And on and on. But I think the above questions would help a church’s leadership know if they were making progress on a church-wide basis and how to adjust training to improve in those areas.
On a final note – yes, I understand the church is not a business. But Jesus was not against “strategy”. After all, he sent the 12 and he sent the 70. They reported back to him and he gave them further instruction. This suggestion is not meant to take the place of prayer or spirit-led activity; but to complement it. And for those who still struggle with this; just remember, God did put a book in the Bible called Numbers. Just a thought.
I’m interested in your thoughts. Any ideas on other measures or activities that would help us know how we’re doing, as a church, in carrying out Jesus’ command to make disciples.