“Leadership is not merely personal sanctification but the multiplication of disciples.” – Mike Breen

The majority of churches in America are not growing.  It is a well-documented fact.  The number one reason for this is that churches have become institutions instead of missionary movements.  Institutions tend to be inward focused, intent on preservation rather vision.  Movements figure out what God is doing and where He is going and join Him.

In many ways we have succeeded as a church–but succeeded in matters that are contrary to the metrics of the Kingdom. We make the pastor the chief discipler but insist on most of time being spent on the wrong priorities.  We want him present in programs whether there is a discipleship purpose or not.  We want him to attend to our every need instead of focusing on the work that God is clearly calling us to do.  We allow ourselves to be recipients of services instead of providers. In many cases we resist his allowing or equipping others to do what he does for fear that he will stop making our needs his highest personal concern.

And yet at the same time we want to see the church grow.  But again, we focus on the wrong metrics.  How many people are in the pews and how many dollars in the plate?  (Some pastors refer to this as counting nickels and noses.)  Because we are not really concerned with doing the work of Jesus ourselves, or that even the church as a whole does the work of Jesus, we never ask whether these additional people represent persons who will be a part of the ministry or simply more consumers of the ministry’s services.

In that scenario, the church is only growing at the expense of the pastor’s exhaustion or lowering the expectations of people who are part of the church.  And in that scenario, we have a whole lot of people who are sure they are going to heaven but aren’t insuring that they are taking anyone with them.

Have you read the Great Commission lately? “Then Jesus came to them and said, `All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20

Permit me to highlight two phrases: go and make disciples and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  Jesus defined his mission as making disciples who would share the Good News of the Kingdom of God.  He did not say, “Once you’ve got it made as a disciple” you’re finished.  Nor did he say, “Once you have learned my commandments” just hang in there until I return.  And he did not say the pastor takes care of the disciples and the rest of us watch.

People on mission for Jesus know that what Jesus counts is how many disciples we have made and disciples are measured by their obedience to the will and purpose of God.

The church is not growing because it is not making disciples, just highly savvy religious consumers.

It’s time to change that.  Jesus IS returning.

(C) by Stephen L Dunn


Sharing a testimony

In the past year the student ministry at my church has exploded. Called BURN it seeks to help kids develop a deep desire for God. A Wednesday night youth worship gathering is the front door and chief engine used by the Spirit for this ministry. It is led by a passionate and grounded young man named Jeremy Moyer. Instead of the typical youth group that is, to quote Ed Stetzer, “a holding tank with pizza,” Burn seeks to help kids become leaders and influencers of their generation. When this began our “youth group” had 12 kids. By the second semester of the school year, the numbers had swollen to 100. Many of these kids are unchurched.

In March Jeremy preached a series on commitment called “Real vs Fake.”

Do you affirm your faith in Jesus Christ?

One evening 16 of these kids decided to become Christians. The next week there were four more.

That’s when Jeremy came to ask me about baptism. These kids needed to baptized and he already knew that it would be a powerful opportunity for those kids to witness to their newfound faith.

My church has a beautiful 150 year old marble baptistery in the sanctuary. We began to plan to secure it on a Wednesday (that’s when the Burn worship gathering occurs) to conduct the service.

The next day Jeremy came to see me again. “Do the baptisms have to be in the church?” “no,” was my response.

“Well these kids want to use the occasion to tell their stories to their friends, many of whom are not yet Christians. Those kids won’t come to the church.”

One of our original kids

What was then created was a Saturday Night Beach Party the night before Palm Sunday at the nearby rec center and its pool. And that night with 75 kids in attendance and about a dozen of our elders and youth leaders (and a few unchurched parents), 12 kids shared their personal testimonies and Jeremy and I baptized them. It was one of the most moving worship experiences in the history of our 177 year old congregation. (It was also the first time I ever had a baptism with a life guard on duty.)

Easter morning we showed the pictures as our call to worship with the simple announcement “This is what we are all about as a church.”

An encouragement hug for a new believer

One of the new kids already in our church family

A new disciple of Jesus Christ


“The business of the church is to make more and better disciples.” – Bob Logan Beyond Church Growth

The church is a supernatural organism with a missionary purpose. Jesus makes that very clear in his instructions to his disciples recorded in Matthew 28, “… go and make disciples of all nations.” We are commissioned by God and given the authority of God to make disciples of people everywhere at all times and in all circumstances.  And how is a disciple made? By introducing people to the Risen Christ and inviting them to enter into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus and becoming a part of His servant community in the world.

Church growth advocates often see the ministry of the church in marketing terms. “We need to be gaining and retaining members.” Churches of a mission from God think in terms of evangelism and discipleship.

Disciples are members of the Church, the Body of Christ. Members, however, are not necessarily disciples. Actually, you cannot be a member of the Church (including its local manifestation, a congregation) without being a disciples.  Only a Christian can be a member of the Church of God.

The purpose of the church is to make more disciples. Church growth and church membership drives are often about getting more of the existing disciples into a local congregation.  Whenever that is the primary reason for a church’s invitation and recruitment you sow the seeds of disobedience to the Great Commission.  The purpose of the Church is to make more disciples, to add new people to the Kingdom of God and to His church. To add new disciples.

Gaining is about evangelism. You cannot be faithful to your calling as the Church if you do not concentrate on evangelism.  Gaining is not about quality programs well packaged and properly advertised. Gaining is not about recruiting more people to do the work of the Church and to pay its bills. Gaining is about making new disciples for Jesus Christ. Programs, advertising, invitational campaigns are tools of evangelism – important tools. But unless they are drawing people into committed relationships with Jesus Christ we have not carried out the biblical mandate for gaining.