In an article he wrote, Bill Wilson, the president of the Center for Healthy Churches wrote about how they go about helping and consulting with churches. “First, tell us the reason or the long-term goal you envision, and then we can help you evaluate methods, candidates, processes, metrics, and all the various routes you can take to arrive at your destination.”
He then goes on to comment about what is his and his organization’s typical experience with churches. “Sadly, most are unable to offer a clear purpose that is shared and embraced with passion by a sizable number of people. Many of us are playing out scripts that other people wrote for us. We have lost the personal connection with the core reasons or purposes for our church’s existence. While many of us can recite the two Great Commandments and the Great Commission, we have wandered far from those purposes and gotten lost in the weeds of methods and routines. Thus, pushing people to purpose is a necessary and invaluable process.”
Over the past weeks, the conversations I have been having with the Spirit have often centered around one particular theme: kingdom-building. These conversations have been both at the personal level, meaning, what I am currently doing to build the kingdom, and at the corporate level, meaning, what initiatives is the congregation I lead doing as a whole to build the kingdom.
And, invariably, the Spirit reminds me of a sermon He had me preach a few months ago titled, “What’s a Successful Fishing Trip?” The purpose of fishing is to catch fish! What a shock. And, if no fish are caught, then it was not a successful trip. What’s the ultimate mission of individual followers and congregations of Jesus? To build the kingdom of God. And how does a person or a congregation determine if the kingdom is being built? Check the fish. If no fish, then something different must be done.
It’s great if people can recite the two Great Commandments and the Great Commission, but, in the scheme of the kingdom, that is worth absolutely bupkis. Nada. Zilch. Zero.
What is quite valuable, though, is when people, individually and collectively, are actively engaged in THE purpose of followers and congregations of Jesus – birthing and growing disciples.
It has often been said that many congregations in this country are in decline, but the stark reality is that, if this is the case, one needs to look no further than those who make up the congregation. Congregations who have many members who not only know the purpose of a congregation and agree with it and believe in it but are also actively engaged in it are not in decline; they are growing. These are congregations which are growing people in it who are sharing about Jesus with those around them. They are actively seeking connections with people so as to be able to share the awesome love of God and the reality of hope for this life and beyond that we have in and through Jesus. These people are actively seeking to draw people into a life-altering encounter with the living God. These are people who are committed to the God-given purpose of followers and congregations of Jesus.
Imagine if each person in a congregation was able to annually draw just one other person into a life-altering relationship and brought him/her into the congregation for growth in discipleship. I realize accomplishing that goal means making many connections with people, but just think about it. That would mean that a congregation would almost double in size every year. I say almost because inevitably a number of people leave for some reason.
So, let’s say there is 50% annual growth because everyone of the congregation is wholly committed and actively engaged in the mission of birthing new disciples.
So, a congregation starts 2017 with 50 people in it.
At the end of 2017, it would be at 75.
At the end of 2018, it would be at 112.
At the end of 2019, it would be at 168 and possibly looking at planting a new congregation.
And this is not transfer growth. This is true kingdom growth. Of those 168, 118 are new followers of Jesus. That means 70% of the congregation came into a life-altering relationship with Jesus through someone in that congregation. That’s a great number!
That’s the possibility. At when that is happening, ain’t no one talking about decline.
But it requires absolute commitment to the mission.
But is it there?