In the American church, so much of congregational life has been about getting members, keeping members, and giving members tasks to do. Many churches, including Park Church, have experienced declines in getting and keeping members for years. Which means, there are more tasks for those who are left. Does this sound familiar?
That’s only part of the story, though. A stark realization has been arising in Christian circles across the country in terms of getting new members: “We are working harder for less results.” The equally troubling question follows. “What if most people who want to be members of churches already are, or once were?” There truly seems to be a diminishing pool of prospects from which to draw.
Many more people, than just those who show up
on Sundays, are interested in Jesus. What to do?
Something doesn’t add up, though. Many more people, than just those who show up on Sundays, are interested in Jesus. What to do? A quick response could be, “According to the Bible, we are supposed to make disciples. We need to emphasize discipleship over membership.” Yet, it isn’t quite that simple. It depends on what is meant by discipleship.
Over a long span of time, across many denominational lines, discipleship came to be defined as Christian Education, Sunday School, Catechism, Bible Study, and whatever else that fell into the category of Christian learning. The original definition of discipleship was more to the point: following Jesus.
This said, even if there is a desire to move toward this kind of discipleship, important questions need to be asked. Can/will churches, that have concerns about their own survival, help believers (new and those coming back) follow Jesus? How do you move from just talking or learning about faith to actually helping people live out faith in daily living?
I have started reading: Discipleship that Fits, by Bobby Harrington and Alex Absalom, published by Zondervan, 2016. You may find it helpful on this subject.