The church is called by Jesus Christ to make disciples. How does one assess how well a local church is doing at making disciples?
Quality versus Quantity
Quantity is easy to assess by counting heads on a Sunday morning, but how about quality? How do we assess the quality of the disciples that are being made?
Numbers tell part of the story, but cannot be the only means of assessment. A good preacher and a good worship band will pack the house on Sunday mornings. But there needs to more than 20 to 60 minutes of instruction on a Sunday morning or Wednesday night. Discipleship and growth have to happen in one-on-one meetings, small groups or perhaps even classroom instruction.
No church is doing this perfectly and the point of this exercise is to provide food for thought as to how to identify good discipleship. Toward that end, I thought of 5 ways of assessing how well your church is doing.
1 – Are disciples grounded and ready to give an answer for their hope?
In an increasingly ill-informed and possibly hostile cultural environment, disciples need to be able to explain what they believe and why they believe it (1 Peter 3:15).
Recently there have been some really scary statistics as to the high percentage of teens who leave the church, many of them never returning. I wonder how many of those who leave do so because they have not been properly trained to understand and defend their faith. With proper training, would these teens succumb to attacks from their peers and teachers? If parents have been trained to explain their faith, would the numbers of children who walk away be lowered?
2 – Are disciples growing in their display of the fruit of the spirit?
Even the most mature believer among us will look at Galatians 5:22-23 and reflect on how much improvement is still possible in displaying the fruit of the Spirit. One never arrives, but we should see progress. Do visitors to the church feel loved, see joy, experience patience, etc.? Do the members of the church experience these things from each other? Can you look at people that have come to Christ in your church and see progress in Spiritual fruit being displayed? Is this the norm for people in the body?
3 – Are disciples growing in their ability to understand and explain Scripture ?
Have the disciples been taught the skills they need to rightly understand Scripture (2 Timothy 2:15)? Have they been instructed in using Bible study tools? Have they been given an overview of Scripture so that in reading they can place what they are reading in a proper historical context? Have the disciples been given grounding in the fundamental beliefs of Christianity? Can the disciples explain what they’ve learned and bring others along in the disciple making process?
4 – Are disciples equipped for the work of ministry?
Do disciples have a handle on how they are gifted and how they fit into the body of Christ? Has the leadership of the church helped them with this understanding? Has the leadership equipped them and empowered them to exercise that gift (Ephesians 4:12)? Is spontaneous ministry happening or does the leadership of the church need to coordinate everything that is taking place?
5 – Are disciples turned loose to be lead by the Holy Spirit to build up the church?
If the pastor or the elder board feels the need to approve every Bible study or prayer group that is formed within the body, people are not free to minister. Either God is in control or the church leadership is, there is no middle ground. 1 Corinthians 12:7 tells us that the Holy Spirit gives gifts as He sees fit to be used to build the church.
It is a well used phrase, but it applies here: you can’t steer a parked car. If you turn people loose to begin Bible Studies, prayer groups and practical ministries then God can use those people for his glory in a way that the church leadership never could have dreamed.
Leaders, remember that if you reprimand someone (no matter how gently) for doing something without checking with leadership, you are diminishing their initiative. After several thwarted attempts at taking initiative, they will either become passive and wait to be told what to do, or they will leave and find another church. Neither of these results is good for you or the Body of Christ.
These are five that I’ve been thinking about. Can you add to the list? What else can be used to assess the disciple making process? Please comment below.