According to The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), we are called to make disciples. In those churches which are concerned about making disciples, I have observed that many of them gauge their success based on numbers of people in attendance. When this happens the emphasis is on quantity and not quality of the disciples.
Do we act as if there a quality component to making disciples? What does it really mean to make a disciple? Is it enough to get them to pray a prayer, give them a Bible and get them baptized?
The words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 come to mind:
10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
I notice that Paul is making reference to the quality of the construction, not the quantity. A small amount of gold is worth more than a large amount of hay. The focus is on the inherent properties of the material, not on how much building was accomplished.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:23, that the only thing of ultimate value that we build into other people is a relationship with Jesus. Furthermore, Jesus teaches us in Matthew 22:38-39 that the two great commands are to love God with our entire being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It’s all about relationships, both vertical and horizontal.
The work that equates to gold, silver and precious stones would be that work which builds in men and women the drive and the skills to fulfill these two great commands. The ability of the disciple to fulfill these two commands is the test by which good or bad workmanship is determined.
I have been in large churches where people were loving and relational. I have been in small churches that were cold and aloof. I have been in churches where a great preacher drew large crowds but there was little interaction between the people who attended the church. What makes the difference?
The difference is a leader and leadership team that works to put the two commands into practice and actively seeks to build relationships with people in the congregation. If the leadership team is functioning in fellowship and then each leader functions in fellowship with others outside the leadership team, then the fellowship radiates through the church like spokes on a wheel.
One hour of one-on-one or small group interaction over a passage of Scripture does more good than ten hours of instruction from the pulpit. In that small group or one-on-one interaction, the emphasis is on quality, on building well. In the large group setting the emphasis is on numbers, on drawing more people in.
Leaders: in your quest to build your congregations, please do not get enamored with quantity and sacrifice quality. Build relationships which facilitate growth and spiritual maturity.
Your final grade depends on it.