Imagine a church with 11,000 members, 100 ministers, and only two of them have been to Bible college. Real Life Ministries in Post Falls, Idaho, disciples their members so intentionally, that they have all the ministers that they need.
Gene Jacobs is one such church member turned minister. He is a former Navy guy who built cell phone towers. After accepting Christ, he became a member of a small group, then a small group leader, then a community pastor, executive church staff, and is now a church planter.
My parents are involved in a church that lost their pastor not too long ago. Their church immediately put together a Pastor Search Team and started evaluating resumes. Now, I grew up in that church, so I poked some fun at Dad, “Have you not discipled a leader out of your church to step into the pastoral role?” Poking right back, Dad said, “Well, Mark, we’d have to totally change everything we’re doing in discipleship training for that to happen.” To which I said, “And?” He knew what I meant.
Willow Creek Church in Chicago learned as reported in Reveal, that they were doing a great job winning people to faith in Christ, growing them a bit, but keeping them in classes in a constant learning environment rather than discipling their members toward leadership. It was no wonder the long-time church members expressed being a bit bored with Christianity – and church.
By my junior year in high school I was tired of practicing. I wanted to play on the varsity football team in games that counted; not just practice scrimmages. During practice, I stood behind my coach. Whenever he looked at me, I said, “Can I go in now?” He’d grimace and bark at me to go run a lap. I said, “I need to be in shape to play.” When I ran the lap, I came back and stood right behind him. Two weeks before our season opener, I got a call on Sunday afternoon. It was the coach asking me if I wanted to play. He wanted to have me try out as center. I moved from tight end to center and played every varsity football game my last two years of high school.
Some churches keep their best members practicing and practicing and never put them in the game. Willow Creek stifled their members into frustrated benchwarmers. Real Life Ministries found a feeder-system that worked for them and ignited growth among their members. What would work for your church? How do you move a spiritual infant toward maturity in Christ?
One of the most challenging writing assignments I’ve ever accepted was titled, “Are We Training Our Pastors Wrong?” I added a subtitle, “Is There a Better Way to Train Pastors?” The bottom line of the blog was expressing appreciation for the difficult and thorough training that they receive, but asked if pastors were being trained to raise up disciple-makers? Can they really communicate at the heart level of a church member? Across Missouri, at least a third of Missouri Baptist churches do not have any type of discipleship training.
How many have new believer discipleship to evangelistic follow-up? Is it any wonder that one-fourth of our churches had one or fewer baptisms? We can’t transform communities if we can’t even transform our churches.
If you count up all the available seats in every New Testament church in your county, I am sure that there would not be enough seats to bring in every lost person. There’s a need for church members to become church planters. And does your church actively have that kind of vision to field witnesses, leaders, and planters? If not, let’s talk. And what a legacy for a pastor to grow their own replacement capable of rightly dividing the Word of Truth! Let’s use God’s Word to win the lost, nurture them in the admonition of the Lord, and grow your own leaders. (Mark Snowden serves Missouri Baptists as evangelism/discipleship strategist (573) 556-0319 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)