Over the next couple of months, the staff is going to be working through the book “The Disciple Making Church: From Dry Bones to Spiritual Vitality” by Glenn McDonald. I was given this book by our District Superintendent, Dr. Byron Thomas. When I went to him for my annual ministry review, we didn’t spend a lot of time reviewing me, we talked mainly about spirituality, and what we discern as the new direction of the church. At the end of our hour together, he handed me this book. It is a book our new Leadership Team is going to work through starting in January, and so the staff is working through it now so we can have a synergy in our understanding and relationship about the nature of the church.
This all sounds very 10,000 foot level view of the church, but I believe it is important. Each week our church has to submit “Vital Signs” to the conference office, which are numbers. Numbers of people in worship. Numbers of people in small groups. Numbers in our bank account. For several years I have sensed a shift in what “vitality” means, and it's not numbers for me. For me, it is spirit. So as we feel the worry and pressure of numbers (I feel it too!), I have consistently told people, that the spirit is good. Archimedes said, “Give me a lever and a place to stand, and I shall move the earth.” I think the same thing about ministry; give me some relationships open to the holy spirit, and we will change the world. Below are a couple of paragraphs from Glenn’s book, and I look forward to our spiritual journey together.
If you had approached me at any time during the early days of our church I could have summoned a legion of words to describe our mission and would have footnoted every major point with Scripture. I wouldn’t have sounded as if I were skipping along the surface of what God was trying to accomplish.
But words are cheap, especially theological ones. It’s easy for church leaders to invest sixty hours a week in chores that bear the stamp of supreme importance-crafting a newsletter, directing a meeting, composing a presentation-while spending fewer than six minutes a week reflecting on the overall mission of the church. Busyness masquerades as the business of heaven. To paraphrase Jesus’ closing words in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 7:21-23), “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? [Didn’t we establish the best youth ministry in town, assemble an awesome praise band, and wow everybody with our annual attendance figures?]’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.’”
“I never knew you.” That’s the rub. And that is our Lord’s most solemn assurance that “doing church” is not about tactics and programs and prefab kits for conducting ministry. It’s all about relationships.
For the better part of the last century, North American churches have tended to define success by the number of people who have made decisions. Who exactly has prayed the salvation prayer at the back of the little booklet? How many children came to our Vacation Bible School last summer? How many individuals have crossed our line of membership, joined a small group, or participated in one of our mission trips?
To be sure, when Jesus said, “Follow me,” he was calling for a decision. As churches, however, we have tended to excel at the theology of decision-making but have by and large failed to develop an appropriate curriculum for disciple-making. We have struggled to find ways to help ordinary people get beyond the choosing of particular Christian activities and to learn how to think, act, and be like Jesus in every possible respect, every day of the week.