Category Archives: Discipleship

Why Are We In Decline? What Appears to Be a Math Problem is Actually a Spiritual Problem

Imagine the AAA Widget Company. AAA Widget was started 80 years ago by an energetic team of entrepreneurs. They had a vision and they executed the vision for 50 years with excellence. The problem today is that they haven’t added a new customer in the last 30 years. The only way to add customers is to be a qualified salesperson and the only way to become one of those is four years of intense study. Salespeople spend 60-80 hours a week doing everything but getting new clients or selling widgets. The salespeople are aging and burned out. Each branch only has one salesperson and 100 other employees who are working hard to keep things how they are. How long are they going to make it?

If we just do the HOW without the WHY we won’t get anywhere. We can make all kinds of adjustments to the engine but if we don’t correctly diagnose the problem, we may be working on the transmission when what we have is an electrical problem.

Albert Einstein once said insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

If we keep going the way we are going we will keep going the way we are going. It is true for a road trip. It is true for church life. How many people were baptized in your church last year? Are you happy with that number? If you are, keep doing what you are doing. If not, consider something needs to change.

Something has to give. Often we get fearful of making changes because we know that requires change and we are typically a change averse people. We have in our DNA a suspicion of change and “innovation.” But we shouldn’t. Innovation is all around us, even on Sunday and that’s okay because not all change is bad. Church now isn’t exactly how it was 50 or 100 or 200 or 2000 years ago and that’s okay because things do change. Can we acknowledge that? If we can’t acknowledge that, there isn’t really much we can do. We will be stuck in 1950.

I said in the Stan Granberg podcast that there is a difference between going to a museum and going to a triathlon. The museum is all about preservation and protection. The triathlon is about activity, energy, motion and achieving the goal.

Here is the big point I want to make, a constructive point not a deconstructive one – Here is why we aren’t growing – we are aging out, we aren’t reaching our kids, and we aren’t reaching new people. Maybe, maybe we aren’t reaching new people because we care about other things more than we do the lost.

We aren’t reaching them because we don’t make disciples, even of our own children. We don’t make disciples because we opted for evangelism and coversion instead (evangelism – study the Bible through a set of propositions and closed ended questions & conversion – change of mind rather than change of life). Then we made the group of people qualified to evangelize limited (the professionals).

We can say it is lack of energy or poor worship or whatever else but if we aren’t even trying to reach new people how do we even know that?

So we limit our actions from training disciples and disciple makers to evangelism (mind-change rather than life-change) and we limit who can do those actions to the trained.

See the problem?

This is why we are in decline.

Too often we want to focus on the HOW without getting into the WHY. How do we fix it? Any fix that doesn’t consider the why will be superficial.

Why are we shrinking? Because we are aging out without growing on the other end.

This appears to be a math problem but it isn’t. It is a spiritual problem.

If you would like to know the exact numbers you can get some of them here

Is Our Focus on Paul Related to a Lack of Focus on Discipleship?

Here is where the word “disciple” occurs in the New Testament (NIV) Matthew – 78Mark – 59Luke – 50John – 81Acts – 26 Here is where the word “church” occurs in the New Testament (NIV) Matthew – 2Acts – 19Romans – 51 Cor – 222 Cor – 9Gal – 3Eph – 9Phil – 2Col –Continue Reading

Review of “Discipleship that Fits” Chapters 12-14 – The Divine Context

In the final context of “Discipleship that Fits,” chapters 12 and 13 talk about the most intimate and personal context a human being can enter – being in community with divinity. God knows all things. There isn’t anything one can hide from God. In this context, we “are laid bare before him, and he opensContinue Reading

Review of “Discipleship that Fits” Chapters 10 & 11: The Transparent Context

The transparent context are groups of 2-4 people, which is a group size ripe for developing deep relationships that exude transparency and connection. It is impossible to grow deep if you don’t let people know who you really are. It is very difficult (impossible really) to do this in a room full of people orContinue Reading

Review of “Discipleship that Fits” Chapters 8 & 9: Personal Context/Small Groups

The personal context consists of groups of 4-12 people. This would be a small group in most churches. This was embodied in Jesus’ ministry in his work with the 12. As the group size decreases the connectivity increases. Our ability to be more transparent goes up with fewer, better connected people in the room. BobbyContinue Reading

Review of “Discipleship That Fits” Chapter 7 – Missional Communities Demystified

If you haven’t picked up on the rhythm of “Discipleship that Fits” yet, Bobby and Alex devoted two chapters to each of the five social-spiritual contexts. By way of review those include: public context, social context, personal context, transparent context, and divine context. These groups of people get progressively smaller as you work down theContinue Reading

Review of “Discipleship That Fits” Chapter 6 – The Missing Link: Understanding the Social Context

We continue on in Harrington and Absalom’s book “Discipleship that Fits” moving into the Social context. These are groups of 20-70 people. It is not “big church” and it is not small group. It is an in between group and this size group is very important in the discipleship process. One of the most meaningfulContinue Reading

Want to Make Disciples? Start Here

It has taken me over nine months to figure out how to start a solid discipleship ministry. No. I got that wrong – it isn’t one more ministry. Let me try that again. It has taken me over nine months to feel adequate in my approach to launching into discipling relationships with some other men.Continue Reading

Review of “Discipleship that Fits” Chapter 5 – What the Big Does Well

Chapter five in Discipleship that Fits covers the benefits of the Public context – the large gathering. Francis Chan and others have pushed to move away from this. What are we losing in the process? How can large gatherings be beneficial for the overall process of making well-rounded disciples of Jesus? One of the biggestContinue Reading

Review of “Discipleship that Fits” Chapter 4 – The Hoopla Can Actually Work

The book (Discipleship that Fits) now focuses on discipleship in various ministry context in terms of the group sizes outlined in chapter 3. In particular, chapter 4 deals with the Public context (100+ people) which in the West is generally the corporate worship setting. Bobby and Alex spend some time working through these contexts inContinue Reading


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