This quarter’s lessons have been comprehensive in addressing the different components of discipleship, and this requires an assessment of whether we are involved in all of them. It is one thing to learn about the theory of each step, but it is quite another to evaluate whether each step is done well or not. We must consider our strengths and/or weaknesses in each phase.
Do we truly see people as the primary instruments of discipleship, or are we focused on programs? Is the goal of discipleship to be Christ-like, or is it numerical growth? Do we really have communion with God? Are we breathing, eating, and working out with Jesus, or do we have an artificial relationship? Is the discipleship process a natural cycle, or is church the same yesterday, today, and forever? Is the church really training fishers of souls? And where is self-denial taking place in our daily walk with Christ?
The key is to recognize that every phase of soul-winning and discipleship is essential. After evaluation, we must strengthen every phase, always aiming for full synchrony. This is especially the case in the Grow cycle. Growth is sequential, and steps cannot be skipped. Discipleship training is continuous, building from the previous step. Similar to a biological system such as a muscle, if the church is not growing spiritually and numerically, it is dying spiritually and numerically. Discipleship training should be cyclical, repeating and multiplying as it goes through the process.
Every church has different strengths and weaknesses, and troubleshooting should take place to help each scenario. For example, Church A is very busy. It holds cooking seminars, Vacation Bible School, and evangelistic meetings every year. It also has an active community service center and a mentorship program for new members. Why is it not growing as much as it could?
While holding many church events, Church A is weak in the vital aspect of personal witnessing through literature and consistent Bible studies. Without these, it will experience modest growth at best. In other words, it can prepare, harvest, and prepare, but no planting or cultivating is going on.
In another example, Church B holds an evangelistic series every autumn and baptizes new members. Within two years, however, most of these members have no involvement in the church or have left the church altogether. What can be done to help Church B?
Church B is making church members but falling short of making disciples. It needs an intentional plan to train new members into active and spiritually grounded laborers in God’s cause. Again, the harvesting is successful, but no preservation is planned for.
In the last example, the members of Church C share literature and give Bible studies. They also have an intentional plan for mentoring new members, but very few interests actually become baptized members of the church. What can Church C do to grow?
Church C has failed to build trust by ministering to the health and other needs of the community. It also fails to capitalize on the power of public evangelistic meetings to harvest decisions for Christ, including baptism. Although planting, cultivating, and preserving are good, little cultivation or harvest happens.
In the end, a true marker of a healthy church is not how many people come in to visit but how many people are sent out to minister! For more information, training videos, study guides, and other resources, visit grow.adventist.org.