Yesterday I left you with this question:
If you and I go fishing together and you are catching fish but every once in a while I snag a fish from your holding tank and put them into mine am I an effective fisherman?
The answer is an emphatic ‘no’.
Counting the fish in my tank after someone else did the work to catch them may make me seem successful at catching fish but it does not mean that I am a good fisherman.
Unfortunately, this is the present state of the American Church. Pastors are celebrating ‘growth’ of their congregations that are actually filled with Christians who came to Christ in other years and other ministries. A growing attendance is great but it doesn’t tell the tale of effectiveness. Church hoppers and shoppers are giving a false sense of growth, effectiveness and overall leadership strength. As one church looses membership, another gains. One Pastor looks like a heel and the other the hero. The question remains… are we being effective?
If the goal is simply collecting Christians we need not look deeper than Sunday morning attendance. If the goal however is building and sustaining healthy churches there is a far greater indicator available.
So how should we measure our church health? Baptisms.
Baptism in to the Evangelical Christian is a public profession of an inward change. Peter preached “Repent and be Baptized” (Acts 2:38). Jesus said “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
What is the point of the local church? To make disciples.
What is the biblical method to discern who is coming to faith? Baptism.
What do we disciples do? Obey Jesus… who told us to… make disciples. So at the end of the day disciple-making is a huge indicator as to the health of our churches.
Let me illustrate this in Christian terms: Chic-Fil-A
What is the point of Chic-Fil-A? To sell chicken.
What would you think of a Chic-Fil-A owner/operator who kept celebrating how many ice-cream cones he/she sold while ignoring the fact that he/she wasn’t selling much chicken? You’d shake this person silly wouldn’t you? You’d say:
“Hey, you’re supposed to be selling great tasting chicken. Your mission statement is all about chicken. You promote chicken. For goodness sake you have a huge cow painting billboards on the highway telling people to “eat more chikin”. Who cares if you sold more waffle fries?… you’re not selling chicken!”
The Church is supposed to be making disciples.
If we’re not making disciples we’re not making an eternal difference.
In the Christian church we tend to ‘celebrate’ wins that aren’t really wins. Like the Chic-Fil-A operator who celebrates waffle fries, we invent new ways to be happy even though we are not actually fulfilling the mission of Jesus. We have invented entire divisions of denominational organizations designed to cater to “Christians” who are not making disciples. Visit your local Christian bookstore. Ask yourself how much of what is on the shelves is designed for the brand new believer in Christ. Next to nothing. I have a hard time with that.
What are our churches producing if the people we label ‘disciples’ are not themselves actually making new disciples?
How can a church with a dry-rotted baptistry claim to be healthy?
I know, some people would say “We are healthy because our people are in small groups and/or ministry teams.” or “Have you seen the stats of our 101, 201,301, 401 classes?” Boo.
Everything your church does should ultimately lead to making disciples.
If your small groups are teaching people to follow the Jesus who commanded his disciples to go and make disciples… the result of your small groups will be…? You got it… new disciples.
How do you quantify effectiveness in making new disciples vs. swapping sheep? Baptisms.
At the end of the day we need to be focused on counting what counts. If the goal of the church is to advance the Kingdom of Jesus then we need to make new disciples.
The fully developed disciple reproduces himself/herself in the life of a third-spiritual generation. Baptisms.
The successful small group leads people toward becoming a fully developed reproducing disciple. Baptisms.
The successful ministry team is one that is helpful in advancing the churches mission to make disciples. Baptisms.
The useful counseling session, bible study, sermon series… all add up to fully-devoted disciples who reproduce themselves in a third spiritual generation which will ultimately reveal itself in …? You got it… Baptisms.
Count what counts. If our church gets bogged down or clogged up it will show in the fact that we’re not making new disciples. I don’t know about you but I believe the local church has a far greater mission than that of any social club or civic group. Our great commission is to point people to Jesus.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. – Jesus – Matthew 28:19-20