Mission: Make Disciples

Facts on Twin Cities churches & culture 2019
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Jesus said the mission of the church is to 'make disciples' (Matthew 28:19-20).

The mission of ChurchFacts is to assist local churches by supplying data for good decision-making, to help local churches grow.

ChurchFacts serves the CHURCH OF THE TWIN CITIES (over 4,300 congregations) in a very focused way: gathering, analyzing and distributing data to help church leaders make better, bolder, faster decisions affecting church growth ... to be a catalyst for action in turbulent times ahead.

Quality vs. quantity

Four out of five Twin Cities churches are declining in attendance, income and community influence. Many dismiss the trend of losses by saying, 'We're into quality, not quantity.'

(In fact, some say that quantity of disciples is falling in their church for the very 'good' reason that they are making quality disciples and that faithful Bible teaching is a turn-off to most people.)

Actually, there should be no distinction between quality and quantity. Jesus said to make disciples – not just find them or teach them, but make them. That's specific and quantifiable.

A quality disciple makes more disciples, which comes back to quantity again.

If the twelve original disciples were just into quality – replacing themselves – there might still be only twelve disciples. Instead, as Jesus taught them, billions of new disciples have been made through planned growth initiatives.

The role of the church is not to keep older generations comfortable but to raise up increasingly more disciples for passing the faith to new generations.

Overall, at the moment, most Twin Cities churches – like most churches across the country – are failing badly in this role.

Counting disciples

Some say, 'You can't count new disciples just by counting church attendance.' But there's a very high correlation, and it's the best measure we have.

The Bible says that Jesus established the church and expects his disciples to be active participants in the church.

A quality disciple is an active part of the church and usually shows up in a local fellowship, and can be counted there, which comes back to quantity again.

ChurchFacts puts heavy emphasis on attendance and participation as a measure of disciple-making. The church is not doing well if it is not growing.

Less frequent attendance

Some say that declining attendance at church meetings doesn't indicate less disciple-making but simply shows that people don't attend church with as much frequency as years ago.

Two responses to that argument:

  • This is a long-term trend that has been occurring for decades, so it has little bearing on year-to-year percentage declines in the short run.
  • Why are people not coming to church as often as in the past? Could it be because of less commitment? Less quality? Again, quality is evidenced by quantity.

When the church is doing a good job of meeting spiritual needs, people come ... and come back often ... and bring friends. They can be counted.

Apostle Paul

The greatest evangelist and church planter of all time was the Apostle Paul, and we can still learn from him.

The gospel (good news) and Holy Spirit are the same for us today as for him in the first century. The culture for us today is changing as it was for him then.

The big difference is that Paul, a missionary, deliberately moved out of his Jewish culture of Jerusalem and moved into the Greek/Roman culture of cities around the Mediterranean.

He was moving to a new spiritual culture. Today a new culture is moving to us. In both cases, communication and practice of our faith needs be adapted to new conditions.

In Acts we read how he explained Christianity in a different way in the new culture, different from the way Peter explained it to Jews in Jerusalem.

In Athens, where polytheism was dominant, Paul began spiritual dialog with the city's leaders by engaging in conversations about their gods, and then by introducing an exciting living God, not by expounding on Old Testament history.

Later Paul went to Ephesus, and we find this account of his amazing ministry there:

'Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way [name of his ministry]. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannous.

'This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.'

– Acts 19:8-10

Hall of Tyrannus

ChurchFacts reports what's happening within an area – the Twin Cities metro – and then reports on what's working and what's not working with regard to disciple-making.

Paul's ministry in Athens is of special interest because he had great success with new methods that, if it were here, our observers would have been quick to notice and report.

Here's what we learn from the way Paul was reformulating church in Ephesus:

(1) When things are not working in the traditional way, try something new, as Paul's move from the temple to the Hall of Tyrannous. This was radical. He rented space for three or four hours a day in a secular school when it was not in session.

Background: In those days, before colleges, higher education occurred in private schools, like this one run by Tyrannous. So Paul rented space in the school from 11:00 to 2:00 (time known from other historical sources). This was the leisure time of day, because of heat, when people took time off from work for rest, socializing, personal chores, etc. – like our evenings and weekends.

(2) Paul found himself in a culture that had no understanding of the God of the Jewish people. He didn't teach in the same way as Peter did to the predominantly Jewish people in Jerusalem. He probably didn't even use the Old Testament Jewish scriptures. And for sure he never used the New Testament at all (it hadn't yet been written). He 'spoke boldly,' 'arguing persuasively,' holding 'discussions daily.'

Observation: Paul didn't preach at them from his tradition or practice. He engaged in conversation with them in the Socratic style of that time and place, telling them about Jesus and about his personal spiritual experiences. He was well prepared for their questions ... his answers were compelling ... and the number of disciples grew exponentially.

(3) His ministry to unbelievers was powerfully effective, so effective that 'all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.' Obviously, people who left the discussions in the Hall of Tyrannous were informed and excited, and they carried the message to others.

Result: 'Asia' was name of a Roman province (western part of present day Turkey). Ephesus was a leading city in Asia with a large and influential population (Ephesus had an outdoor theater which still stands today, seating 25,000!). The results of this strategy – complete gospel saturation throughout the province – was amazing, quickly by word-of-mouth, without benefit of modern mass communications.

As in Ephesus, there are new types of disciple-making ministries forming today in the Twin Cities, adapting to changing culture. The role of ChurchFacts is to observe and provide data on what's happening.
Facts on churches and culture