Church Leaders: What Are We Building?

Church Leaders: What Are We Building?

Posted on 16. Jan, 2010 by in Challenging Status Quo, Kingdom Notes eZine

Apostolic Notes Vol 4 No 2 (PDF Download)

Recently I viewed a video of legendary basketball coach John Wooden describing his definition of success. In essence, his goal was not to build a winning basketball team: his goal was to build people. By help each individual come closer to realizing their full potential, they would be a success and the by-product would be a winning team.

My mind naturally went to Christianity and church. I asked my self a question: “Do we seek to build successful churches or to build people?” Jesus’ ministry was not to build an organization or edifice, but to see people’s lives transformed. His message was not an escapist doctrine of get saved and go to heaven, but he boldly proclaimed the kingdom of heaven is here! It is near you! You are not far from the kingdom of heaven! Jesus message was the good news of the Kingdom!

Before His ascension, Jesus gave us his commissioning:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.Matt 28:19-20 NKJV.

Notice what He did not say: go and save the lost or go and build a church. He said we were to make disciples. How is this accomplished? By using His authority, baptizing and then TEACHING them to observe the things he command us. Discipleship is a developmental process of the believer!

So, two more questions came to mind:
1 – Is our goal discipleship or salvation?
2 – How many of our programs are truly designed to CHANGE people?

Now I know most sincere leaders will say both of course! So, if this is the case, why is one the biggest problem of the church today retention? I have heard of wonderful evangelistic events that have resulted in many being born again: yet a short time later, these people cannot be found. To me, this is a problem. (A side note, I believe there is a problem with our intentions and presentation of the good news, but that is for a future Apostolic Note.)

As a pastor, I tried many different ideas (can you say “programs”) of discipleship. I even compiled material and wrote a 3 level, yearlong discipleship program: Discipleship Development, Discipleship Maturity, Discipleship Ministry and taught this to the entire church my last year of pastoring. Yet I came to see the weakness of it in the last few months. Let me explain.

Too much of discipleship today is the teaching of facts.

Coach Wooden’s philosophy was not to make his players experts of the mechanics of basketball: dribbling, passing, or jump shots. His goal was, to help them express their greatest potential as an individual. This being accomplished, basketball success would naturally follow as an outgrowth of who the players were.

Jesus’ ministry was the same. Matthew 4:23 tells us:
“Jesus traveled throughout Galilee teaching in the synagogues, preaching everywhere the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed people who had every kind of sickness and disease. NLT”

The intention of Jesus ministry is expressed in the meaning of the word “teaching,” it means: “to know or teach, it includes the aim of shaping of the will of the pupil.” Jesus’ intent was not to impart religious facts; it was his desire to see a change in the will of the student. Obviously, a transformation of the will results in a different lifestyle.

So the weakness of my discipleship program: I was teaching a lot of good information, but there was not a method or structure to bring about a transformation. Something was missing.

Back to coach Wooden. In his development process, he was just as concerned with the player off the courts as on them. He stressed their classes and grades and conduct. In short, he was involved in their everyday life! So an addition weakness of my program: there was good info, but it was not followed up with practical involvement in the daily lives of the people.

I think this is common in the church. Unfortunately, we stress involvement at church on Sundays, maybe a mid week. Usually, there is limited involvement outside of the sanctioned activities of the church. Most church programs are not designed for true discipleship. Their focus is disseminating information, fellowship or alternative activities (some youth ministry). Very little real transformation happens in these settings.

As new believers, my wife and I were truly discipled by another young couple in the church. We spent hours together outside of service: having dinner, going shopping, taking trips or just hanging out. It was during these times, the principles of living for God were talked about BUT many were caught. I was taught how to live for God by example. (Thank you Marty & Vickie!)

So, a possible answer:

  • Minister and train saints to emphasize transformation, not just about heaven or hell. It is about becoming like Jesus.
  • Structure the local assembly with multiple opportunities for practical application of the word to everyday life.
  • Seek out mature leadership and train them to be elders or shepherds. Assign them to work with individuals.
  • Create share groups; people with like interests. Get them spending time together; it does not even have to have a “spiritual” focus.
  • Pray for a spiritual transformation of the mind of the local assembly

It may be slow, but when you start with a core and they develop and grow, winning new people, eventually the mindset will change and you will come to a tipping point and there will be a cultural shift to the local assembly.

till next time-

1 Lexical Aids To The New Testament, The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, AMG Publishers

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13 Responses to “Church Leaders: What Are We Building?”

  1. Michael Tummillo

    17. Jan, 2010

    Good article. Jesus never sad, “You shall have meetings and meetings more abundantly.”

    Reply to this comment
  2. Buck Malphrus

    18. Jan, 2010

    Hi Marty!
    Happy New Year! This is a great post that goes to the heart of what we’re missing in the Church. It is ironic to me that most churches actually focus on Matthew 28 – but misuse it’s message to perpetuate the “machine” of evangelism – instead of assisting and encouraging folk to simply excercise the faith that God has given them.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Donnie Gillum

    18. Jan, 2010

    Timely and on target. This is precisely the problem I saw in teaching New Convert “classes”…giving them a lot of “facts”, but not much in the way of discipleship.

    Your suggestions for improvement are and excellent starting place!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Michael Holmes

    18. Jan, 2010


    This is an awesome post! You have just inspired tomorrow’s post from me 🙂

    Reply to this comment
  5. uberVU - social comments

    18. Jan, 2010

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Missionaries: Church Leaders: What Are We Building?

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  6. Buddy Knight

    18. Jan, 2010

    You hit the nail on the head! To use secular, military terms:

    The Church has been all about “recruiting and basic orientation”, but we have not sent new Christians through “Basic Training” and “Combat Training”.

    Our discipleship efforts should emphasize EQUIPPING. After the WHAT, our people need the HOW.

    For instance, we all know our kids should wait until marriage. Do we teach parents WHY God says that, and HOW to teach it?

    Many other examples, as well.


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    • Martin Schmaltz

      18. Jan, 2010

      Thanks Buddy. So agree, the church it seems is one of the major entities that gives lecture as training then says go do it. Imagine if the a soldier was given just the lecture about their weapon. Then as they rolled into combat, they were given it for the first time! We would think – crazy!

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  7. Philip

    19. Jan, 2010

    I agree with you. But the process and the content of discipleship are still somewhat fuzzy. For example, how to do it. What practical areas need to be covered.

    Some of the suggestions & answers you give is still very much the what’s and not the how’s. I’m still earnestly seeking the Lord and try to find some books to find out how or ask those who have done it successfully to share how one can do practical discipleship(not just knowledge or facts) effectively.

    Reply to this comment
    • Martin Schmaltz

      19. Jan, 2010

      Philip, good questions. As to the content, I mentioned 3 levels of material that I compiled. Covers the from the basics of what is the new birth, prayer, how to study the bible, lifestyle matters of family, marriage, dating, children to finding your place of ministry. The necessary info needs to be taught. It is the application that is lacking in most churches. The answer to this part in my mind anyway is based on 2 things: community and time. It is spending time together outside of a couple of services a week and special events or programs. The first church shared their food & resources, prayed together, spent time in each others homes, in short – they shared their lives with each other. (much like the couple who discipled us). It is in these times that the things of God are caught. It is much the same way as children are raised in a home, they learn more by watching and listening, then copying. Hope this give you a little more food for thought.

      Reply to this comment
  8. […] To develop other people. Martin Schmaltz (a previous guest blogger) reminded me of that in a recent post. In that post he basically said the purpose of the church wasn’t just to teach facts but to […]

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  9. Dennis Munn

    25. Feb, 2010

    Fantastic! I’ve been clicking through your articles here and have really enjoyed them. I’m subscribing, so keep the posts coming!

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  10. Art Mealer

    26. Jun, 2010

    On a similar note, I’ve been thinking a lot lately how we mistakenly try to “balance” people b y working on their deficits. Instead, God seems focused on giving us each a narrow area of gifting, and wants us to develop that asset. The body is made up of different PARTS each of which does just a few things, and is dependent on others to do their thing well. Each poart, each person, should work on developing their giftedness, not their weaknesses.

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    • Martin Schmaltz

      26. Jun, 2010

      So true Art. Like our physical body: when each member is operating in it’s unique way (gifting) it contributes to the overall health and growth of the whole body. The opp example is true: when one part is not operating, we call it disease or sickness and it pulls from the other members. Thanks for the comment

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