In the Churches of God, General Conference and across the landscape of western Christianity we have a problem. The symptoms are well known, talked about, and even solutions have been tried. Yet, things stay the same. Attendance in worship is dwindling, conversions and baptisms are less and less, the financial reserves have dried up, and we find the average age of our churches are growing older. We all see it happening, but things aren’t changing.
And it’s not for lack of desire. Those in church leadership aren’t sitting around twiddling their thumbs. They’re trying, they’re working, and they’re making conceded efforts to shift the current trends into the right direction. We’ve heard battle cries of modernization, capital campaigns, church planting, and more. If we could just solve this issue, our churches would be okay. And yet, things remain the same.
The reason things aren’t changing is that all of our efforts just deal with the symptoms and never get at the real problem. We try to solve worship attendance, conversion, and finance issues, but those are really surface level indicators of a much deeper and fundamental issue.
A couple of months ago, my teeth began to hurt. Not sharp pains, but dull aches and twinges. I went to the dentist and found out that I’ve been grinding my teeth. My first question was, “Could get a mouth guard to fix the problem?” I knew that a lot of people use them and that it was the likely course of action to take. The dentist replied that he could give me one, but that it would only keep my teeth from being damaged. They would probably still ache a bit and wouldn’t stop me from grinding. The real problem was stress. I was stressed from a job transition I was going through and it was causing the grinding. If I wanted to stop the grinding, I had to get rid of the stress (which is easier said than done).
The reality is that we don’t have an attendance problem. We don’t have a finance problem. We don’t have a conversion problem. We don’t have an outreach problem. We don’t have a church planting problem. We have a discipleship problem. It’s not that the other things are unimportant, but if we were really taking care of discipleship, everything else would begin to fall into place. We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the symptoms, it’s probably time to start working on the problem.
Why do you think we have a discipleship problem?
What can we do about it?