Two Kinds of Churches Part 1: Is Your Church Making Cutting Edge Disciples?

“It doesn’t matter whether you go to a traditional or a contemporary church. It seems that they are focused on what they do to attract people but they do not seem to be producing changed people.” I sat across from a friend of mine who worked for a major parachurch organization, listening to him voice his frustration over not being able to find a church in his neighborhood that he felt was making a difference within the community. He was not lamenting any lack of evangelistic zeal. He was questioning why so few churches were actually transformational. He wondered why they desired to be cutting edge in style but are generating so few cutting edge disciples— disciples who are becoming more like Jesus.

He’s not the only one to wonder about this. I often hear this lament from people. Why is it that our churches seem to be full of people more like the ones that crucified Jesus than followed him? People who are so careful about their personal purity they are ready to throw those who fail to measure up under the bus? Who are fine as long as the church rolls along in calm waters but become aggressive sharks when the pastor or the leaders falter? Why are churches full of people who wander away from the faith as casually as changing phone services? People who seem indifferent to holy living and stay spiritually underdeveloped long after the time when they should have gone on to maturity?

What if you could see deep change in the lives of those who claim to follow Jesus? What if you could be part of a church that is regularly having more and more of its people truly become more like Jesus? What if you could see this kind of deep change in your own life? What if you could become transparent about your own failures and bold in your dependence on God to transform you? What if you could see the people of your church impacting your community with the evidence of the gospel in their lives? Would you be willing to pay the price to become the person who initiates that?

You have to start by humbly admitting that your church has a culture that does not produce such people if it doesn’t. Maybe it produces hard-working people. Maybe it produces pretty obedient people. Or maybe it produces biblically literate people who are friendly and generous. I have been in many churches that have such people but have found fewer churches which produce disciples who have been changed deep down in their soul. Whose journey toward intimacy with God has given them unshakable hope even though they know they are not whole yet. Who know they are safe in His love for them. Who are changing the world around themselves by living as light in the dark, as salt.

Perhaps you describe your church as exciting and full of enthusiastic people. I sat in a new church that was popping out of its sanctuary with new growth. The place was electric with excitement. But when I checked in with the pastor later that week, I saw the underside of the congregation. Quizzing the pastor, I realized that excitement was a substitute for spiritual life. From experience, I knew that the excitement would pass just like that new car smell. When it does, people’s lack of knowing how to pursue God in intimacy would create a backlog of counseling for the pastoral staff. It always happens.

It’s possible you have never thought of this before because how you ‘do church’ feels so natural. You have never understood why people are not being deeply changed. Do you really want to see deep change in the people you do church with? Do you want to see them being used to change the surrounding world? Then be willing to unlearn what you think you know about transformation. Learn the truth that helps people pursue real spiritual transformation. Let me show you what it means to address the under-the-surface discipling issue that can allow you to build deep into the lives of the disciples you make.

More next week….

-Steve Smith

A book about this subject: Build Deep: Developing a Transformational Culture in Your Church