Break Free From the Numbers Leash: Make Disciples

Here’s the secret to church growth: Jesus will build the church if we make disciples. But first we must break free of the “numbers leash.”

Break Free From The Numbers Leash: Make Disciples
Talk about the neighborhood more than you talk about your little church empire. Direct eyes outward. Pull people into the garden to explore, to behold, to understand where they live. Release into the air imagination for the particular province God has situated your community in. Make it obvious over-and-over that the energy is outside the building in the neighborhood. This takes a lot of bandwidth, but it is the most foundational missional shift.
Moving people’s affections beyond the spiritual goods-n-services they consume to the needs in their neighborhood is moving from a “me-orientation” to “mission-orientation.” Honestly there is probably nothing more vital or volatile than this dirty work.
Focus on questions like:
  • Who is our city?
  • Who are our neighbors?
  • Where do we live?
  • Who is already doing good work in this garden?
  • What is beauty in our place?
  • What is the brokenness in our place?

The Gardening – Seeding Relationships

It’s not enough to have better intelligence on a neighborhood, now we need better relational attachment. Cultivating a garden is more than raising money for an initiative or throwing in some skilled leaders. The Garden needs us to get on our hands and knees and enjoy the soil. Is your church relationally investing in a region?
We need to move beyond an event-mindset to a rhythm-mindset. Having events that catalyze missional serving in our city can cause good sparks. Those sparks can easily be compartmentalized. Our passion must be sustainability.
We must cross and close the relationship gap. You must push for tangibility about how to foster connectivity with a place. This is the labor of incarnation.
Create spaces for clusters within your church to brainstorm the pathways into a particular place. Let people verbalize their challenges, ideals, fears and hurdles to bridging the relational disparities with their neighbors.
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Some helpful questions for these clusters to wrestle through are:
  • How are we going to get dirty in our place?
  • On a daily basis?
  • On a weekly basis?
  • On a monthly basis?
  • On a yearly basis?
  • How can we do this in micro-groups?
  • With other families?
  • With our friends?

The Gardeners – Shaping Disciples

An agriculturist understands the challenge, the fine art and backbreaking work found in the garden.
I’ve had a literal urban garden for a few years. My wife is the expert and must continually teach me how to plant seeds and nurture them to life. She understands the conditions of the soil and the variables of gardening. I’ve got a lot to learn.
Every Spring, that garden needs fresh work and focus. If you’re inviting people to into the garden, how will you equip them? How will you foster their intelligence and their perseverance?
Gardeners burn out without water, nourishment and best practices. How do we build a disciple culture? Tilling-and-toiling requires tools. What tools are you putting in the hands of your Gardeners?
Gardeners who inhabit a relational-ecosystem will need water and sustenance to continue. Jesus will build the church if we make disciples. Shaping disciples is not directed at more service to the church infrastructure but more service to the labyrinth outside our church doors.

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Dan White
Dan White Jr. co-leads Axiom Church, a developing network of missional communities in the urban neighborhoods of Syracuse, New York. After being a full-time pastor for fifteen years, his family along with four other families moved into the city to pioneer a discipleship-centered, mission-oriented, community-shaped, neighborhood-rooted approach to being the church. Dan works as a consultant and missional coach with the V3 Movement, which trains, plants, and seeds missional expressions throughout the country.