Over the last few years with 3DM, I’ve had the privilege of getting to work with hundreds of churches looking to put discipleship and mission at the center of everything they do. And in this current season where I’ve returned to full-time local church ministry, it’s given me time to reflect on some of the macro trends I see in the North American evangelical church.
Last week, one of these observations hit me like a two-by-four as I was talking to some pastors about church growth. Here it is: We always assume church growth is from God.
But here’s one of the things I’ve seen enough times now that it makes me think there might be a pattern behind it. Churches begin to have real conviction about making disciples who make disciples, about investing their time, energy and resources into empowering, equipping and training the people of God to do the work of God. They start to go down that path … and then suddenly, out of nowhere … a wave of growth hits their church.
And just like that, all of their efforts are derailed because they have to make the most of the growth and suck this wave of momentum dry. We simply assume God is “blessing us.” Yet, they were beginning to walk down the road of the priesthood of all believers … and then … poof!
Follow me on this one.
Let’s hypothetically assume, for just a moment, that we have a very real enemy. And let’s hypothetically assume that this enemy is really smart and that he knows that the worst thing that can happen to him is if every man, woman and child believes that their primary role as a believer is to make disciples who can make disciples.
And let’s say that this enemy is aware of the same stats we’re aware of: 96 percent of church growth is from people who are coming from another church. And let’s assume this enemy knows that getting more people into a church service each week is, at the end of the day, the thing that pastors measure to know if they are successful.
Why wouldn’t this enemy just give a church an influx of growth to keep them from going down the path of disciple-making?
Why wouldn’t he?