How do we combat temptation to give up when we are changing a church culture? One of the things we have learned at Grace Gathering is that changing the operating system of ministry from growing a church to growing disciples takes longer than anyone anticipates. Because of this, as we have been building a discipling culture, I have been tempted to give up too many times to count! It probably takes at least five years to change a church culture, and that feels too long for many people.
As we engaged with 3DM four and a half years ago, we started a journey that, at first, was very exciting. We really didn’t know what it was going to cost us, and we never appreciated how long it would take. After the initial excitement and honeymoon wore off, we were probably in D2 for a good couple of years. It was during this time that the feelings of giving up kept recurring.
About every other week, I thought to myself, I don’t think this is working, and I don’t think I want to keep doing this. Thankfully, I had a 3DM coach that kept talking me off that cliff.
We were two to three years in the process, had invested a lot of time and money, and many were asking, “Where is the fruit for all this investment?” Frankly, I was asking the same thing. The answer, however, was, “Outwardly, not much yet, but inwardly, underneath the surface, foundational changes were taking place.”
Here’s what I mean. Most churches can be broken down into the following groupings:
a. 5 percent Clergy (formal staff/board leaders)
b. 15 percent Core (core leaders and families)
c. 50 percent Committed (attenders who are committed to the church)
d. 30 percent Casual (fringe people)
Four years into the process, all of our discipleship huddles have been in the top two categories. If in the first five years you can disciple a good portion of that top 20 percent, you have a foundation that is ready for explosive influence and growth in the future. You will rarely, if ever, disciple the “Casual” (know that and simply be thankful that God will use them in other ways). What you really want to do is eventually penetrate as many of the committed as possible. This is where the heart of our movement lies.
Even though there isn’t a lot of outward breakthrough visible to the congregation in those first five years, the roots are deepening. This is internal growth not external growth. This is why it is so easy to give up. It seems like lots of effort with little fruit. At our church, we are now seeing the glimpses of breakthrough fruit, and let me tell you, it is worth the wait.