How to Combat Temptation to Give Up Changing a Church Culture

Even though there isn’t a lot of visible growth in the first five years, the roots are deepening.

combat temptation

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)

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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.

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Chris Norman
Chris Norman is the leader of the 3DM Hub in Fort Wayne. Chris and his wife Kathy have been working with 3DM to build a culture of discipleship and mission at their church Grace Gathering since 2010. Follow Chris on Twitter.
  • DMA

    We launched a church 1 1/2 years ago committed to discipleship and it has been sooo slow that often we wonder if we are actually hearing God say to do this. We doubt then realize that yes we are hearing God. It’s encouraging when God shows us someone take a real step toward being a true disciple.. Even small things like you mentioned with praying out loud for the first time is a great encouragement! It is worth it but it’s hard to be patient especially when the church you left is gaining numbers by thousands and is all the buzz. Truth is, gain those numbers so fast there is little chance of being able to make true disciples so many of those churches end up with very few strong solid Christians. That’s what we saw and what prompted our desire to leave our church to launch one that disciples. Thanks for the great article!