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Church Growth and Making Disciples

Posted: June 15, 2012 by Rob Voyle

Here is a pattern of conversation I have had as a coach and consultant with numerous church leaders.

Parishioner: "We want a pastor who will help us grow." Response: "I am curious why do you want to grow?"

Parishioner: "We need the people and their money." Response: "Who do you know who would want to join your church so they can have a share in your debt?"

Parishioner: (Bewildered look of recognition of doubtful motivation) Response: "What do you have that is of great value that the people in your community need."

In times of decline people go into survival mode and are motivated by fear based strategies that in addition to being antithetical to the Gospel will actually hasten the decline.

In recent years I have also heard lots of conversation around the idea of focusing outward and becoming a missional church. While there is much to applaud in the outward focus I am concerned that in many cases becoming missional is perceived as creating a lot of busy work for people who are already too busy.

One of the basic assumptions of Appreciative Inquiry is: when we are dealing with problems, change the questions we are asking.

Here are some of my conclusions and questions.

1: We aren't called to grow the church, we are called to make disciples.

For many in the mainline churches making disciples and evangelism raises in consciousness behaviors that we detest. We need to find authentic ways of discipleship and evangelism that express our deepest values.

One question to start asking people: "What do you love about being a follower of Jesus?"

This question will grow in consciousness several things:

i: That we are actually followers of Jesus. This counters the idea: I knew I was a Christian but I didn't realize that meant I was a follower of Jesus.

ii: What we deeply value about being a follower of Jesus. If we want to make disciples we need to discover what is so valuable about being a disciple that we want others to share in that value. 2: What if people only came to church on Sunday morning? AND it was the most important two hours of their week.

because it inspired them to be the best plumbers, electricians, nurses, teachers, bankers, moms, dads, etc. that they could be, because what they do in the world is actually their ministry. Most volunteering at church is actually a hobby it is not a person's ministry. Ministry is what we do in the world with the bulk of our energy.

Question: What is life-giving and inspiring about our Sunday church experience? What do we need to do on Sunday to make it the most life-giving experience in your life?

Imagine what would happen to your church if you and or your leader stopped doing things that suck life from them and spent twice as much time growing what was life-giving for people on Sunday morning. One difference I know about big churches and little churches is that the leaders of big churches spend several entire days during the week preparing their sermon and the leaders of small churches spend just a few hours, if that, after the tyranny of the urgent has swallowed them whole.

If that touches a chord inside, don't bother contemplating why you can't spend more time working on a sermon or worship, ask yourself: "What do I need to do to make my work on Sunday morning my main priority."

If you are interested in learning more about Appreciative Inquiry and Making Disciples, Discovery and Engaging people's passion for work and daily life I invite you to attend the training next training I will be holding:

Rob Voyle

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About the Author

Rob Voyle

Rob Voyle

The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.

Rob's Approach to Training

  • Helpful: Training must provide practical, sustainable solutions for today's challenges.
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  • Healing: I create opportunities for people to experience transformational insights that lead to new ways of living, working, and being in the world.

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