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What Is the Difference Between Building Programs and Building Disciples?

What Is the Difference Between Building Programs and Building Disciples?

I love church. I love gathering together and sharing fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. And I especially love gathering together with my fellow believers and worshiping God together with them. And as one who has been a pastor myself, I appreciate, more than most, the effort pastors and other church staff put out to provide the opportunity for those fellowship and worship experiences.

But I am frustrated. Because of the nature of the kind of ministry I do, I have the opportunity to observe a lot of different churches. Almost all of them are full of very loving and committed believers – at least that is the case for most of the folks who are faithful and active participants. In fact, I believe that it is their love for Christ and for their church that influences them to have that kind of attitude.

At the same time, I see another dynamic at work – and it is this other dynamic that frustrates me. Within almost every church, there will be a relatively small hand full of people who have a pretty good grasp on the core essentials of their faith. For the most part, these are the people who end up becoming leaders in the church – deacons, elders, Bible study teachers, programs leaders, and the like. The majority, though, while having a sense of the core essentials, don't understand them very well, and tend to be much more immature in their faith.

But here is my personal frustration: For the most part, even those who do have a good grasp on the core essentials, had to get a great deal of their education through self-instruction. Now that is not a bad thing. There are, certainly abundant resources to help people do that, and Christians ought to be taking advantage of those resources. But how much better and more efficient would it be if there was a systematic program in the church that was able to equip them more deeply and comprehensively for the work of ministry? Something that would catch the imagination of the majority of members?

You need to realize, though, for a pastor, that is not an easy thing to pull off. In fact, it may very well be the most difficult thing a pastor can attempt. I know because I have been in that situation. There are two basic reasons for this.

First, there is rarely a grass-roots demand for it. Typically, there will be a few who are willing to spend the time and effort to get that kind of training. But sadly, the vast majority are not – and people just don't know what they don't know.

Second, creating something like that generally requires a lot of extra time and effort on the part of the pastor. Most are willing to do it if there is a demand for it, but if the demand is not there, the kind of preparation necessary to pull it off is not generally a good use of their time.

That said, without implementing something like that, the level of spiritual maturity for the majority of church members will remain rather shallow. Sadly, what most churches end up with is an overall spiritual maturity level that is a mile wide and an inch deep.

So, we end up being pretty good at building our main programs (worship service, Bible study classes, men's and women's ministries, youth ministries, etc.) but not so good at building genuinely mature disciples. It can be done, and there are churches that are doing it, but they are few and far between.

If nothing else, I hope this sharing of my heart is a little bit of a kick in the pants to start thinking about priorities. In our increasingly anti-Christian society, we need spiritually deep Christians – lots of spiritually deep Christians. What do you think you can do to begin implementing ways to deepen the spiritual maturity level of your church?

Freddy Davis is the president of MarketFaith Ministries. He is the author of numerous books and has a background as an international missionary, pastor, radio host, worldview trainer, and entrepreneur. Freddy is a graduate of Florida State University with a BS in Communication, and holds MDiv and DMin degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a popular speaker, particularly on the topic of worldview and its practical implications for the Christian life. He lives in Tallahassee, FL, with his wife Deborah.

You may also contact Freddy at Leadership Speakers Bureau to schedule him for speaking or leadership engagements.

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