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"Not very well." Why is this the answer to "How is the Church doing at making disciples?"

When asked how well we in the Church are doing with disciplemaking, most readers probably would respond with a generic, “Not very well.” But in my experience such a response is unlikely to include any heart-felt concern, let alone lead to genuine transformative action on the part of the responder.

So let’s probe the question more deeply, both subjectively from your and my experience and observation, and objectively based on available data and research. Let’s see if we can surface some specifics and give some substance to our general impression of “Not very well.”

In the preface to his book Living on the Edge – Dare to Experience True Spirituality, Chip Ingram poses an excellent series of questions which can help us give voice to our own spiritual experience. Here they are, slightly adapted:

1. Consider the ways many Christians feel about where they are spiritually:

  • Spiritually stuck

  • Disengaged from my church experience

  • Tired of the spiritual status quo

  • Wish I knew what God really wanted from me – and where I fit in His plan

  • Long to break free from some habitual sin

  • Desire to grow spiritually, but unsure how

  • Want a clear pathway to spiritual maturity

  • Wish I could effectively disciple others

It’s likely you have never been in an environment where people expressed these kinds of thoughts about their spiritual journeys. It’s not considered “spiritual” to do so, or we feel uneasy about being so honest.

But having broken the ice -- or perhaps better said, “the sound barrier” -- by speaking, what did you learn? Are you surprised and yet relieved to discover that others have felt or thought many of the same things you have?

This awareness of being on common ground with others will probably increase as we consider the following adaptation of another list from Chip Ingram’s book.

2. Consider the end result of the approaches to spiritual development that many Christians have tried.

  • Performing and exhausted

  • Feeling guilty and ashamed

  • A prisoner of false expectations

  • Riding a spiritual roller coaster

  • Disappointed and disillusioned

  • Angry and bitter

  • Disengaged from my local church

  • Quietly going through religious motions with little sense of God’s power or presence

  • Confused, uncertain, even immobilized, seeing many opportunities to get involved in ministry but unsure which is God’s best or “right” one for me

Here’s a third good way to provide some specifics in our subjective response to the question, “How well are we doing with disciplemaking?”

3. Of the Christians that you personally know, particularly men, name any who(m):

  • You would describe with the statement, “He’s been with Jesus.” (See Acts 4:13.)

  • Can tell you where he is on the trek to spiritual maturity and beyond.

  • Knows how he got to where he is on his spiritual trek.

  • Could bring you or another man to where he is on his spiritual trek.

  • Is, in fact, consistently and intentionally helping others become mature spiritually.

From the foregoing subjective consideration of the state of disciplemaking, I hope that two conclusions stand out clearly to you: First, you are in good company; any misgivings, doubts, or frustrations you’ve experienced about your own spiritual journey are common to many others. Second, the vast majority of Christians are not as far along spiritually as we -- and perhaps they -- think they are. Despite all the resources available and efforts being made, it seems that the Church is not making many disciples.

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