Our first church plant did a survey of the men at about year ten. We found that 25% of the men, (I think it was something like 24.3%), had led someone to Christ in the previous three years. Dan Spader, the founder of Sonlife Ministry and a national leader in the area of discipleship visited our church about three weeks after the survey.
I remember walking through the office when the topic of discipleship and reproduction came up and I told Dan what the survey had revealed. I can still see what happened next. Dan stopped in his tracks, and sat back on a table that was behind him and said, “I don’t think there are 5 churches this size in America that could say that.” At the time, New Song was about 550-600 and was about to plant its 6th church in its first decade.
I don’t know if Dan was accurate in his assessment or not. What I do know is that he was in a much better position (as a national discipleship leader) to make the point.
The interesting thing is this: Our elders at the time, myself included, were not satisfied. We wanted all of our men to be reproductive. We suspected that the women of the church, with their higher relational capacity and greater relational skill, were even more effective as evangelists for the King. We wanted to match them.
New Song was a great church and I was honored to serve as its pastor and as an elder with so many godly men. I have often been asked what “the secret” was to the young church’s effectiveness in raising up so many effective “evangelists.” The most significant part of my answer is–“prayer.” But let me give a list of reasons that I hope will both stimulate discussion as well as suggest some ideas for your own ministry toolbox.
- Prayer was radically focused on gospel impact and reaching the lost with specific names of people we wanted to see come to faith.
- A Gospel-centered approach to discipleship.
- A process of ministry that envisioned movement, challenge, and responsibility.
- An assumption that church planting was normal for a church.
- The practice of church discipline of professing believers when warranted.
- An insistence that other churches were co-laborers not competitors.
- A process of ministry that assumed that all believers needed both training and opportunity to proclaim the gospel.
- A commitment to expository preaching in worship services.
- A commitment to growth through conversion rather than transfer.
- A commitment to be “sinner friendly” (we are all sinners) rather than “seeker sensitive”.
- An aggressive pursuit of “Living for an Audience of ONE”
- An aggressive pursuit of multi-ethnic harmony and reconciliation.
- Training everyone to “Live Passionately for and Like Christ”
It’s late and I’m tired, so let me stop there. There’s a baker’s dozen to perhaps stimulate our discussion.