Every church leadership or church health specialist probably has his own definition and formula for measuring spiritual vitality. It is important to clarify these principles at the beginning. The reader will certainly and in fact is invited to compare methodologies. However, it is likely that each methodology has merits for leaders as they seek to understand the discipleship needs of their congregations. Indeed, each specialist/author employs different metrics of varying complexity. Christian Schwartz uses eight quality characteristics with attention to the modifiers (adjectives) describing them in Natural Church Development. Rick Warren’s church health model uses five domains in his popular Purpose Driven Church. More recently Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer published Transformational Church that includes a complex model that purports to change how churches measure spiritual growth. To the point at hand, this author has offered yet another methodology called Simple Discipleship based on four domains of Christian life using the cross as the visual model.
Each methodology has merits for leaders as they seek to understand the discipleship needs of their congregations.
To some it may seem that measuring spiritual vitality is like nailing Jello to the wall. As we begin, consider two points with an open mind. First, I commend leaders who are even interested in measuring spiritual vitality of their congregation. Balanced scorecards for churches are a relatively recent development, and in fact Simple Discipleship (2009) was the first to offer this feature, which leads to the second point. Evaluating various methods is like comparing apples and carrots. I know the accepted metaphor is apples and oranges but spiritual vitality instruments are rather dissimilar. That I am biased to my own model is obvious, however Simple Discipleship offers a simple model that is easily grasped by leaders and congregations at all levels. Isn’t that important? Many church health or spiritual vitality models are too complicated for most Christians, if they care at all.
FROM CONGREGATION TO COMMUNITY
It is important to build urgency and momentum for community spiritual growth. A church congregation is supposed to be a spiritual community but many churches are a mix of people who just happen to go to the same church. To be a spiritual community there must be elements such as chosen accountability, simplicity, common values, and of course passionate contagious faith. In an increasingly disconnected world, people need deep relational and spiritual connections that are achieved in a caring community. Andy Stanley and Bill Willits remind us that God created us with a need for relational companionship. In their book Creating Community they expounded on the traditional interpretation of Genesis 2:18 which says, “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him.” (Net Bible) The need for companionship goes beyond the relationship within marriage. I contend that within creation and the church as God intended are the ingredients of healthy individuals, families, communities, and nations. We may find this illustrated in what I call the “Ten Commandment Cross,” which symbolizes both, our vertical relationship with God through Christ, and our horizontal relationships with other people (Simple Discipleship, 77).
It is important to build urgency and momentum for community spiritual growth.
The task of a pastor is more than preaching—it is also to create community within the church and maintain a culture that reflects the values of God in a sustainable manner—we call it church. Pastors may do much to shape the culture of their church such as leadership training, establishing effective procedural practices, collaboration, empowerment, and so on. Read my series of articles on “Improving Your Church’s Culture” (http://drthomreece.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/improving-your-church%E2%80%99s-culture-11-leadership-training/).
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Part of building a faith community that sustains urgency for spiritual and numerical growth requires simplicity. Many church growth models and discipleship programs are complex and difficult for the average layman to grasp. The other extreme is to create a system of legalistic dos and don’ts that while they are simple, they offer a false sense of spiritual progress. Any plan for spiritual growth may be corrupted by legalists.
Simple enough to be easily grasped by Christians at all levels of maturity but avoiding legalism.
That being said, to create urgency and momentum for growth, a process should be clearly communicated, aligned with biblical values, measurable, and focused. It is not enough to develop a process grasped by church leaders. A process that has buy-in from a large percentage of the congregation has the potential to transform a church. It is also important to limit the number of measured metrics.
MEASURING WITH SIMPLE DISCIPLESHIP
The Simple Discipleship process encourages Christian life growth around four dimensions circling the cross—Worship, Word, Ministry, and Missions. Another way of looking at the four areas is: Know Christ, Grow in Christ, Serve Christ, and Share Christ—all of which are areas where spiritual vitality may be easily seen. Remember that the unreachable ideal is to have 100% of the congregation participating in all four dimensions. Too few involved in Ministry and/or Missions indicates a deeply troubled church in decline. A church’s Community Missional Footprint (CMF) is simply the percentage of people involved in missional work directed outside the church. A church with a small CMF is in danger of decline and death. Preferably, the measurement is scored annually and improvement is worked through the year. This is the Simple Discipleship process and the book is well worth the price of $16.00 plus shipping to have all that is necessary to measure or take a snapshot of your church’s spiritual vitality. The book comes with a CD in the back cover that includes many additional resources.
- What process does your church use to make disciples?
- Does your church employ three or more delivery systems for discipleship—i.e. platform, personal, peer group, program, and proficiency?
- What is your church’s “community missional footprint?”
- To what degree does your congregation understand and buy-in to your disciple-making plan?
Simple Discipleship: How to Make Disciples in the 21stCenturywas published and released by Church Smart Resources in November 2009. It is not a self-published book. To learn more about Simple Discipleship and to order the book, follow the link below:
Dr. Tom Cocklereeceis CEO of RENOVA Coaching and Consulting, LLC
Author “Simple Discipleship,” contributing writer L2L Blogazine
He is a pastor, an author, professional coach, and leadership specialist
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