Why Making Disciples Should Always Be More Important to the Church Than Membership Numbers
The advancement of the kingdom of God has long been viewed as an increase in church attendance and membership. While population numbers are a good guide, they are not the goal. We don't want to turn people into church members. We want to turn people into disciples of Jesus.
Matthew 28:19-20 tells us, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Discipleship is the final commission Christ gave His followers and one that extends to us today.
Discipleship is a crucial part to kingdom advancement and should be our ultimate goal, not just simply church attendance growth.
God Wants Life Change, Not Life Alteration
Turning people into church members involves adding them to a database, encouraging them to give, and inviting them to church events. Discipleship is much more than that. It's an invitation to life transformation as we point them to Christ and to the power of the Holy Spirit working in them.
The goal of discipleship is to see discipline and life change, not to see a regular routine of church attendance. Not that there's anything wrong with attending church, but it's not the goal. The goal is to "teach people to observe what Jesus commanded" and see that bring life change.
Discipleship Is About Relationship
Church membership is mostly about adhering to a structured system. Discipleship is building relationships with God and with His people. While structure and system help, they are simply there to uphold relationships. When rules get in the way of experiencing relationship, we drop the formalities to pound on love and grace spoken with truth.
Unchurched people are not looking for a formal structure of assimilation. They are looking for a place where they can belong and people whom they can grow more in God with. That's what discipleship provides.
Discipleship Is Who We Are, Not What We Do
Becoming a church member is adding programmes and events to our schedule and telling us to do something in addition to what we are already doing. It's like a new brand they carry. Discipleship, however, is not life supplementation. It's life alteration. God takes out the old and brings in the new.
Becoming a follower of Christ means becoming a disciple. A disciple is something we fully are. You can't be a follower of Christ and a follower of something else at the same time. Just like it is said, "You cannot serve both God and money," (Matthew 6:24) or anything else for that matter. It's either Jesus or something else.