An Analysis of Why Discipleship is the Only Way Forward
Ever since we church planted in Richmond with a young congregation, Crucible Church and I have been through mountaintops and valley troughs. Many unchurched came to faith and were baptized, couples married and babies were born, and small groups multiplied as we desired to see. Sadly, we have been a revolving door where families and “relatively” more mature Christians would leave for bigger, attractional churches. The phenomenon is counter-intuitive, because one would think new believers would more likely be lost to attrition. Now six years in, the ongoing challenge to build a mature-believing and family-oriented core remains.
The question that many, who by now are understandably disenchanted, are asking is, “compared to other churches, why are we constantly fighting an uphill battle?” In my attempts to wrestle the issue from spiritual and sociological angles, I concluded these are the top seven reasons:
- Cultural Ideals (Entitlement, Egocentric, Narcissistic, Impatient)
Christians are being shaped by the pervasive culture to see the church as a place where our needs and happiness must be fulfilled or otherwise move on.
- Technology Addiction
Nothing in life can compete with the sensationalism of instant and unlimited digital content, thereby preconditioning us to fear solitude and shun disciplines.
- Failed Discipleship
The butterfly effect of a casual discipleship approach in the past decade is finally rearing itself in marginal Christians who have no desire and no means to disciple others (Church of Laodicea?).
- Erosion of Commitment
Commitment once meant attending church four times a month, but nowadays means two. Sunday worship and small group are ‘either or’ decisions.
- Competition for Sunday Morning
Community centres offer their best family programs on Sunday mornings, and graduate studies from MBA to CPA all hold classes on Sunday.
- Rising Cost of Living
Skyrocketing real estate prices presents a tremendous challenge for church plants to access meeting places apart from meeting at home.
- Mostly Introverts
The personality makeup of a community is a big factor in how people are welcomed, how they perceive to belong, and how teaching is done.
These reasons may very well apply to all churches, but the effects on a small church plant are remarkably acute. At a glance, the later three are factors intrinsic to our environment and wiring we simply embrace, but the first four factors pertain to behaviours that can be thoroughly reshaped through discipleship. When the Gospel is allowed to penetrate hearts, it can change habits, reform desires, forge values, and shape character.
With this realization and a recent staff turnover, we are entering a new season with an unyielding commitment to embark on a discipleship pathway, because there is no other way forward.