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Do I Quit My Church Activities to Do Disciple Making?

How effective are our church activities when it comes to making disciples? Should we abandon them entirely or is there a way they can be adjusted to produce fruit?

As people are learning about disciple making and the different methods that are really effective in reaching people that don't know Jesus, they can start to have this natural frustration when looking at what's going on in their local church. They see there are a lot of activities that are happening, but very little disciple making fruit to show for it. With that in mind, Paul and Rebecca are super excited to talk about an important question that they get all of the time — specifically, “Do I quit my church activities to do disciple making?” It's a great question and the title of this episode of the CDM Podcast, so, without further ado, let's dive right in!

The Role of Legacy Churches

People start feeling almost as if there's a divided loyalty between the new disciple making methods they're practicing and their church, which makes them wonder, “Well do I just need to dump the whole church thing altogether? Do I need to stop doing all the activities and just devote all my energy into doing something different?”

These are understandable questions, and ones that CDM comes at from a different angle than other organizations that encourage Disciple Making Movement. Here at CDM we believe our established churches in the US, Canada and beyond, or what we like to call our “legacy churches”, have an important part to play in fulfilling the great commission and the great commandment.

To take it a step further, we believe you can’t actually have Disciple Making Movement if you position yourself against the local established churches. That said, there are definitely some little nuances and things that come into that too.

Before we go any further, for all the people wondering whether they have to quit their church in order to do disciple making, please hear this loud and clear —no you don’t.

You don't have to quit your church because disciple making activity is a church activity. It's a key part of being a follower of Christ and, in fact, if a church is not making disciples, it's not really a church. It’s hard to hear, but there are some “churches” out there that are basically just glorified social clubs and there's nothing you can do to get them to make disciples.

Now, we're not saying that there is never a reason to leave one church in search of, say, a better one, but the point is this — we do not outright abandon legacy churches in our pursuit of Disciple Making Movement.

Furthermore, CDM is not asking you to switch masters as though you must quit following your pastor and now have to come follow us as we do this particular journey. That's not it. What we're asking you to do is take ownership of your own time and ask yourself, “What am I doing that actually makes disciples?” This is all about you becoming responsible — personally responsible — for your time and actions.

If that means that some of the activities you do in your church lead directly to making disciples, or if there is something you can shift to make them more effective, then by all means do those things! However, if there are things we're doing in our churches that are proving to be ineffective for making disciples, then we should probably consider doing something else.

We’ll go over some key questions we can ask ourselves to help us evaluate whether or not a particular activity is helping us in our disciple making.

Prioritize Disciple Making

The first question we can ask is this: Does this activity directly lead to disciple making?

We’re not asking, “Do we hope it will?” Rather, does it successfully do so?

We have a lot of church activities that are mostly just traditions — good traditions even, like food drives, the annual kids Christmas performance, harvest festivals, Trunk or Treat, etc. These are good things. It’s good to provide food for the hungry, invite the community to have fun, or have non-believing family come see their grandkids sing Christmas songs — but we tend to think these activities are more effective at spreading the gospel and making disciples than they really are.

While these can be good access points for building relationships, these one-off events are typically where we and our churches stop. We don't actually have a plan on how to be able to use these events to develop long-term relationships that can hopefully lead to discipling.

Without a plan, people will spend months and years of their lives doing good things, like getting food out to people, without ever making any disciples. Meanwhile they're thinking, “I'm doing the good work I’m supposed to do!” Well, yes and no.

Our churches may have some great traditions, but are they the most effective at helping us build relationships with the lost and see them come to know Jesus? If our honest answer is either, “No,” or, “There's no way for us to know,” then maybe we should spend those hours and hours of our time doing something different.

We want to be doing things that are not just good, not just respectable, not just things that if everyone looked at them they’d say, “Oh, wow! So-and-so is a good Christian because they sing in the choir, attend small group, help out in children's church and do X, Y and Z.” We’re not just looking for the activities that are popular and make everybody stand up and applaud us. We’re looking for what is actually the most effective.

So, get creative! Try new things and/or adjust how you do traditional things, and forget about what other people are going to think.

Be Honest About Results

What are the results of the activities we’re doing?

Is the result of the activity simply that we had a good time? There's nothing wrong with that! Sometimes we need activities where we unabashedly say, “We're just here to enjoy ourselves and have a good time.”

Sometimes we might say an activity is just meant to attract people who are believers who may have fallen away from church and we want them to have a church to call home. That’s fine too!

What we’re passionate about for our activities here at CDM is asking the question, “Is this activity helping people who are far from God fall in love with God?” And if the answer is “Yes,” that's an activity we want to dive right into and spend our time and energy on.

We can plan our Trunk or Treat, church program, or whatever else, and that's okay! Let's be honest with ourselves though, both with what we want the end result of our activity to be, as well as whether or not it achieves that result.

Follow Up Is Key

What does our follow up look like?

We want to be thinking about what happens after our activity is finished. A crucial difference between an activity that will be effective for making disciples and one that won’t be is follow up. We can say we have a specific intention and hope such-and-such activity will have a certain outcome, but how does this really play out in making disciples?

Let’s say, for example, you're having a camp out or bonfire locally with some students. That's awesome!

  • What's your follow up with these new students?

  • Coming into the event, do you have some people directly contacting them again?

  • Are you intentionally engaging some of these students so that you're getting names and phone numbers and will be able to reach out and get coffee with them?

In other words, we want to be building bridges to get from some of these access kinds of activities into actually being able to develop long term relationships with people who don't know Jesus.

Shift Existing Activities to Be More Effective

How can we shift the things we are already doing so that they are as effective as they can be?

Often times, we prioritize efficiency in our day-to-day lives, as well as in our churches, and that actually keeps us from making disciples. We measure success by five hundred boxes of food or school supplies distributed despite no, or very few, relationships built. What if instead we only distributed a hundred boxes, but formed a hundred solid connections because we were less focused on efficiency and more focused on the relationships?

For example, I like Chipotle burritos — a lot. If I order my Chipotle burrito using the app and I walk into the store, grab my food and leave without engaging anyone in conversation, then I've been very efficient at getting my burrito, but inefficient when it comes to making disciples because making disciples requires relationship. Instead, since I'm usually going to the same Chipotle, if I make the shift to order in person, I'll see the same workers regularly (more regularly than I'd care to admit) and be able to learn their names and slowly develop friendships with them.

The same goes for any of our church activities, and even our habits outside the home like grabbing our daily coffee(s), going to the grocery store, getting gas, etc. If we can just make little shifts to prioritize building relationships rather than efficiency, we can even see our average, mundane activities bear disciple making fruit.

Maybe instead of expecting people to stagger into our churches to listen to three-year-olds sing “Joy to the World” around the holidays, we can go to them. We can sing carols for a retirement home, children’s hospital or even our own neighborhoods, using the same music and still having fun together, but making a slight shift so that we bring it to people who need it the most instead of making them come to us.

These are just some of the ways we can think about how we make disciples.

When it comes to choosing church activities, the point is not, “Don't do them.” The point is assessing them to determine whether they are things worth doing — things that are actually working. If they are good and fruitful, then by all means do them! And if they aren’t effective, or are not effective yet, let's ask ourselves, “Is there something different we can do, or is there a way that we can shift them so they can be effective?”

Learn More

Thanks for reading! If you’re feeling like you’re in a place of questioning how effective your disciple making activities are, and would like to learn more, that’s great! Paul and Rebecca go much deeper into the subject than I’m able to in this blog and they have so many great insights that will help us take our disciple making to the next level. So, be sure to check out the “Do I Quit My Church Activities to Do Disciple Making?” podcast here or on the CDM App under podcasts!

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