3-2-1 With Jeff Vanderstelt

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest

By: Thien Doan
This article was originally published on The Intentional Life.

In an interview with Exponential, my friend Jeff Vanderstelt shared how COVID-19 has impacted the church. It was a wealth of wisdom. There were so many great gems of valuable insight that this interview deserves a rewatch.

Here is a link to the replay.

I appreciate Jeff’s wisdom and leadership. I’ve known him for over a decade. He is a very unique leader. He’s led churches of every size, from micro to mega-churches. He continues to challenge me.

So here are my “3 insights, 2 questions, 1 takeaway” thoughts on the Exponential’s conversation with Jeff Vanderstelt.




Health check-ups are not only for people with COVID-19 symptoms. The Church needs a health check-up too. And that’s exactly what COVID-19 did for the Church.

Jeff said:

“COVID-19 revealed how effective you were at making disciples.” 

I agree with Jeff. COVID-19 gave my church a health check-up that I didn’t request. It revealed that my church was not nearly as healthy as I thought it was.

It’s a wake-up call for me. I realized that my people have become unhealthily dependent on our church programs and events. Many are struggling in their spiritual lives without Sunday gatherings.

I’ve realized that many of my dedicated members have no spiritual life outside of church services and programs. They don’t know how to pray, read the Bible, or spend time abiding with Christ on their own.


Jeff was asked, “What is your hope for the church?” His answer was insightful and challenging.

He said,

“I hope no one says ‘let’s go back to normal.’ Because that would be like going back to Egypt.”

Wow. Just. Wow.

What does Egypt represent? Is COVID-19 the wilderness? If so, what’s the Promised Land?

I think he was referring to the Church losing our mission and becoming an inward-focused institution. I recently wrote about that in an article called “The Fortress Has Fallen.”

Many church leaders desperately want to re-open their buildings and re-start their services and programs. They want to “just go back to normal,” some even justifying ignoring the civic and state laws.

Jeff says that we have to learn the lessons about the limitations of corporate gatherings. COVID-19 has taught us that church services, events, and programs are limited. To make mature disciples, we need much more than events and programs.

We have to be honest and realize that “normal” wasn’t that effective in making disciples.

So instead of yearning for Egypt, we should lean into what God is trying to teach us in the wilderness. I believe the lessons of the wilderness will prepare us for the Promised Land.


Before COVID-19, the local church’s scoreboard was attendance and participation in ministry programs.

We can’t use that now. We need an entirely new scoreboard. We can’t measure attendance if we don’t have gatherings. And no, online views and comments don’t count.

Jeff suggests that our new scoreboard needs to move from measuring attendance to discipleship metrics.

Jeff suggests that we begin asking discipleship questions instead:

  • Are they becoming more like Jesus?
  • Are they enjoying time alone with God?
  • Are they owning family discipleship?
  • Are they owning household fellowship with other believers?
  • Are they caring for their neighbors?

Jeff also mentions that he’s heard from many pastors that they are struggling and depressed during this season. He challenges these struggling pastors to ask themselves two questions:

  • Why am I depressed?
  • What was I measuring?


I’m still reflecting on this interview with Jeff. I need more time for my thoughts to marinate.

Here are two questions that I will continue to meditate on:


I need to take an honest look at the health of my church. I need to confront the brutal facts that my church isn’t as healthy as I thought.

Maybe you do too.


I can’t measure attendance or participation anymore. What do I have to start measuring?

I need a new scoreboard. Do you?


My main takeaway from this interview with Jeff Vanderstelt is about making disciples. I realize that I need to focus my attention and effort on helping my people become intentional disciple makers.

I need to help parents lead their children in family worship and Bible Study. I need to give the ordinary Christians in my church the training and tools to disciple others. I need to equip them to reach out to their neighbors and lead household fellowships.

As Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:12, I need to “equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.”

This article was originally published on The Intentional Life.

We are better together!

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
John 17:22-23

Scroll to Top