What is your strategy for discipleship?

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Pop quiz time!

Discipleship is the essential method to develop:

  1. Level 5 Multiplication
  2. Leadership Pipeline
  3. Missional church culture
  4. Deploying people in their gifts
  5. None of the above
  6. All of the above

We believe that discipleship making should be at the heart of your operating system in your church.

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last 15 years, you probably have a smart phone (or know someone who does). Within seconds you can connect with anyone in your address book on your smart phone, and you can access just about any information you need via the Internet. You can even ask your phone questions and get remarkably reliable answers.

Reflect on how and why your phone consistently produces those results. At its core, three elements combine to give us consistently good experiences with smart phones:

Hardware + Software + Operating System = Consistent Results

The hardware is the tangible thing we hold in our hands. We see it, hold it, and interact with it. It comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors but at its core are a screen, buttons, memory, processor and other electrical components. Hardware is a platform or container for software to do its heavy lifting.

The software resides inside and is programmed to interact with humans and the hardware. Software is designed and manipulated to produce desired outcomes.

The operating system provides a framework for the hardware and the software to interact and play together nicely. It’s the orchestra conductor communicating the rules and guidelines for how the hardware and software interact to consistently produce the results we’re looking for. The operating system provides a context for a wide variety of different software applications to work within the hardware.

Over the past 20 years we’ve watched the technological advancement from pager, to analog handheld device, to several generations of data-capable smart phones. Each advancement simply aligns hardware, software and an operating system in new ways to produce a desired result.

Throughout our everyday lives, we encounter numerous other examples where consistent outcomes—from ordering coffee at Starbucks to waiting for the synchronous change of green, yellow and red lights at an intersection—is the product of hardware, software and an operating system interacting in harmony together.

In this way, most things in life are perfectly designed to deliver the consistent results we see. If we don’t like the results we’re getting in some area of life, we should start by looking carefully at the alignment of the elements that make up our operating systems.

Our deep burden at Exponential is the lack of healthy church multiplication happening in the U.S. church. Approximately 80 percent of U.S. churches are either plateaued or declining. Flip it around, and this stat tells us that only 20 percent are growing. Now think about this. Of those growing churches, less than 4 percent are reproducing, and well under 0.5 percent (essentially 0 percent) are multiplying as a consistent and regular product of their operating systems.

The prevailing operating systems that give us church growth are falling short of giving us church multiplication. Through survival of the fittest, the current system sets its sights on accumulation and addition-growth. We are adding, but are we adding in a way that produces the transformation needed for multiplication?

Several decades ago the operating system for planting churches changed. Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, had an indirect impact on the emerging church growth movement. At the core of Drucker’s work in the marketplace are three simple yet profound questions: Who is our customer? What do they value? How do we deliver that value?

The best companies have aligned their strategies to an operating system that delivers alignment on these three core questions. This customer service posture has also helped fuel the church growth movement. By focusing on who the lost people in our communities are, and understanding what they value, we can design church to attract and serve these people.

The strength of the megachurch (where we see most of the numerical growth in U.S. churches) is rooted in operating systems that align and scale the institution and resources of the local church (the hardware) with addition-oriented activities and strategies (the software) to target and meet the perceived needs of the customer. The mega-church’s strength is its attracting capacity, as resourced through staff, buildings, programs, excellent Sunday services and preaching, marketing and outreach events.

This operating system values a scalable, transactional approach to adding whereby we “score” when we attract the customer, and they choose to stick around. Unfortunately, this transactional customer focused system also set us up to spend increasing amounts of time and energy seeking to appease our customers and keep them sticking around.

Pause and reflect on the potential unintended consequences. We are called to make biblical disciples who GO as an expression of their increasing maturity. Too often we are building churches that spend most of their time attracting, appeasing, and seeking to keep cultural Christians sticking around. Yes, this is a harsh assessment, but part of courageous leadership is embracing the truths of our present realities that produce essentially 0 percent of U.S. churches multiplying.

Customer-focused operating systems are also great when you’re selling televisions or cars and need to close the deal with a transaction. But how would things be different if companies like Ford and Apple measured success not by a transaction but instead by the transformation of those they reach?

What if the fuel to healthy growth came through transformation rather than transaction? What if the lack of multiplication we see in the U.S. church is actually a reflection of the quality of our disciple making? What if we have to make biblical disciples who have a natural impulse to GO as they more fully mature? What if our zeal for accumulation is unintentionally making cultural Christians who continually need to be fed rather than biblical disciples who actually fuel multiplication and movements?

We believe that the strengths of this current operating system—attracting and connecting with people far from God—are essential and to be celebrated. But we’re deeply convicted that the prevailing operating system that new church planters so passionately embrace also has shortcomings in producing the transformation needed to both fuel and sustain multiplication movements.

The current system is perfectly aligned to give us accumulation and addition-growth. What if, instead, we could have addition- growth that actually fuels multiplication? What if, instead of accumulating larger stockpiles, we became catalysts for deploying and sending biblical disciples?

We must put biblical disciple making squarely at the core of our measure of success. Holistically, it’s what we are commanded to DO while simultaneously being the fuel that powers multiplication.

We stand at a crossroads in history with the opportunity to pilot a better future. But to make this revolutionary change, we need to rethink our current operating systems and becoming courageous leaders willing to discover and embrace new ones.

Back to that pop quiz.

Discipleship is the essential method to develop:

  1. Level 5 Multiplication
  2. Leadership Pipeline
  3. Missional church culture
  4. Deploying people in their gifts
  5. None of the above
  6. All of the above

What was your answer? If you didn’t answer 6) all of the above, then you for sure need to be on today’s forum.

If you answered 6) well done! Find out what Ralph Moore has to say by watching the Forum recording below:

Then, check out the breakout discussion that followed immediately afterwards:

 

Finally, hop onto the discussion thread below and let us know your answer to today’s question:

What is your strategy for discipleship?

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

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