Almost two years ago, Jim Singleton preached at our church and called us to be like a hospital ship that rescues people. He pointed out that we live in a culture that needs the gospel, but churches too often do a good job of hiding it.
The situation is drastic. The Pew Research Center reports that 60% of Massachusetts residents believed in God with absolute certainty in 2007. Seven years later, that number had fallen to 40%. In 2007, 30% of Bay Staters attended religious services weekly. By 2014, only 23% did so.
While statistics only tell part of the story, I suspect we’ve all seen evidence of this shift. We no longer live in a Christendom culture, in a culture that takes God, church, the Bible, and other traditional Christian symbols and ideas for granted.
As a congregation, our ship has definitely begun to turn. We’ve become more welcoming, more open to dialogue, more willing to get to know our neighbors. We recognize our need to change in light of the fact that we are called to the mission of making disciples.
But there’s much more to be done. We need to both grow deeper in our understanding of the gospel and in our relationships with people who don’t yet know Jesus.
As we’ve imagined this possibility, we’ve looked to hire an associate pastor of discipleship to lead us in that work. That hasn’t happened yet.
So what should we do while we wait? How do we make disciples in this changed situation? Just as importantly, how do we avoid wasting our time and effort? How can we avoid doing things that aren’t effective at that goal?
Earlier this year, Pastor Bobby convened a focus group made up of some people who have been involved in discipleship ministries and some who haven’t. We’ve started to pray, discuss scripture, and think about these questions.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, I’ve got something to say about this too.” That’s good. There will be at least two ways you can contribute to this conversation.
After the second service on March 25, 2018 we are having an open forum to get input about disciple-making at NSCBC. Pastor Bobby will guide the conversation in an attempt to shed more light on what we’re doing when we’re making disciples.
There will also be a survey to give the congregation an opportunity for more input. Watch the weekly church emails in coming weeks for a link.
At the end of this process, we hope to be moving toward an approach to discipleship that better fits our context. We also hope to have a foundation for a restarted associate pastor of discipleship search.
If we are the kind of church that acts as a hospital ship, all the way from our welcome desks to our discipleship ministries, we’ll be much more likely to attract the kind of candidate who wants to help lead that kind of church. Are you ready for that?
Discipleship think tank contributors:
Jeff Arthurs, Tom Clay, Natalie Crowson, Troy Duppenthaler, Hope Edwards, Brian Indrelie, Jim Longhurst (community forums partner), Melissa Lowther, Wendy Murray, Laura Range, Steve Waldron (chair), Bobby Warrenburg, Lissa Whitley