An update from Pastor Ben on our discipleship survey from earlier this year and where we go from here as a church.
This past February, at our Vision Sunday Service, we prayerfully laid out two church-wide goals, to guide us over the next 3-5 years. Both goals are a humble effort to bring concreteness to our next season of ministry, and an effort to focus on what matters most: making disciples.
Not only is Jesus’ final command to “go, and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19) at the heart of his will for the church, but it is also central to fulfilling our vision to see a gospel movement on the North Shore. How will a gospel movement come about, after all? Through flooding the North Shore with transformed disciples who make disciples.
Therefore, we want to develop strong, growing disciples at our church, and plant a new church in Essex County, where more disciples can grow and flourish.
To bring clarity and shared language to what it means to “make disciples”, we first preached through a simple, workable definition of a disciple in January, and then sketched out five characteristics of growing disciples. Finally, we took a survey related to those five characteristics.
The purpose of the Discipleship Survey was to help us reflect, as both individuals, and as a whole church, on where we are in our discipleship journey, as well as where and how we can grow. We had 206 people respond to the survey (a significant sample size). Here are 4 takeaways:
1) Many New Attenders
Exactly 50% of people who took the survey responded that they had been attending NSCBC for three years or less. This is an encouraging sign of health. We hope to see scores of new people every year join our church, bringing fresh energy and insight to our body, as they participate in our mission! At the same time, this means that half of our church is less familiar with our institutional history, compared with 35% of people who have attended NSCBC for ten years or more. It will require humility for both new and long-time members to work together, honoring each other’s giftings and perspectives—but if we can do this, the opportunities for ministry will be vast!
2) Spiritual Growth
We should be truly encouraged as well that 83% of us responded that we experienced spiritual growth over the past year (either “significant growth” or “some growth”). Of that 83%, almost a third of our church (29%) felt they had experienced “significant spiritual growth”.
The responses to to discipleship characteristic #1 “experiencing personal gospel renewal” were similarly encouraging! 29% of our church felt they were “experiencing significant personal gospel renewal”, and 43% felt they were “starting to experience personal gospel renewal.” In all, many people feel that they are being transformed at a deep level.
3) A Diversity of Spiritual Experience
Out of the five questions relating to the five characteristics of growing disciples, it became clear there simply is no standard portrait of an “NSCBC attender.” None of the questions prompted responses that were overwhelmingly skewed in one direction, either towards maturity or towards room for growth. For example, the highest percentage that any response to any one question received was 65%, while the most frequent response on the other four questions garnered less than 50% of the total responses.
All of this goes to say, the Lord is assembling a quite diverse congregation here at NSCBC, in terms of spiritual background and giftings. Let’s honor that by learning from each other!
4) A Need for Training in Passing on Our Faith
When asked, “in which one of the five characteristics do you feel you have the most room for growth?” the highest number of us (43%) responded with characteristic #5: “Intentionally leading others to live as gospel centered disciples, either formally or informally.”
Multiplication is essentially to fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission, and learning how to “pass on” our faith is an area for growth and training for us.
No survey is perfect, and the organic nature of spiritual growth means that reality is always more messy than we can describe in a survey. Nonetheless, we pray that as we encounter the grace of Jesus Christ together, we’ll continue to notice encouraging signs of growth in ourselves. May it be so, for the glory of God and the transformation of the North Shore!
We’ve created some simple online pathways to help you explore how you might develop each of these characteristics in your own life. Visit each one at the links below.