At NSCBC, our vision is to see a gospel movement on the North Shore, and we are convinced that fruitful discipleship is the “irreducible minimum” in all of our labors and prayers to see Christ’s kingdom more fully expressed in Essex County. This is why we’ve gone to great lengths, to clarify and define who a disciple is and what it looks like to grow as a disciple. It’s why we regularly share stories of our own people’s growth. It’s also why we seek to self-assess our growth as a body of disciples each year through our annual Discipleship Survey.
We are under no illusions that any of us have “arrived” as disciples, but we do want to seek the Lord for continued growth into the image of Christ.
The purpose of our annual Discipleship Survey is 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. This past year was the third year in a row that we’ve given this survey, and we had 133 people respond this year. Here are 3 takeaways:
1) The pandemic hasn’t stopped us from growing
It’s been an unprecedented year in the life of the church, with Covid-19 changing almost everything about how we “did church” (last year’s survey was given just a few weeks before Covid hit). Nevertheless, despite much of last year’s ministry happening either virtually, or in innovative expressions (e.g. house churches, children’s discipleship resources, etc), our people continued to grow spiritually.
This past year, 85% of respondents answered that they had experienced either “some growth” or “significant growth” over the past year, whereas only 15% felt that their faith had either “plateaued” or “declined” over the past year.
2) Many are experiencing significant renewal
We pray that our people will always be gaining a deeper awareness of their own sin and a deeper awareness of God’s grace, such that they increasingly build their lives on the solid foundation of God’s grace for undeserving people, and not any status or merit of their own. This type of heart-level transformation is often called “gospel renewal”, and it’s what we long for all of our people to experience.
This year, 42% of our respondents felt that they were “experiencing significant personal gospel renewal”—a number which has continued to grow from 2020 (33%) and 2019 (29%). Truly, the pandemic has exposed many of our idols and false trusts and caused us to grow deeper in trust and reliance on Christ together.
3) We have room to grow in multiplication
When we asked people “in which of the five characteristics of a disciple do you feel you have the most room for growth?”, people’s top answers were “multiplying your faith,” “forming friendships,” and “living on mission.” This suggests a healthy desire for multiplying, life-on-life discipleship—which, after all, was the lifeblood of the NT church.
No survey is perfect, and there are real limitations to this one as well. Nonetheless, we are encouraged by how God has continued to grow us as a body during the pandemic. May we continue to “press on” together! (Phil 3:12)
Check out our simple online pathways to help you explore how you might develop each of the characteristics of a disciple in your own life.