Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve Jones here… Only 1% of church leaders say that “churches are doing well in discipling new and young believers”. This stat came from a 2015 Barna Report entitled, “The State of Discipleship”.
In recent years we’ve all heard a lot about the poor state of discipleship among believers in North America.
In the Barna Report, which was commissioned by The Navigators, they discovered the preferred terms Christians like to use to describe the process of growing spiritually.
Whichever phrase you prefer, one could argue they are all talking about the same thing. Only one quarter of the reports’ respondents indicated they believed the term “discipleship” still had relevance to their Christian experience. It seems the terminology may be changing in the minds of Christians.
There also seems to be a significant divide between “the pew and the pulpit” on the perception of how the church is doing when it comes to discipleship.
On the question, “Are today’s churches doing well at discipling new and young believers?”, 52% of adult Christians who regularly attend church believe their church is doing well when it comes to discipleship. Another 40% answered “probably” to the question. Additionally, two-thirds of adult Christians who consider spiritual growth important said their church places “a lot of emphasis on spiritual growth” (67%), while another 27% say their church gives “some” emphasis.
In contrast, church leaders believe the opposite. Only 1% agreed that “today’s churches are doing very well at discipling new and young believers”. Six in ten leaders said churches are not discipling “too well” (60%) with only 8% of leaders admitting they are doing “very well” and 56% saying “somewhat well”. Few leaders believe their church is excelling when it comes to discipling new and young believers.
Why the contrast in perception?
Only 20% of adult Christians identified being involved in some sort of discipleship activity. While it’s difficult to quantify and analyze spiritual growth, the contrast between the pew and the pulpit is likely because of self-perception. Most people perceive they are doing better at spiritual growth than they really are. Fully 38% of adult Christians expressed they were “happy” where they were in their spiritual lives and another 36% expressed they were “almost where” they want to be spiritually.
The researchers discovered little correlation between an individual’s activity and their perceived spiritual growth. This only further reveals the disconnect between how people think about their personal spiritual growth and what is actually happening in their lives.
This only emphasizes our general penchant toward self-delusion. Thus, underscoring the need to do discipleship in COMMUNITY. Lone-ranger discipleship is often the least effective method. We need others to help us become all God wants us to become. The good news is most adult Christians in the report wanted to grow spiritually (77% said yes) and desire to do it with others.
Among Christians who reported spiritual growth as “very” or “somewhat important” they indicated:
Pastors indicated the discipleship method of choice they prefer in their church was through small groups (52%) and discipleship pairs (29%). But has the 30 year small group model worked? Is the church more spiritually mature today than it was one or two generations ago? Hmmmm… thoughts on that will need to wait for another blog.
Have a blessed week,