If we’re honest, it’s pretty easy to see the functional Great Commission in North America: Go into all the world and make more worship attenders, baptizing them in the name of small groups, and[...]
The Future Church book is intended to shed light on the current problem churches in North America are facing while at the same time, offering a solution that will lead to multiplying true disciples of Jesus.
Some of you may find it ironic that the solution Cory and I are suggesting in Future Church is a return to the disciple-making methods Jesus himself deployed 2000 years ago. It’s almost a “back to the future” kind of thing.
The reason I believe this return to intentional disciple-making is critical (and fusing those disciple-making efforts with your current assimilation funnel that moves people into worship, small groups, and service) is because it moves the finish line from “engagement with the ministries of the church a few times a week” to “living out the mission of Jesus every day, everywhere.”
One of the ways Cory and I say this in the Future Church book is with three interconnected statements.
- Jesus was highly attractional but built nothing on the listeners he attracted.
- Jesus called learners who were highly committed and winnowed out those who weren’t.
- Jesus invested in goers and preserved them above all else.
We’ve broken down Jesus’ audience into three distinct segments: listeners, learners, and goers. In the paradigm where the assimilation funnel is all we have, you might be tempted to think listeners are worship attenders, learners are small group participants, and goers are ministry volunteers. The problem with that approach is that it’s still just focused on attendance or participation within ministry environments within the church.
And even if you did try to equate the listeners category to the standard worship attenders metric used in churches today, Jesus’ relationship with the listeners and His approach with the listeners was very different from the approach used today.
We must move the finish line from “engagement with the ministries of the church a few times a week” to “living out the mission of Jesus every day, everywhere.”
In this chart, Cory and I have mapped out a general picture (not to scale) of the size and growth of the three audience segments throughout Jesus’ ministry. The listeners are definitely the largest group—but Jesus intentionally did and said things to drive them away at significant moments in His ministry. And, as I mentioned above, He didn’t build anything on them. He didn’t ask them to give to His ministry or make plans for how He was going to “keep” all of them.
The learners are the next largest category, which didn’t grow significantly until after Jesus had died, risen again, and ascended.
The goers—the smallest group (by far)—were the group where Jesus focused a large percentage of His time and teaching. These were the 12 disciples, which grew to 72 who were sent out in Luke 10, which became 120 who were present in the Upper Room at Pentecost (Acts 1). The goers were the ones who were multiplied, trained, and empowered by Jesus—and they were so transformed by His presence in their lives and so gripped by His mission for the world that they dedicated their lives to it.
The goers are the ones Jesus built His ministry around, not the listeners. The dominant paradigm for church in North America is the other way around. We build our churches around the listeners, focusing the majority of our effort and resources—time prepping sermons, staff/team time designing worship experiences for all ages, volunteer time pulling off large group services, money paying for facilities, etc.—on the group Jesus spent the least amount of time with.
The goers are the ones Jesus built His ministry around and invested the largest amount of time with, not the listeners. The dominant paradigm for church in North America is the other way around.
What would it look like to devote a much more significant percentage of your time, your team’s time, your key leaders’ time, and your volunteers’ time on the goers instead of the listeners? That core question drives the final portion of the Future Church book. And I believe that if we, as the church in North America, aren’t willing to shift a larger portion of our focus away from the listeners toward the goers, we will continue to see the limited disciple-making results we currently experience.
If you’re ready to purchase the Future Church book, you can find it here on Amazon.