Discipleship is Critical

Great Commission: Mat 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,[20] and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (niv)

Jesus commanded his followers to share the gospel with all nations. This verse implies that evangelism is a key responsibility of the followers of Christ (the church). However to share the Gospel we must be discipled (taught). We call this process discipleship. Realizing discipleship is critical to the development of a Christian to church health is much like the growth and development of a human is critical to physical health.

Initially a newborn can do nothing for themselves. Everything must be done for them, fed, diapers changed, dressed, etc. As they grow their food is changed from liquid to solids, they are taught how to dress, exercise, etc. We call this maturity.

The Bible compares Christian immaturity to physical immaturity in a number of places.


1Co 3:2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.

Heb 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil

Just as a human cannot function properly with out maturity, neither can a follower of Christ. It is the church’s responsibility to “make disciples”. A disciple is not a professor, but a processor, a hearer and doer of the Word.

Jas 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

A critical element of making disciples is teaching the whole Gospel of Mat 28:19-20 above which includes “teaching them to obey”, which is an element of maturity.

A “planned, progressive” Bible Study program in the local church is critical to Spiritual health and vitality in a church. Without it the local congregation will die a slow and painful death.


Plan for Renewal


Once pastor has recognized need for renewal and after a period of prayer a decision to implement a renewal process starts with developing a plan/strategy which contains both Physical and Spiritual elements. By physical we mean the human elements of the plan such as Church Vision, Mission, strategy and organization, yet this physical plan must be developed and implemented under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

In parallel the pastor can start casting a vision of renewal by their announcements, prayers, and sermons while at the same time the church’s leadership is developing the church’s unified fellowship, discipleship, evangelism and worship strategy toward the goal of renewal. Again all these plans are based upon the Word of God and implemented under the  power of the Holy Spirit.

The spiritual element is implemented immediately by the pastor once they have made the decision that church renewal is needed. He does through his prayers, announcements, and sermons. Pastor immediately starts preaching on the fundamental spiritual elements of the Christian faith, the unified belief in the Word of God, elements the Christian faith and reliance on the Holy Spirit.

Once the practical plan is in place with unified strategy of the programs for fellowship, discipleship, evangelism and worship, the church starts to implement all in parallel. All of these combined with unified preaching and teaching should reinforce the needed process of renewal.

This post is one of a series of post about restoring health to a local church.

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Your Church’s Health?


In America today about eighty percent of protestant churches are unhealthy, sick and dying. This is the most critical issue facing Christianity in the United States today. This problem can be solved. Local pastors must step-up and take the ownership. Read the post”Pastor is Key“.


There are a number of areas a local congregation needs to evaluate, but a quick look at the following three will let you know if you are in the critical phase.

1. Attendance – Has your average attendance been increasing, decreasing for past 3-5 years?
2. Giving – Has your offering been increasing, decreasing, or staying the same for last 3-5 years?
3. New Members– Has church membership for past 3-5 years been increasing,decreasing or staying the same?

If these three areas have not been increasing, It would be wise to do a more self analysis of your church and initiate a change of direction. This starts with church leadership. Read the post “Body of Christ“.


The pastor and church leadership that initiate some simple but important changes immediately!  Acknowledge there is a problem and implement the physical (strategy) and spiritual (prayer, Bible focus, and rely on Holy Spirit)focus.

This is first in a number of Posts on a “simple process” to restore your congregation to renewed health.

Link to “next post” on church as the body of Christ

Prayer Unlocks God’s Power

In many places the Bible tells us the importance of prayer. In Acts chapter 2 after the coming of Holy Spirit on Pentecost, we see after about 3000 people were added to the church the Bible says:

Act 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

In John 17:20-23 (NIV) Jesus Prays for All Believers.

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

In that prayer you see Jesus praying for fellowship, discipleship, evangelism, and Church unity  (love for one another & love of God) !

In Acts chapter 2 we see picture of the first group of believers being unified in praying and in John chapter 17 we see Jesus that his followers being unified. We later see that two areas of unity is “love of God” and “love of each other”.

In chapter one of Philippians, Paul uses a prayer to cast a vision of what he was going to communicate and his desire for them to be transformed by the Gospel, fellowship, and doctrine (Biblical teaching).

Phl 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;[10] That ye may approve (do) things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;[11] Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

These references, plus many more show the importance of prayer for both a believer and the church as a whole.  Paul’s Prayer in Philippians above and also in other Epistles is that his prayers are that the message of the specific Epistle will be accomplished.

In other words Paul’s prayer is that his goal in writing (content of epistle) will cast a vision (enabled by Holy Spirit) in the minds and lives  of the hearer/reader.

After Paul’s prayer In Philippians , he immediately teaches the Philippian church about how to develop the mind of Christ. 

After the prayers of Jesus, Peter, and Paul,  they ask that the hearer put what they have heard into practice (do/obey).

We are to practice/do (walk in Christ). This leads to a testimony  of a healthy church.

This web site contains a number of resources on prayer and its importance.

Link to importance of prayer in the local church :  Prayer in Church

Link to simple test of Church Prayer Life: Prayer Test

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Pastor is Key

The Pastor as the physical & spiritual leader of  a local congregation is the key element in both church health deterioration and/or revitalization. It is critical that the pastor realize this to be true!

Throm Rainer has said that nine of ten churches in American are declining, or they are growing slower than their community and he says that the pastor is a major contributor to the failure to revitalize.

I would state it a different way and say the pastor is the key player in church health. Rainer mentions the following four reasons (my order not his) for this failure.

1. Pastor fails to focus on corporate prayer
2. Pastor does not emphasize or have a membership/discipleship class.
3. Pastor fails to encourage/have outward/evangelistic focus.
4. Pastor spends to much time placating critics or naysayers!

The above is why I say that the pastor is key to church health, both physical & spiritual.

By physical, I mean the practical decisions, human activities and church organizational structure such as the decision to implement or not the four reasons above and by spiritual, I mean prayer both corporate and personal and  also the Biblical (Word of God) foundation and work of the Holy Spirit.

In most cases, if not all, the church revitalization effort  is a combination of both physical & spiritual activities. However I will attempt to break them apart to show how the pastor is the KEY in the implementation of a plan to restore Church health.

The pastor can can usually start casting a vision for church revitalization through personal and corporate prayer, plus implement membership/discipleship and  evangelism programs as well as a personal decision not to focus on the critics and naysayers, but on revitalization.

The pastor in most churches has the freedom to initiate most of the above initiatives  as  they build unity with staff and the key church leadership on developing a formal plan for church revitalization and renewal.

It is my recommendation the pastor spend time in mediation and prayer for direction and discernment as they implement the above initiative.  Start as soon as possible with staff and church leaders such as elders, deacons, etc to build unity in creating a vision, mission statement, strategy, and implementation plan for this revitalization effort.

Every step be  bathed in prayer and reliance on the power of God’s Word and Holy Spirit  to be carried out, however it also requires the physical element of a decision and commitment to implement this program (physical element).

Based on the condition of the local congregation, this can be done in parallel.  While the pastor is building unity in church leadership and changing the direction of church, the pastor is casting a vision in corporate prayer and public comments while  implementing a preaching/teaching program & initiate a discipleship program to build a solid Biblical/spiritual foundation with the people of the church. START TODAY!

The pastor needs to use every occasion to caste the vision in his prayers, conversation, preaching/teaching, and discipleship program and all other elements possible to continue to reinforce the elements of church health!

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Body of Christ

How healthy is your church?

God’s word calls the church the body of Christ and in many ways the Bible compares the church to the human body. Just as a human can be unhealthy before it is discovered/recognized, the same is true for a local church.

1 Cor 12:12-13 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. {13} Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.[NLT]

Eph 1:22-23 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church.[23] And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,[NLT]

An unhealthy church much like a human and can be seriously ill, before the illness is detected. In many cases that is because the individual ignored the symptoms and did not get a health check-up. The same is true for a local church!

A common statement about solving a problem, even a health problem is “Understanding your problem is half the solution” (actually the most important half).

Before we can solve a problem, we need to know exactly what the problem is, and we should put a good amount of prayer, thinking and resources into discovering and understanding it.

Recent studies show that as many as 70-80% of protestant churches in the USA are unhealthy. Understanding and treating/addressing the illness/problem is key!

Has your church undergone a Health Checkup recently? There are a number of areas that should be analyzed, but I have only listed three below that are easily evaluated.

1. Attendance – Has your average attendance been increasing, decreasing for past 3-5 years?
2. Giving – Has your offering been increasing, decreasing, or staying the same for last 3-5 years?
3. New Members– Has church membership for past 3-5 years been increasing,decreasing or staying the same?

If these three areas have not been increasing, It would be wise to do a self analysis of your church.

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There are a number of websites that offer FREE advise/resources in this area. One of these is my website (link below)







Our Church Focus?

The following is taken from email from: Dan Jarvis, Managing Editor of Revive Magazine from Life Action Ministries

1) ZOOM OUT, 2) ZOOM IN, 3) Take Picture.

The email was referring to the focus of the families and individuals who attend our church. Are we focused on the right priorities? The right mission? The right vision for life?

Are we arranging our lives in such a way as to maximize our kingdom impact? Are they giving, loving, sharing, praying, and going out with intentionality, with relevance, with fruitfulness? Are we absolutely clear on how to accomplish their mission in life (and is the church helping us find that clarity)?

He compares the focus of a local congregation to that of focusing a camera, arriving at perfect clarity is a delicate matter—if you change positions, or if the subject of the photo changes, or if the lighting changes, refocusing is probably necessary. The same is true for church leadership; in a fast-paced culture where things keep changing (and we keep changing as well), the process of refocusing is critical, and it’s continual.

If we have not refocused lately, we may well be out of focus.

He speaks of three steps to getting focused back to mission clarity, both organizationally and personally. These three steps are 1) ZOOM OUT, 2) ZOOM IN, and  then 3) Take Picture.

Zoom Out: Consider the mission God has you and your church on earth to accomplish (the Great Commission, in the spirit of the Great Commandment).

  • Is our church providing clear, up-to-date evangelistic training?
  • Does our church have an intentional disciple-making strategy that engages a majority of the congregation?
  • Do we have any measurable goals to reach our community, nation, other people groups, etc.?
  • Are the families in our church valuing outreach and missions above earthly things?
  • Is our church providing proactive opportunities for people to engage in outreach?
  • Is our collective engagement in global missions growing, and is our strategy up to date?
  • When was the last time we had a comprehensive review of our mission effectiveness as a congregation?

Zoom In: Consider your spiritual heart condition, and that of your fellow leaders and church members.

  • Are we enjoying our first-love relationship with God?
  • In our church, is sin confessed and humbly repented of?
  • Do we have a culture of holy living?
  • Do I and my leadership team members have strong, dynamic, growing relationships with God?
  • How are we evaluating the spiritual growth of our people, and what pathways do we provide for them to intentionally grow up in their faith?
  • Is there anything organizationally, culturally, or relationally that may be hindering the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst?
  • When was the last time we evaluated the spiritual health of our leadership teams, and measured them against biblical priorities and qualifications?

Take a Picture: Utilize the answers to all these questions to get a clear picture of where we are today, and compare that with God’s vision and mission for churches and believers. From there, we can ask God to bring our future into focus.

  • What next steps should we take, individually or together?
  • What should we stop, and what should we start?
  • How could we more clearly communicate this to our congregation?
  • What are our areas of great spiritual need?
  • What specific ministry activities need to be refocused due to changing conditions?
  • What is our picture of the future (vision), and are we on track to get there?

He states  that he is pretty sure we’ll always be needing some amount of refocus in our ministry work, as I’ve been at it for many years and still find myself clarifying, simplifying, adjusting, starting and stopping.

He  closes with the thought  that  he is sure our experience is the same. Let’s pray that, above all, the Lord would give us focus on the things that are most important to Him.


The  above  is  another way to examine  the health  of our local church body!

30 Second Test

“How to Spot a Healthy Church in 30 Seconds” is a quick test that allows for simple church health evaluation. Below is just a few items to evaluate taken from the article mentioned above.

Quick 30 Second Test of Church Health

  • people are friendly and speak to me.
  • I see signs of mission involvement and evangelism.
  • there’s an air of expectancy.
  • the church has children.
  • people are carrying their Bibles.
  • warmth.
  • a variety of age groups.
  • in the parking lot and at the front door, servants are showing me Jesus in their very actions.

If your church seems to fail this quick test, we recommend that you use our more detailed test that is found from menu above under “Health Check”.

Also we encourage you to submit your questions and comments, either for a private conversation or public posting to encourage others to participate in the discussion.

Click to submit a comment or question.

The above summary of the article referenced is to build your awareness of the need for revitalization of unhealthy churches and expose you to a number of free resources to aid a church in its commitment to return to a healthy state.

Characteristics Of A Healthy Church

What is the Health of Your Church?

It is important for every church to have a regular spiritual evaluation much like and individual has a regular health checkup. The goal of the annual physical is to catch a health issue before it becomes a major problem, the same is true for a church’s spiritual checkup. Is your church healthy?

When we look at our church, what do we see?

Do we see people…

  1. with a Common Vision?
  2. praying together?
  3. coming to Christ?
  4. growing in Christ?
  5. a hunger for God?
  6. studing God’s Word?
  7. loving and caring for each other?
  8. working together?
  9. serving with their gifts?
  10. handling conflict constructively?
  11. living and giving generously and sacrificially?
  12. helping hurting people?
  13. people trusting the leaders?
  14. new leaders being trained?
  15. engaging God in worship?
  16. Do we see God working in the lives of our church members?
  17. Are we making a difference in our community?

If you have a number of these where you answered NO instead of YES, you need to do the more detailed assessment of your church using the categories under “Health Check” from the Main Menu above.



Autopsy of a Dying Church

The following eleven areas were from a specific church’s autopsy (Post by Jason Micheli – July 2, 2013),  but could be thought of as areas to evaluate a dying or declining congregation to identify areas to repair, much like you would repair a leaking roof.

Here are eleven things that was  learned.

  • The church refused to look like the community. The community  but the church members had no desire to reach the new residents.
  • There was no attempt to reach the community.
  • The past became an obsession at the church. More and more emphasis was placed on the past than the future.
  • The percentage of the budget for members’ needs kept increasing. At the church’s death, the percentage was over 98 percent.
  • There were no evangelistic emphases. When a church loses its passion to reach the lost, the congregation begins to die.
  • The members had more and more arguments about what they wanted. As the church continued to decline , arguments were more frequent.
  • With pastoral tenure grew shorter and shorter.
  • The church rarely prayed together. 
  • The church had no clarity as to why it existed. There was no vision, no mission, and no purpose.
  • The members idolized another era. All of the active members were over the age of 67 the last six years of the church.
  • The facilities continued to deteriorate. Simple stated, they no longer had “outsider eyes.”

If your church seems to fail the above assessment, we recommend that you use our more detailed test that is found from menu above under “Church Health”.

Also we encourage you to submit your questions and comments, either for a private conversation or public posting to encourage others to participate in the discussion.

Click to submit a comment or question.


The above summary of the article referenced is to build your awareness of the need for revitalization of unhealthy churches and expose you to a number of free resources to aid a church in its commitment to return to a healthy state.