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Not another program...please!

Not another program...please!

I once had a lady in my church who came to me and complained about all the things that were going on in the congregation.  The problem wasn’t that the things weren’t good things, but that she couldn’t possibly be part of all of them.  In my very best pastoral manner, I explained to her that was OK.  It wasn’t required that she be a participant in everything that happened.  She could just pick and choose what was helpful for her or what she could be the most helpful in accomplishing.  We were indeed a busy church!  I thought that was the way it was supposed to be.

That was how I learned to do church.  The senior pastor I worked with in my first assignment encouraged that kind of busyness.  The rule of thumb for us was that we should have so much happening that we couldn’t possibly keep track of it all personally.  It had to be bigger than us.

As I visit around the Conference that seems to be a pretty common perspective.
Recently, I have been re-thinking that perspective.  We are very busy.  I just wonder if we are busy in ways that are productive, that move us toward fulfilling our vision of making mature disciples for the transformation of the world. 

One of the things we are really good at is developing programs. They keep us busy and meet particular needs.  But that is different from developing a system or process to make mature disciples to transform the world.
PROGRAMS – activities, curriculum or events, often borrowed and adapted from other churches, designed to meet a particular need.  Asks: What is the need?  How will we meet that need?

PROCESS – movement of people through steps or stages to arrive at a destination (e.g. achieving your vision, making disciples)   Asks: Where do we want people to be?  How will they get there?

Discipleship is a process, not a program.  You don’t just take a class and get a pin and become a disciple.  As Dan Glover and Claudia Lavy put it in a great new resource for considering a system of discipleship, Deepening Your Effectiveness: Restructuring the Local Church for Life Transformation,

Simply following six easy steps will not magically transform a person into a fully committed follower with a deep and abiding relationship with the Creator.  It is not possible to…jump in where we think we might fit, and grab a tidbit or two that will help us ‘go deeper’…

Participants in the life of our congregations know deep down inside that there must be more to becoming a disciple than attending another program.  They just don’t know how to get there.  If we are going to become a transforming force in the world we need to show them how.  As has often been said, if we keep doing the same thing (or more of it) we’ll keep getting the same results.

Phil Maynard
The Office of Congregational Transformation