How to Make Waves: A 10-Year Plan for Discipleship

The future is changing at warp speed.

What that means for the church is that we have to be on our toes, ready to engage whatever culture emerges in these next 10 years.

This means inviting the Spirit of God to ignite our imaginations, to create whole new forms of life-making, change-making and church-making. This means engaging new challenges and opportunities of changing times.

[Tweet “We can no longer continue with business as usual.”]

Fighting fire with fire

Well, actually, it’s more like fighting a tsunami with a tsunami of our own.

What I mean is what I mentioned in a recent post—many mainline churches are facing a death tsunami because, while their denominations are already declining at a constant 2% to 5% a year, that’s slow decline is not the worst of their bad news.

Since many of these graying congregations are primarily comprised of us 50-to-90 year-olds, these churches are likely to experience an accelerated rate of decline as their congregation dies out.

That means we have to make waves of our own. We need a participation tsunami.

Many readers over 40 can remember when regular church attendance was Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night.  Today, regular church attendance is once or twice a month.  Time to volunteer to help those in need is down, time for prayer is down.  Per capita church giving, which was 3.8% in 1968, has come to a new low of 2.4% in 2015.

While some congregations are still flourishing individual participation rates even of these churches are still declining.

[Tweet “We have to make waves of our own, in a participation tsunami. “]

The urgent question for all church leaders is how long can participation levels and giving levels continue to decline before numbers of our churches begin to  hemorrhage and lose their essential vitality?

Turning to Spiritual Formation

Today, many view church as a business, and they want to know: What do we have to offer? What is the value of organized church?

Can you blame people for wondering? Many of us are experiencing growing pressure of our rapidly-changing world on our lives and families.

I suspect that one reason for the declining interest in church has to do with a masse failure in the Church to offer discipleship and education. That’s what people need to hear:

These communities exist to help members reach their highest potential and live their lives in abundance.

I find that mainline churches offer courses, like many Catholic Churches, in spiritual formation.  Evangelical churches usually seem to offer courses in personal discipleship.  Is it possible while these courses certainly have value that too often we seem to be content if they simply help people limp through our week?

Is it possible that too often we settle for less than our best?

Raising the bar

Corporate leaders often have enormous responsibility and could never carry out their roles if they’re simply limping through their week.

We should be creating discipleship courses that enables us to enjoy more purpose-driven, disciplined faith, to become whole-life followers of Jesus Christ.

I got some time with my friend Dan White Jr. at the recent Inhabit Conference here is Seattle.  He shared how those in the V3 network are already addressing this urgent need through  what are called “Curated Conversations.”  Dan explained that in these conversations they help members of their churches to define a clear sense of purpose for their lives and create a rhythm where they have time to be present to God and care for neighbors as well a time for family and their work.

Dan stated these curated conversations also help members learn how to delight in God, create community, get to know their neighbors, develop personal disciplines and create a flourishing life.

The change in our culture is warp speed and increasing. There’s no time to waste! If you’re interested in learning more about those curated, mission-driven events through V3, that’s certainly a wonderful place to start.

Find out more about our leadership partnerships here.

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Tom Sine
Tom Sine is a founder of Mustard Seed Associates and the author of Live Like You Give a Damn!: Join the Changemaking Celebration. Tom earned his Ph.D. at the University of Washington and has taught at the University of Washington, Seattle Pacific University, and Fuller Seminary in Seattle. He speaks widely at colleges, churches, and missions conferences around the world. He and his wife Christine live in an inter-generational community in Seattle where he works with individuals, churches and organizations to foster new ways of affecting organic, lasting change in various sociological contexts.
Tom Sine

1 Comment

  1. Josh Jun 20, 2017 Reply

    I enjoyed the article but would love a little more meat on what is intended by ’10 year plan’ of discipleship.

    Long term trajectory and expectation is important in discipleship and I for one certainly wonder whether
    longer term views and journey’s (in terms of vision/plan) will help create true fruit instead of
    seeking for the next ‘best thing’

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