One of the saddest griefs of the ancient people of God was that experienced by a family unable to have children. There are many stories that illustrate this, but none more central to the whole history of our faith than that of Sarah and Abraham, who remained childless for many decades until God wonderfully intervened. Then the story of the people of God took flight! But when God in his mercy decreed that Sarah would get pregnant, she and her husband had to cooperate. This is delightfully incarnational, and it contains a profound lesson for the church today. What do I mean?
My observation of many Christian congregations in the West is that they are like barren couples. They have a life together, often a beautiful and loving life, but no children. That is, if “children” for a congregation means another congregation. Why is this? I think they are not cooperating with God. They are not doing their part. What is that?
NAMS believes the foundational Christian ministry is disciple-making, which is what is missing in the majority of the ordinary historic congregations of the world. In the West, it is not normal for ordinary believers to be exercising the ministry of disciple-making. Yet if those who profess to be believers were at all active in making and discipling new believers, there would inevitably be a need for new congregations. The care of those who were coming to believe would demand it, even without the missionary task the risen Lord Jesus gave to the church that is obedient! Churches would regularly have babies. New churches would be born. What can be done about this?
First, of course, we have to recognize that there is something wrong, and that we are responsible. It is generally not God’s problem when any local congregation fails to grow. The Holy Spirit is the “giver of life.” If the Holy Spirit is free to work in cooperation with the people of God, the church always grows. So, there must be repentance. It is painful, but true. It is simple, but difficult. Leaders and people must repent.
Second, we must begin to make a priority of discipling believers until they are able to disciple others themselves. This must become the norm for all who are believers. It is just not acceptable to think that a congregation full of undiscipled people (meaning those unable to disciple another) is pleasing to the Lord.
For more than twenty years, NAMS Companions have been focusing on the task of learning, and helping others to learn, how to make disciples who can make disciples. We have discovered simple methods, and developed simple training, and any Companion can be of help to you if you would like to learn these too. Simply ask one.
A congregation births new congregations when disciple-making discipleship is at the center of its life. Is your church pregnant?