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How can churches know if they are being effective at making disciples?

Many churches are measuring the wrong things. We measure things like attendance and giving, but we should be looking at more fundamental things like anger, contempt, honesty, and the degree to which people are under the thumb of their lusts. Those things can be counted, but not as easily as offerings.

Why don't more churches gauge these qualities among their people?

First of all, many leaders don't want to measure these qualities because what they usually discover is not worth bragging about. We'd rather focus on institutional measures of success. Secondly, we must have people who are willing to be assessed in these ways. And finally, we need the right tools to measure spiritual formation. There are some good tools available like Randy Frazee's Christian Life Profile and Monvee.com, which John Ortberg likes.

In the past people grew through relationships with spiritual mentors and by engaging the church community. Is there a danger that these individual assessment tools will remove the role of community in formation?

Any of these devices must be used in a community setting. Assessment tools that work best are a combination of self-assessment and the assessment of a significant other who knows you well. They don't work with people who don't want to be assessed, and they should not be administered like individual personality tests that some employers use.

If you have a group of people come together around a vision for real discipleship, people who are committed to grow, committed to change, committed to learn, then a spiritual assessment tool can work. But there must be a deep fellowship of trust to support that work. I don't think any group should go into an assessment without that. I wouldn't advise a pastor to use one of these tools on his or her congregation without first establishing a clear commitment to discipleship. You can't take your average congregation and just lay one of these assessments on them.

Are you ever discouraged by how few churches have that kind of clear commitment to discipleship?

I am not discouraged because I believe that Christ is in charge of his church, with all of its warts, and moles, and hairs. He knows what he is doing and he is marching on.

But I do grieve for the people within the church who are suffering—especially the pastors and their families. They are suffering because much of North America and Europe has bought into a version of Christianity that does not include life in the kingdom of God as a disciple of Jesus Christ. They are trying to work a system that doesn't work. Without transformation within the church, pastors are the ones who get beat up. That is why there is a constant flood of them out of the pastorate. But they are not the only ones. New people are entering the church, but a lot are also leaving. Disappointed Christians fill the landscape because we've not ...

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From Issue:Got Maturity?, Spring 2010 | Posted: May 3, 2010

Also in this Issue: Spring 2010

Catching WavesSubscriber Access Only

Francis Chan says we should stop trying to make people love Jesus, and learn to rely on prayer, elders, and the Holy Spirit instead.

Guard Against EmbezzlementSubscriber Access Only

Advice and resources to combat a growing problem.

Do Programs Help or Hinder?Subscriber Access Only

How churches contribute to spiritual maturity without becoming just a calendar-cluttering distraction.

Pyrotechnic PreachingSubscriber Access Only

A review of "Setting Words on Fire: Putting God at the Center of the Sermon" by Paul Scott Wilson

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Displaying 1–2 of 2 comments

Frank Baresel

June 18, 2013  2:11pm

Floyd--have you read anything Dallas Willard has written? He unpacks exactly what you're seeking with depth, detail, and in an irenic spirit. If you want to hear what Dr. Willard recommends, begin by reading "The Great Omission," followed up with "The Spirit of the Disciplines," which will prepare you to read "The Divine Conspiracy." I believe you'll find these helpful.

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Floyd Rhoades

February 02, 2013  12:33am

This brief dialogue has lots of criticism without definitive suggestions. I thought Dr. Willard had more depth. It's easy to critique, criticize and spew negativity as this Q&A seems to do, but I dont find any helpful guidance. Might have helpful if he would vet out what he means by finding spiritual definitions of success.

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