The Challenge of Making Disciples: Four Findings

Diverse Business Group

Dr. Heather Heinzman Lear is the director of evangelism at Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church.

In her research for her doctor of ministry degree, she focused her research to determine what congregational practices are necessary to help churches fulfil the denominational mission statement: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

She worked with six congregations of various ages, sizes, and geographic locations to determine if there are consistent trends across United Methodist churches in the United States.

She writes:

The lack of a holistic understanding and practice of evangelism was evidenced in the following four findings:

The overwhelming majority of the participants were unable to articulate why Jesus is important in their lives and how offering Christ to another person would benefit their life.

The majority of congregations did not create intentional space for people to practice sharing their faith or foster an environment of authenticity where members felt they could be vulnerable and express struggles. 

The majority of participants could not differentiate good works done by the church from those of a civic organization or non-Christian. 

The majority of participants indicated that their congregations were not known in their community and that mission opportunities were developed based on member preferences instead of community needs.

Wow!

What are your thoughts about her findings? How do they match your experience, your context or your denomination if it is different from the UMC?

Heather concludes: “We can no longer assume that people who attend church on Sunday have been formed in the faith without creating intentional faith practices and education for all ages and stages of faith. Five of the six churches in my study did not create intentional space for people to share their faith and ask deep, theological questions. They also did not encourage or actively seek to place people in small groups for discipleship and accountability. Finally, congregations need help understanding that their purpose in making disciples is for the transformation of the world.”

What does this suggest to you about what is needed in your personal ministry? What does this suggest to you about what is needed to help you equip others in the ministry of evangelism? What steps can you take this week to begin addressing these four significant findings?

Source: Making Disciples, Obstacles and Opportunities in Urban Congregations. You can find the article here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/irom.12123

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