As a father, I’ve recently entered into the phase where my boys are playing in some sports leagues. Practice during the week, then games on Saturday. With my boys, enthusiasm for practice is hit-or-miss because they struggle to take practice seriously. They’re highly motivated and enthusiastic before games on Saturday, but they just don’t yet understand how practice correlates to gameday, despite even my many pep talks. I’ll talk to them after games, trying my best to explain to my young boys that how they practice determines how they play. I’m hoping they’ll get it soon.
For church ministry in America and across the world, I’m hoping well get it soon too – that what we do beforehand directly impacts the results. This seems so obvious, and yet so many churches are completely missing the correlation.
So many of us have become consumed and obsessed with attractive lag measures rather than emphasizing crucial lead measures. Lag measures are attractive because they’re easily recognizable. Pastors easily talk about attendance, giving, baptisms and salvations because it’s the easiest way to express success or the lack thereof. Lead measures are also recognizable, yet many pastors and congregations have difficulty in recognizing important lead measures because we have failed to appreciate how crucial practice is to gameday, how vital preparation is to results. And perhaps many don’t know how to focus on lead measures because they simply haven’t yet clarified what they are.
For this post, I want to clarify three important lead measures for church ministry that I believe are crucial for disciple-making.
Lead Measure #1: Abiding in Christ.
Nothing is more important for a follower of Christ than to abide in Christ, to be with Christ and to live with Christ. This is likely the greatest lead measure for a disciple and for a disciple-making church, which makes it imperative for churches to figure out how to observe this and measure this.
Jesus said that producing much fruit is the result of remaining in Christ (John 15:5). The fruit Jesus speaks of in John 15 is disciple-making, which means that abiding in Christ is a definitive precursor to making disciples who make disciples. This is why exercising spiritual disciplines pertaining to discipleship is so vitally important. Spiritual practices like prayer, reading the Word, worship, fasting, repentance, scripture memorization and living in biblical community are the fundamental lead measures that helps disciples produce much fruit. I’m certain that most churches are emphasizing the importance of abiding in Christ through spiritual disciples and practices, yet I’m convinced many of these churches have simply failed to figure out how to identify, observe and record this as a lead measure. This is why discipleship groups are proving to be one of the most effective tools in helping churches to understand how their people are abiding in Christ. Discipleship groups help church leaders understand how their church members are practicing this lead measure of abiding in Christ.
Lead Measure #2: Going with Christ.
The story of the early church is the story of commission. Before Jesus’ death, he sends out his disciples. After his death and before his ascension, Jesus commissions his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, knowing that soon they would be filled with the Holy Spirit and be empowered to do so. The book of Acts is a detailed account of a commissioned people.
This lead measure of commissioning, of going with Christ, is crucial to the success of the early church because disciples can’t be made unless disciples are first deployed. Jesus modeled what it meant to be sent and then commanded his followers to live sent (John 20:21).
Paul even recognized the importance of commissioning as a vital lead measure when he rationalized that people can’t believe without hearing about Jesus, that people can’t hear without a preacher, and therefore preachers need to be sent (Romans 10:14-15).
Whereas lag measures focus on those who come, perhaps Jesus would rather us focus on those who go. In other words, attendance, salvations and baptisms are dependent on God’s commissioning of his disciples. Churches experience growth and disciple-making because they first emphasize going.
Lead Measure #3: Telling about Christ.
The third lead measure that is crucial for disciple-making churches is gospel conversations – talking about the good news of Jesus to those around you. Lag measures like salvations, baptisms and attendance are the result of what God does. Paul understood this (1 Corinthians 15:5-7). He couldn’t determine what would grow and what would result. Only God gives the growth. Paul knew that he was given the joy of planting and Apollos was given the privilege of watering.
Measuring if people are having gospel conversations and how many people are having gospel conversations is a great tool for helping to create a disciple-making culture. Emphasizing this helps people to see that disciples are made and multiplied by first telling others about Jesus.
In the end, the church’s ultimate lag measure has already been determined. God will collect for Himself a very large family from every tribe, tongue and nation. With that in mind, the joy of the church today is found in being confident in knowing that the results are with God, and He’s invited us to practice and prepare for that day by abiding in Christ, going with Christ, and telling as many as possible about Christ.
This article originally appeared here.