4 Ways to Move Your Church From Consumers to Disciples

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If the Church is not (discipling), then all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, even the Bible, are a waste of time.” – C.S. Lewis

Many argue the greatest threat facing Christianity in the U.S. is not atheism or liberalism or Islam or even complacency, but rather consumerism. Our bent toward self-service, self-interest and self-fulfillment seems to fly in the face of the Gospel principles of self-sacrifice, self-denial and selflessness.

Too often, we have allowed people to settle for giving 2 percent of their income, attending four out of five Sundays and participating in one or two mission projects a year to be the standard for a disciple. In fact, in many places that makes you “Elder” material. The gap between the biblical expectation and cultural experience of the life of a Christ-follower is due to lack of discipleship. Here are four steps you can take to move from Consumers to Disciples:

1. Remove the Barriers:

a. Clergy/Laity Divide – Fully embracing the priesthood of believers would create a seismic shift in the church. Huge potential has been rendered impotent through the idea of “professional clergy.” Please hear me: I believe in professional clergy, seminaries, etc. However, we do a great disservice when we allow people to believe that’s the only way to serve God full-time. The truth is, as Christ-followers, we are all full-time pastors—we just all don’t draw a paycheck from the church.

b. Sunday-focused Christianity – If your church is focused primarily on weekend services (check where the majority of your resources go), it’s a little like telling people you can be healthy by visiting the gym and having a really good meal once a week. That one day is really good, but we need to help people see a robust relationship with Jesus flows in and through every area of their lives—seven days a week.

c. Sacred/Secular Divide – It’s good to have places committed solely for the use of the Gospel. Allow people to see their homes, their schools, their places of work, their coffee shops and the arenas of life as sacred. Jesus is there.

2. Change the Scorecard – What gets spontaneous applause in your church? What you celebrate, you perpetuate. Celebrate what you want to see happen in your church, even if that means celebrating things outside your church until you begin to see it happen in your church.

3. Support it with Community – We were not meant to journey alone. The challenge is we’ve learned to journey in parallel tracks, but we’ve not learned to actually journey together. Design community environments where the applications of the Gospel can be applied to the big questions in life as they occur.

4. Model it with Leadership Followership – As the leader, you must become the first follower. Follow hard after Jesus! “You must surrender all. Everything.”

The paradigms that have shaped the way we do church are so pervasive we tend to reach to ecclesiology without understanding our unique mission. Know Jesus. Know what He’s called you to. Then shape your ecclesiology to accomplish that mission, and bring facilities, systems and staff in line with that vision.

I heard a surfing analogy recently. We don’t cause the wind and the waves—we can only learn to ride the surfboard. Let’s …

“Learn to ride the board well because the winds are starting to blow.”  

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Bill Couchenour
Bill Couchenour has a fervent desire to help ministries improve their effectiveness at connecting their communities with Christ. He has served as President of Cogun, a company committed exclusively to helping churches develop the right ministry space, since 1994. From 1982 to 1994 he launched the Florida District of Cogun and served as District Manager. Bill has a business degree from Youngstown State University, an MBA from The University of Tampa.

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