As a pastor for the last 25 years, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in many prayer meetings. I have prayed a lot. I have seen others pray a lot. I’m pentecostal so sometimes these prayers meetings are rather loud and demonstrative. Over the years however, I’ve been witness to many praying people and praying churches that are not seeing growth or seeing people come to faith in Christ. Many churches that are dying are praying churches. Why is this?
On the flip side, I’ve also been a part of many serve initiatives. These are led by believers who’s mantra is “let’s get out and do something for Jesus.” Whether it’s helping widows, serving or passing out food or just sweeping streets, they are out there to demonstrate the goodness of God with prayer being somewhat of an afterthought compared to the work they get out and do. These churches are doing good things but at times, lack the life change that should accompany a Jesus following community of believers.
Don’t just seek Him, serve Him. Don’t just serve Him, seek Him.
This is a statement that needs to be considered by those who desire to make difference. And by make a difference I mean seeing people served and lifted, seeing people come to faith in Christ and seeing the cause of Christ advance in our communities.
You see, without seeking Christ, we lack the anointing of the Holy Spirit that makes our message believable. Without serving Christ, we become a bunch of people that are seeking the next feel good experience with Jesus while refusing the be His hands and feet.
WORK like it depends on us…PRAY like it depends on God
The first Wednesday in January, we began an initiative with our students called Movement 21. It challenged our students to commit to 21 days of 1) Bible reading, 2) prayer, 3) everyday look for an opportunity to share Jesus or serve and 4) to engage in fasting. That Wednesday night the kick off message ended with a challenge… asking students to remove a shoe and throw it down at the altar as a sign that they were going to run with us for the next three weeks. We had an amazing response as student after students brought their shoes forward to show that they were in. I was so excited for the growth our students were about to experience. Our finish line was Winter Camp and what I thought was great way to kick off the New Year… until I asked a question on the 21st day of this initiative. I asked my students how many of them had participated these last 21 days with Movement 21. I saw no hands. Then I reached a little lower and asked how many had done 14 days at least but still, nothing. Then I reached lower and asked how many had done at least 7 days, trying not to show my frustration. I finally got a few hands to shoot up when the bar was at its lowest point.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been there. I thought everything was going awesome with this new initiative. I was sure students were engaging and going deeper, but I was wrong. It was all smoke and mirrors with no actual commitment to the process.
This experience has made me ask some really hard questions. Do my students understand the importance of building their relationship with Christ instead of just feeling it? Am I actually communicating for life change? Are students actually hearing what I’m saying or just enduring me every Wednesday? Those are all decent questions but I think the most important question that I’m asking is this: Are the students that I lead actually engaging in our discipleship process? That leads me to the next question, which I think is more difficult: How do I assess the growth of those God has entrusted to me?
In ministry, I’ve found that this is one of the most difficult items to quantify. If you are in business, you measure success by dollars, by growth and with fact and figures. In student ministry, I can have hundreds coming to my events but does that measure engagement and life transformation?
I want you to know that I don’t have this figured out but I want to propose two things to you as assessment tools for your ministry because our job is to make disciples. Jesus mandated us to make disciples. So here are my assessment questions for you: 1) Where does someone engage in your discipleship process? (In most cases it’s in the context of a small group or a mentoring relationship.) 2) Where does a student discover an outflow of their relationship with Jesus? My answer would be by serving. So here is my conclusion…how many students are in groups? How many students are we engaging in service on a monthly basis? Perhaps these two mile-markers can help us to measure how much ground we are taking toward transformation.
What systems do you have in place to assess the growth of your students? How would your students respond to an initiative you proposed?