growing a church or making disciples?

Growing a church is easy; making disciples is hard. We’re commanded to do the latter, not necessarily the former.

Last Sunday morning at Capitol City, we announced a major change we’re making to our Sunday morning worship schedule. We’re consolidating from three services to two each week, even though the three services we have right now are healthy and well-attended.

One question that a handful of people have asked me since we announced this transition is, basically, “How we will be able to grow as a church with fewer services and less space in each service?” That’s a great question, one that recognizes the fact that people new to Capitol City might find it harder to fit into our worship venues since those venues will be more crowded once this change takes effect. As a church, we will have to adjust some of our habits to accommodate the people God is bringing us. (A few months back, I wrote this tongue-in-cheek piece describing some of the habits that we could/should change to be more hospitable and welcoming on Sunday mornings.)

But let’s come back to that question that many have asked: “How will we grow as a church with fewer services?” In response, I want to make it clear that we are transitioning to fewer services so that we can grow as a church. We strongly believe that fewer services will translate into more growth for our church, by God’s grace. Perhaps not numerical growth – though we don’t rule that out. But certainly growth in discipleship.

We wouldn’t be making this change if our objective was to grow a church numerically. If our goal was to gather a large number of people every Sunday morning, this would be a poor decision. But that isn’t our goal – nor is it our calling. Our calling is to make disciples of Jesus, which means teaching and training people to follow Jesus, serve Jesus, and look like Jesus…all for the glory of Jesus. For the record, that calling is much harder. Growing a church (and by that, I mean drawing a crowd) is easy, if you’re willing to accommodate your method and your message to that goal. Training people to die to themselves and lay down their lives for their savior and for the sake of a lost and dying world? That’s incredibly hard, and a task that can only be accomplished by God’s grace. At Capitol City, we’re committed to the harder task, and that is why we’re making this change to our worship schedule.

We believe that training people to follow, serve, and look like Jesus happens best in the context of community. One of the strongest demonstrations of the power of the gospel is the community that it forms, the binding together of lost sinners of all ages from all walks of life because of their common need for the grace of Jesus in light of their sin. The gospel’s power continues to shine through communities like that as they are transformed together, bearing each other’s burdens, praying for each other, rejoicing together, living life together, and loving each other. Jesus tells us that we will show the world that we are his disciples by the way we love each other (John 13:35). In other words, we need each other to grow as disciples of Jesus. We need community.

That’s why we are transitioning to fewer services at Capitol City, so that we can grow. Fewer services will allow us more and better time to invest in community before, during, and after our services. It will afford us opportunities to grow in the context of that community. That may or may not translate to numerical growth long-term (only the Lord knows that, and only the Lord brings that). But our calling is not to grow a church, our calling is to make disciples, and discipleship happens best in community. I hope you’re excited, as I am, about the opportunities before us to grow as a gospel-centered community living every day for the glory of Christ.

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