Let me go one more step, and on this one I will tread lightly – preaching. How many of you pastors have your sermons thought through for the next year? If not, why not? What is it you are trying to accomplish? What really scares me about well-meaning preachers is when they say to me that they believe they are discipling their people through their sermons, and no more is really needed. That scares me because you have already told me that you do not have a plan for where your sermons are going. You have one ‘goal’ for this sermon and another for the next. If your people don’t know your objective for this sermon, how can you ever expect that they will figure it out when you haven’t? This is not discipleship; this is a hit-and-miss approach to simply giving out disconnected information, with no thread being given to help the people tie it all together! This again is like the teacher you would not send your children to.
If we analyze our church programs today, my educated guess would be that we would find a very active church with many enjoyable programs. But what is being accomplished towards true discipleship? You will find Sunday school and other times children and youth meetings. What coordination is there between these groups? Are the youth leaders sitting down with the children’s leaders to see what the other is doing? Do they plan in such a way that if a child was to be in those groups for several years they would receive a well rounded, well planned, training enabling them to know, be, and do something for the sake of God’s Kingdom? Isn’t this what we demand from our schools? Then why not for our churches? Do we not think that discipleship is as important, or, better, more important than what they learn in the schools?
Do you pastors know what curriculum is being used in your Sunday school – or if there is one? If you do not, then how can you be sure that what is being used does not contradict your teaching from the pulpit? Is your Sunday school using several different curricula? Why? The fact is that every curriculum generally has a different philosophy of what it wants to cover and when. The use of multiple curricula could easily mean the same material is covered several times instead of a pattern allowing a child to progress from one stage to the next in a logical sequence. In order to teach “line upon line and precept upon precept,” we believe that pastors, the church’s teaching elder, needs to know and review what is being taught in the churches! Christian Education and Publications and its Great Commission Publications curriculum can help you with this.
What also concerns me is the trend going on in our colleges and seminaries. One will start a youth leaders’ program, and another a children’s leaders’ program. These are nice, and they are the popular trend, but there is one ingredient missing. There seems to be no one teaching these leaders that their groups are part of a whole church. Instead, we are encouraging programs that will be simply doing their own thing. This teaches the groups to think individualistically instead of being a part of the whole community. Do you want a church where everyone does what is right in his own eyes, or one that is united and striving to serve Christ’s Kingdom, together? Coordination of CE and discipleship is essential for producing kingdom disciples.
Who is being trained to pull together all the different ministries in your church to make sure they are all following the overall stated purpose of your church? If every ministry in your church is allowed to continue going in its own direction, then what is being accomplished? Do you really know what is being accomplished or what method of evaluation you use to determine if you are doing what you believe you are supposed to be doing? If you don’t, then you need to ask if anything is being accomplished to disciple your people and enhance the Kingdom of God. Simply being an active church with many programs does not mean that anything is being accomplished. Don’t confuse busyness with growth.
One last question, how does all this fit with your church’s mission or purpose statement? Does your church have such a statement? This statement tells everyone why your local church exists and what it is trying to accomplish. If you don’t have such a mission statement, then it becomes difficult, if not impossible to know what you are accomplishing. In working with local churches over the years, CEP has insisted that churches not evaluate their programs but rather the results of those programs. Many “good” programs do no always accomplish a worthwhile mission.
These are straightforward questions, but they are meant to encourage you to raise the questions that need to be asked in every church – and often. In all the time you have been in your church, can you really say your people are being discipled (educated/trained)? If you think they are, on what do you base that assessment? Think about it!