Moving from a Consumer Church to a Discipling Church

On Wednesday, my church leadership will go on a retreat to reflect and pray about the spiritual health of the church. In preparing for this retreat I keep asking myself what do we need to do to become a disciple-making church? If we want to help individuals and families become committed followers of Jesus, what should we do? Basically, there are four different types of churches in the world.

  • The Consumer Church – the church exists to meet the needs of the people
  • The Dead Church – there is no sign of life within the church
  • The Stressed Church – many expectations are put on the members and they are in spiritual burn-out
  • The Discipling Church – members are empowered to be fully committed followers of Christ.

Jesus’ relationship with his disciples is a picture of what a church should look like, In the featured diagram it is called the Discipling Church. In John 1: 14, we read that Jesus became a human being, full of grace and truth. The call, “Come follow me” was an invitation to be with Jesus and experience His grace. “I will send you out to fish for people” – a vision of God’s plan, of truth and the promise made in the Old Testament. As we look at the gospels, we see this combination at work. At times the disciples are shown grace, encouraged and affirmed and at other times shown truth to challenge and bring about change in their lives. They were inspired and empowered after the ascension to change the world.

The exact opposite is a Dead Church where there is very little grace and truth. This church is heading nowhere and probably has a small group of people going to church out of duty.

The Consumer Church focuses on making people feel good and the focus is on “What can I get out of church today?”. There is a lot of teaching about blessings and very little about sin and the challenge to live holy lives. Commitment level at a consumer church is very low. People will only come if they have a need or nothing else to do. This church would preach “hypergrace” messages that God loves you and its ok to come along and just enjoy the cosy fun-filled environment.

Finally, we have the Stressed Church where the focus is on the truth but there is very little grace. People come to church and feel judged or guilty and there is no support and encouragement for those struggling with sin or problems. There are a lot of rules and expectations for people to follow resulting in people feeling stressed or distressed.

On Wednesday, I shared a variation of this diagram with my life group and asked them where they would put Resurrection Church. All of them pointed to the “High Grace Low Truth Quadrant, the one I have labelled Consumer Church. I asked, “why?” and they mentioned that we are very good in welcoming people and helping and supporting them. We also have great social activities. Consequently, it’s very easy for our members to be cosy and comfortable without being challenged to grow in the Truth. They also said that with my preaching and teaching, there is a challenge to take truth seriously.

So, if we are in the Consumer Church quadrant, how can we move into the Discipling Church quadrant? Initially, I suggested to my life group that we just raise the Truth temperature. But, as I thought about it, I realise it’s actually not a good move. If you have a church of people cosy and comfortable, it becomes very uncomfortable when people are pressured by the truth. The better way is, I think, is to first lower the grace temperature and stop making the primary focus to meet the needs of church members. This will slowly bring the church down into the Dead Church quadrant. However, we don’t want to stay here too long or it could kill the church.

After that, we can increase the truth temperature so that people are no longer seeing church for themselves but rather true nature of church and why it exists. People will start having “aha” moments where the truth sinks in. (Actually, quite a few people have emailed me this week sharing their “aha” moments with me and it is exciting hearing stories of you are having truth encounters of the biblical kind.)  Of course, staying too long in the high truth area can cause people to feel stressed from too much truth but very little grace to help them through life so you don’t want to stay there too long either.

So, following that we need to increase the grace temperature again so that as the truth sinks in and grows in the church, we can also increase the grace to create the Jesus environment – full of grace and truth.

My prayer as my leadership team and I go away on a retreat, we can plot a path that would help us become an effective discipling church.







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