Discipleship and Attending Worship

One of the things that Mike Gaffney said this morning has really stuck with me. When asked, “How many college students attend worship” at his collegiate church-based ministries, he would respond, “I don’t know and I don’t care. The much better question is, ‘How many students are connected in relational way to a member of the congregation?’” And he would know exactly what that number was.

I know Dan Dick has written on this at length, but I wonder — as Christmas Eve approaches — will we think we’ve done our job as a church if the worship attendance goes up?

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=worship&iid=74963″ src=”0071/351b76c3-e44c-45a0-8bab-6f439ed5fc64.jpg?adImageId=8444854&imageId=74963″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]I hear of some places where worship attendance is the only standard for vitality & accomplishment of mission. In the Texas Annual Conference, we measure 4 Vital Signs of Discipleship. These are worship attendance, professions of faith, hands-on mission, and apportionment payout. No doubt these are four things that ought to be happening in a vital, transformative congregation. But a church could be doing well in all 4 of these areas and not actually be making disciples or transforming the world. (Perhaps professions of faith is the exception, but I can even see a situation where this would cover people are joining a church for the first time…without actually following Jesus. Okay, hands on mission is similar, but giving and pewsitting are ripe for self-deception.)

My concern is that we’ve set the discipleship bar too low. Everyone’s supposed to be a disciple, okay, but we can’t tell people what the real deal is, so we’ll just have so little expectation of your discipleship that everyone can be one. In England, this was called “bums on pews.” (Not the derogatory term, the one for your rear end.) I think we need new metrics, new measuring sticks, new benchmarks for how well we’re accomplishing our stated mission.

If you are a Spirit-filled, Jesus-following, Gospel-sharing, Kingdom-building, Love-motivated, forgiveness- and gracefulness-abounding church member…I’m pretty sure they are in worship. Regularly. But I don’t think you can reverse the assumption with any confidence.

What if we got to a different place? Where someone asked us, “How many people did you worship on Christmas Eve?” and pastors and laity alike said, “I don’t know and I don’t care. Ask me how many people are following Jesus because they encountered him on Christmas Eve.” Let’s make church about something meaningful, transformative, life-changing again…a good gift to lay before our king.

About expatminister

Aren't we what we repeatedly love? My wife, being GeekDad to the 4 superkids, United Methodist pastoring, Texas, science fiction and other nerdy pursuits, words (speaking, listening, writing, reading), Britain, music, camping, tech, baseball, practicing theology. Jesus. Coffee.


  1. Wow! I so connect with all of this . . . as one who has felt the pressure to “bring the numbers up” I can tell you that this message is sorely needed for pastors and churches.

    I can tell you that there is no question that those who are following Jesus in tangible ways are going to gather on the Lord’s Day.

    It’s the others who struggle, who need an encounter with the risen Lord that is transformative and help them place God at the center of their life.

    My prayer this season is that many will respond to God’s invitation to begin anew.

    Thanks brother for this.

  2. That question is a great one and also could be asked of our regular members. How many are actually “connected in a relational way” and how many just go through the motions?

    I have learned over the past year the very valuable part that a small group ministry plays in developing that connectional relationship and treasure the time I’ve spent leading one group and being a member of another group. It’s been exciting to watch as we grow together on our journeys and hold each other up in prayer and accountability…as we transform as you so aptly put it.

    And I like what Ruben Job says in his book “Three Simple Rules”: when folks bemoan the fact that it’s too hard, takes too much time, or that they can’t stay focused… his response is “JUST BEGIN!”

    May we all “just begin” …for I know with all the certainty that my God has blessed me with that, however many times it takes, and no matter how many times we stumble, He is there waiting for us.

    Blessings Brother Josh!

Speak Your Mind