Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Does participation make disciples?

Willowcreek announced recently that they were doing a rethink on their strategy of doing church. This little bit made me think (Greg Hawkins is executive pastor at Willowcreek):

In the Hawkins’ video he says, “Participation is a big deal. We believe the more people participating in these sets of activities, with higher levels of frequency, it will produce disciples of Christ.” This has been Willow’s philosophy of ministry in a nutshell. The church creates programs/activities. People participate in these activities. The outcome is spiritual maturity. In a moment of stinging honesty Hawkins says, “I know it might sound crazy but that’s how we do it in churches. We measure levels of participation.”

Having put all of their eggs into the program-driven church basket you can understand their shock when the research revealed that “Increasing levels of participation in these sets of activities does NOT predict whether someone’s becoming more of a disciple of Christ. It does NOT predict whether they love God more or they love people more.”

I think the warning not to measure the church's success by levels of participation is a good one to hear. But how does one measure whether people are becoming better disciples?


David Barbour said...

Hi, .. maybe we ought not be measuring people's faith in the first place. We provide tools (programmes etc) that enable a walk with God and the world, but they in themselves are only tools. What about the illiterate person or the mentally challenged? If they are unble to do or fit into our programmes can we say they are less spiritual.... David

Jenny Hillebrand said...

I agree that we can't measure people's faith and there could be very bad reasons for doing that. But I think we also want to see that the programmes we offer are having an impact on people. It is possible to offer formularised programmes that have worked elsewhere, for instance, and these may totally miss the mark for our own people.
Maybe I'm not talking about measuring faith . . . maybe I'm talking about something else actually. Because I do agree with your comment. But we do need to be faithful in building disciples (or more passively, allow God to build disciples).