Jesus gave His people a clear mission—to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). For this reason, a local church exists to make disciples. C.S. Lewis challenged:
The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, everything else is simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose.
A church can excel at anything and everything else, but if the church fails to make disciples, she has wandered from her fundamental reason for existence.
Scott McConnell just celebrated ten years of leading LifeWay Research. We recently met to discuss all he has learned about discipleship, from a research vantage point, in his ten years of leading this important work. Here are five big truths from ten years of discipleship research:
1. Discipleship is intentional.
Those who are maturing desire to mature. They engage in discipleship opportunities and seek Christ in their daily lives. There is work to do here. For example, only 25% of pastors have a plan to develop Christ-formed leaders in their church.
2. Reading the Bible matters more than anything else.
Reading the Bible is the number one predictor for spiritual growth. Quite simply, those who read the Scripture grow.
3. The discipline of Bible engagement impacts every other discipline.
Some spiritual disciplines do not impact all the others. As an example, someone who serves may not be generous in giving. But engagement in the Word impacts every other discipline. Someone who lets the Word dwell in them simultaneously gives, serves, confesses sin, shares the gospel, etc.
4. Groups matter. A lot.
Those who are in some type of group (Sunday School, small group, etc.) are much more likely to display markers of spiritual growth than those not in a group.
5. There is a deep connection between discipleship and evangelism.
Disciples share the gospel. Those who are growing in Christ tell others about Him. Those who are not growing in their faith are much less likely to articulate the gospel.