The Olympics are just around the corner and I love watching these dedicated athletes competing on the world stage. An exciting event to watch are the relay races. It's a very precise sport that to the casual viewer may appear to be won or lost by the team with the fastest athletes. But if you were to ask those competing, they would tell you the races are actually won and lost in the hand-offs. This is where the majority of their training focuses. It's a fine-tuned process of one athlete getting up to top speed just in time for their teammate to hand them the baton in one smooth stride. The athlete handing off the baton has to maintain their top speed and match the speed of the receiving athlete until the exchange is complete.
This thought of focusing on the hand-off intrigues me. In my last post I used Acts 19 to define what a disciple is. We learned that a disciple is:
- Active Members of their Local Church.
- Jesus is Lord of their life.
According to Jesus in Matthew 28:19, our purpose is to make disciples. What if the church were to design programs that would lead people through this discipleship process? And what if we redesigned these programs to focus more on the hand-offs in this process than the event? Let me explain.
As pastors, let's evaluate our hand-offs in the discipleship process:
- How is our hand-off from the community into our church? What is the entry point to our church for the unchurched in our community? What is our process of leading people to salvation? For us at Victory Church in Lethbridge, we have decided to make Sunday mornings our entry point. If the unchurched are looking to attend a church in our community, they will look first for a Sunday morning service. So the question we must ask is, how's our hand-off? Is our service attracting the unchurched? Is our service one that makes our people feel comfortable to invite their unchurched friends, family, and co-workers?
- How is our hand-off from our new converts to baptism? (both in water and in the Holy Spirit) What class / program / small group do we have to teach our new converts the basics about following Christ? Are we teaching them the importance of baptism? Last year at Victory Church we had over 380 people give their hearts to Jesus in our Sunday morning services, but we only baptized 15. So as a staff we began to study our hand-off and looked for ways to improve this process. We decided to turn our Easter services into a spontaneous baptism. In the course of 2 weeks we baptized 95 more! We learned a valuable lesson in discipleship, simply because we focused on our hand-off.
- How is our hand-off from those baptized to becoming active in the church? How many volunteers do we have? How many of our recent converts and those baptized are volunteering? According to our records, as of a month ago we have 222 monthly volunteers in the church. You can see that the numbers drop as you progress through the process, and I believe that is normal, however I want to always be focused on improving each part of the discipleship process and this can only happen if we constantly evaluate our hand-off methods.
- How is the hand-off from those who volunteer to those who make Jesus Lord of their life? It is much more difficult to measure when someone makes Jesus Lord of their life. It simply means that they are fully surrendered to Christ and to his church. But how do we measure that? At Victory, we have decided to begin measuring this by recording those who are active in a small group.
Questions: Where are you in the discipleship process? Does your church have a clear process of discipleship? Which of your hand-offs need the most work?