An Indiana pastor says churches in America need to shift from program-driven organizations to disciple-making environments.

In his book, "The Disciple-Making Church" (Faithwalk Publishing, 2004), Glenn McDonald says there is a need for churches in America to transform from what he calls "ABC churches" – those focused on attendance, buildings, and cash – to churches focused on discipleship of believers.

McDonald, who is senior pastor of Zionsville Presbyterian Church in suburban Indianapolis, says ministry in a disciple-making church is radically different from ministry in typical churches that take people "from slogan to slogan and program to program."

The major difference in a disciple-making congregation, McDonald says, "is that we invest in relationships that are five to 10 to 20 years long and say 'This is where we are going to put our priority and our prayer and our emphasis,' rather than [investing] in these six- to twelve-month programs that just keep coming and going."

A recent survey by the Barna Research Group found that less than one percent of all believers perceived a connection between their efforts to worship God and their development as a disciple of Jesus. One reason for this, McDonald suggests, is that churches have not put their resources into developing an environment where disciple-making is the focus. He believes at least 80 percent of America's Christian congregations are ABC-focused and need to redirect their priorities.

With most churches, the Indiana pastor says, "We have our meetings, we go to bed at night, we go to church and depart it on Sunday morning really kind of anxious about those attendance-building and cash issues instead of thinking 'Are we making disciples for Jesus?' And I think if the target were moved over to the Great Commission, it would be revolutionary."

McDonald identifies six qualities that mark a disciple: a heart for Christ alone, a mind transformed by the Word, arms of love, knees for prayer, a voice to speak the good news, and a spirit of servanthood and stewardship. "The Disciple-Making Church" describes his own church's journey, as its subtitle says, "from dry bones to spiritual vitality," and how other congregations can experience that transformation.


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