In my last blog post I pointed out that America has 330,000 churches, and every one of them is “professorial.”
Here’s what I mean: every Protestant congregation is built around a weekly public meeting – the centerpiece of which is a pastor standing up and “professing” Bible truth. It’s essentially a classroom experience, with chairs pointed at a stage in hopes of knowledge being transmitted to an audience.
Personal coaching is available in a few churches, but it’s an add-on that’s offered as a mid-week activity. As such, it sees relatively low levels of participation because most Christians have a Sunday-first mentality. They’ve been trained to “go to church,” and if there’s any time or energy left they devote that to everything else the church asks of them: volunteering, service, study and discipleship.
So what would a coaching-first church look like? Fortunately, there’s one recorded for us in the Gospel of Luke. Here’s how it was formed:
- Luke 4-5: Jesus begins meeting men in the marketplace. They become an informal band of disciples.
- Luke 6: Jesus prays all night over his big decision. In the morning he gathers his disciples together and from among them chooses 12 for his inner circle. He pairs them up (Matt. 10).
- Luke 8: A group of influential women plays a pivotal support role to Jesus and his men – but they do not join his inner circle.
- Luke 9: After a time of walking along side him for many months, Jesus sends the 12 apostles into ministry. Great things happen.
- Luke 10: Suddenly there are 72 more disciples, who are sent out in pairs. More miraculous things happen.
- Acts 1: A remnant of 120 disciples (both men and women) remains in the wake of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
- Acts 2: The Holy Spirit comes, and the early church is born. Three thousand are added in a day. Exponential growth follows.
One of the biggest drawbacks with church planting today is we start at Acts 2. We gather a few families and open our doors, trying to attract a crowd. Our very first offering is a public worship service. We build not upon the foundation of men who’ve served Jesus together, but upon the foundation of the pastor and his ability to deliver inspiring sermons.
Staging this weekly music-and-preaching event takes so much time, effort and money that there are few resources left for personal discipling. From day one we train people to become worshippers, not disciples, because worship is what we do.
Thus, worship is the dog, and coaching is the tail.
Jesus took a different approach. He spent three years building a honeycomb of male relationships. Yes, he preached to the crowds — but his focus was the personal discipling of his men. He was rough on them. Acerbic. Demanding. Not unlike a few of my High School coaches, as I recall.
It was only after this structure of battle-hardened veterans was in place that the Holy Spirit came and the early church was born. So important was this structure that the first “Act” of the apostles was to replace Judas.
So what if we planted churches based on the model we see in the Gospel of Luke? The church planter(s) would build the congregation not around a weekly preaching-and-music event, but around weekly coaching sessions with small groups of men.
In other words, the men of this church don’t “go to church” on Sunday. Their church would be their weekly time of coaching.
After a year of intense training (physical, mental and spiritual), the church planter(s) would send the 12 out to recruit 72 more. Then the 12 are supported as they train the 72.
After 2 to 3 years you’d have a structure that looked quite a bit like the organization Jesus built:
A total of 84 men. And each man has a teammate to walk with him. And each man has two coaches to look after him.
Readers, this is the church I want to be a part of – but it doesn’t exist. I want to take the 2 hours I currently devote to churchgoing and invest it in something like this. That, to me, would be true worship. To know and love God in the presence of men who know and love me.
And imagine what we could accomplish. We’ve struggled together. We know and trust one another. We’re already in functional teams. A leadership structure is already in place. As soon as we hear from the Spirit, we’re ready for battle.
God has given me big dreams – but I face big challenges. I want brothers who will hold me accountable and help me deal with my “stuff.” I want a support structure around me as I attempt to do what God is calling me to do. Even better, I want to be swept up into what God wants to do with US, together. I’m tired of being lonely and anonymous in church.
Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy churchgoing. But I’m longing for more. And I think there are millions of men who share my desire.
I see this as an ideal outreach to the 60 million U.S. men who call themselves Christians but who are not involved in any sort of Christian fellowship. These men have attended church but for whatever reason can’t seem to find God there. Some are backslidden. However, some genuinely want to walk with God – but find churchgoing an exercise in futility.
It’s time to recognize there are millions of men (and women) who will never find God in a professorial environment – no matter how good the preaching. These kinesthetic learners need coaching (a.k.a, discipleship). A church built from the ground up to coach people could scoop up this previously unreachable demographic.
Now, I’m sure there are a thousand questions percolating in your mind. Among them:
- Is this a church? Or is it a men’s ministry program?
- What about women and children? How would they be taught?
- Would you offer a weekly worship service?
- Would you need a church building? A stage? Microphones? Drum set?
- How would you fund it? Would there be a collection plate?
- How would you teach? Would there be a weekly sermon?
- How would you conduct evangelism? What about visitors and newcomers?
- Would this model compete with the existing model of church?
I’ll answer these in my next blog post. In the meantime, join the conversation by posting your comments below, or join the dialogue on our Facebook page.
If this idea intrigues you, I’d invite you to visit another Web site I maintain, MensLeague.org. It describes the Luke-to-Acts model as a men’s ministry program within an existing congregation.