I am going to preface this post as being somewhat controversial. Some of you may disagree with me, and that is okay. I want a discussion on this subject, if for nothing else than to make it known.
The growth of Christianity has been long measured by church membership. Christ's call to discipleship has been stressed, but has not affected the church (or group of believers) as a whole. In the first century of the church, discipleship was the basic orientation of the church; it was its purpose. The good news is that it still is the purpose, however far we have strayed from it. Many churches have struggled to stay open, restructured, and even closed their doors due to little or no growth, membership apathy, and sporadic church attendance. The issue at the center of these problems is: purpose. The "mission" of the church has been skewed so much as to make it near impossible to have a unifying calling for all to follow. BUT there is a unifying calling: discipleship. The spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ: The Great Commission.
I have brought up this subject to talk about another issue within the church. The neglecting of church members under the guise of progressing the church. Unfortunately, many churches leave the God given mission of the church in order to pursue what they believe to be the next "unifying mission." From this, lines are drawn, emotions run high, and people simply fall through the cracks. Large churches have a major issue with this simply because of the amount of people involved in the church. Small groups are designed to help each member grow, and to "keep the church small." This works in some cases, but what about the real MISSION of the church? What about the real PURPOSE of the church? Growing as a Christian in faith, relationship, and understanding should coincide with discipleship. This mission should be at the center of everything the church does. Although I hate this analogy, it is the one that best fits: a church should be like an organization. The mission statement and vision should stay the same no matter what the strategy is. If the strategy does not align with the mission statement and vision, then it does not need to be pursued. The strategy should also be reevaluated regularly to make sure that current operations still align with the original mission and vision. For the church, this means that anything the church does should align with God's purpose, mission, and vision for the church: discipleship. In order to do this, we must CONSTANTLY consult our mission statement and vision: God's word.