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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

The Fruits of Discipleship

Churches in the Acts 2 Discipleship Process experience growth, excitement

By John W. Kennedy
June 12, 2011

When the Assemblies of God launched its Acts 2 Discipleship Process initiative in 2009 to bring attention to church health discipleship methods in local congregations, leaders wanted to deliver ministry resources for churches of all sizes. Today, more than 100 churches in 11 districts have signed on for the Acts 2 Process. They are large, medium and small; rural, suburban and urban; black, white, Hispanic and Native American.

“This paradigm is transcending culture,” says Rick Allen, Church Transformation Network national facilitator.

The Acts 2 Process incorporates five foundations of Acts 2:42-47 — worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and evangelism — to assist both individuals and congregations in their commitment to Christ (see “Discipleship” story on page 24). Pastors whose congregations participate in Acts 2 typically have found it to both clarify vision and energize adherents.

Murphy Matheny, pastor of Cedar Lake Christian Assembly in Biloxi, Miss., says Acts 2 helped the staff delineate the until-then fuzzy core values of the church. For example, a previously undefined value had been to disciple people so they would grow in the Lord.

“Now we have strategic and intentional discipleship,” Matheny says. “We show people there is a reason for their life and explain why God put them in this body to be fully functioning in the ministries of the church.”

Matheny, who has been pastor at the church for a decade, spent the first four months of this year preaching about vision and teaching core values. As part of the Acts 2 process, congregants complete exercises to learn their spiritual gifts, personality types and life passions.

“The palpable level of excitement of the congregation has gone through the roof,” he says. “People who have been in the church for a while have signed on to serve for the first time, and those who are new to the church are doing so as well.”

Attendance has increased to 800 from 650 last fall. Likewise, giving has increased. During the first two months of the year, 30 new volunteers signed on to help with children’s ministry, which had for years lacked adequate help.

“There is a lot of momentum and a sense that everyone is working together,” Matheny says.

Dale Gray, who has been pastor of The Rock Church in Scottsdale, Ariz., for 16 years, began participating in Acts 2 because the congregation had leveled off after launching four satellite campuses.

“We had a lot of church activity — something every day and every night — but a lot of it didn’t make sense,” Gray says. “Ministries were doing their own thing, but we didn’t seem to be working as well collectively as we had in the past.”

Subsequently, Gray says, church staff had become frustrated about losing their vision for ministry activity. After several prayerful, heartrending meetings, Gray, his youth pastor and his children’s pastor spent hours redefining ministry core values and discipleship expectations.

“Acts 2 is a simple, biblical process that in time, if worked correctly, will bring a new dimension of spiritual growth,” Gray says. “We’ve created synergy, unity, and a high level of hope and motivation to rejuvenate the church.”

Part of discipling methods at The Rock Church now involve an interactive “table talk,” studying a chapter of the Bible every Wednesday evening. Since beginning the Acts 2 Process, Gray says The Rock Church has grown numerically, financially and spiritually. Currently 250 people attend.

“It’s exciting to see people touched by the Holy Spirit through discipleship,” Gray says. “Now that we have focus, we feel like we can really see some growth in the next year.”

Joe Lyons has been pastor of Bentonville (Ark.) First Assembly of God since 2009, when the church had 150 attendees and no other staff. Lyons took time to study the culture of the congregation and to build relationships. He found many of the core components in the church to be on target: spiritually mature youth, dedicated children’s volunteers, generous missions giving. Yet people in the church really didn’t have a way to fellowship with each other.

“A church needs to be intentional about connecting people,” Lyons says. “Acts 2 provides a healthy model.”

On Sunday mornings, Lyons has preached on the characteristics of a healthy church. On Sunday nights, Lyons has talked about the importance of people connecting to ministry as functional disciples of Jesus rather than being just casual observers.

Sunday morning attendance at Bentonville First AG is now 325, and donations have risen 42 percent in the past 15 months. The church has filled full-time positions for administrator, praise and worship pastor, youth pastor and children’s pastor.

“Once a common mission is identified, a church can journey together,” Lyons says. “What brings us together is one single purpose.”

JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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