Spiritual Growth Emphasis Spurs Numerical Growth
By Rick Lowry
Mount Carmel Christian Church in Batavia, Ohio (about 20 miles east of Cincinnati), has experienced significant growth in recent years. Didi Bacon became senior minister 21 years ago when the church averaged about 400 in worship. In 2015, Mount Carmel moved into a beautiful new facility and now consistently averages more than 1,000. Bacon and the rest of the staff are convinced a major reason for the numerical growth has been their emphasis on spiritual growth.
Teaching minister Tim Peace, who works with groups, said a significant dialogue started when the church elders and Bacon, along with other staff ministers, traveled together to the National Discipleship Forum in Nashville and became convinced they needed to get more serious about discipling. They concluded the leaders of the church should pioneer the way.
From the beginning, the goal was to launch a discipleship movement that would multiply throughout the church. Peace and a team composed of staff and others were tasked with developing easy-to-use materials for disciplers to help everyone move in the same direction. The team created tools based on the books of Genesis and Mark to help a leader work though a yearlong process culminating in all of the group’s members creating yearlong groups of their own using the same approach.
The result is a simple, grassroots method that Peace called a “one with three” approach to discipling. It works like this:
Year one: One leader hosts three people for a year.
Year two: The leader serves as coach of the three members of his or her original group as each of them leads three more people using the same materials.
Year three: The original leader plays a “grandparent” role, while their original three group members become coaches for the nine people from their groups who are now discipling others. This structure allows for an unlimited discipleship movement to take hold in the church—and, hopefully, Peace said, beyond their church.
Mount Carmel’s leaders acknowledge this method is a marathon, not a sprint, and that it may take years to see their discipling vision fulfilled. The elders and staff piloted the idea the first year, and members of their original groups currently are discipling others. Church leaders say they still are on the front end of this idea, but a definite change in attitude and purpose among leadership has taken root, and it’s beginning to rub off on others.
Rick Lowry has served as spiritual growth pastor at First Church, Burlington, Kentucky, since 2011. His favorite part of church is seeing people grow in small groups.