Bold People Exercising Bold Faith
At a church as large and well-established as New Life Christian in Chantilly, Virginia, it might be tempting to get complacent. Prior to the arrival of coronavirus early in 2020, New Life helped create the Exponential Network, planted more than 300 churches, and regularly attracted thousands of people to worship services every Sunday. Still, senior pastor Brett Andrews was convinced the church needed something else: boldness.
Andrews and the leaders at New Life wanted to get better at reproducing disciples, not just reproducing churches. For the last three years, the church has striven to increase and improve its discipleship efforts. New Life created training programs and “gave people good tools.” But, Andrews observed, many people in the church were still hesitant to share their faith.
In 2020, with worship services streaming online and small groups unable to meet in person, Andrews said it became difficult to track traditional church benchmarks like weekly attendance. New Life knew it was time to start measuring something else. It was time to start effectively evaluating the church’s discipleship efforts.
Unlike attendance, however, discipleship is difficult to quantify. Discipleship is anything but an objective metric. Wanting to create a church of bold disciples, New Life shifted its focus from teaching and providing “discipleship tools” to asking a lot of difficult questions: What does it mean to be his sheep? Do we, as a church, truly understand the depth and the power of the gospel? Are we really experiencing it?
Andrews began teaching the church to boldly pursue both Christ and the lost. He believes boldness and discipleship are indelibly intertwined.
“As leaders, we discovered that we could give people good tools, but if they lack confidence and boldness, then discipleship doesn’t happen,” Andrews said.
He began with simple steps like telling everyone in the congregation to search their phone’s contact list for someone who needed to hear the gospel.
The key to boldness is developing a heart for the lost, he said. In other words, being a disciple means creating disciples. “If you’re a disciple without a disciple, then you’re not really a disciple. It’s a very personal approach.”
Programs and plans don’t do the work of discipleship. People do.
Of course, for New Life, the process has been far from flawless. Teaching thousands of people to think and act boldly is not easy, but the church is not deterred.
“There’s not always success but there’s always the Holy Spirit’s activity.”
Andrews repeatedly quotes from the book of Acts when talking about boldness. He said the book is full of bold people exercising bold faith, and Acts even ends with a certain boldness—in a circumstance that was particularly relevant in 2020.
“At the end of Acts, Paul was stuck in a house, but he was still bold,” Andrews said. “Being stuck in a house didn’t hinder the gospel then, and it shouldn’t hinder the gospel now.”