Earlier in the calendar year I did a several-part series on our search for a new church, with the last post done in early May. I won’t detail the number of churches we visited, but I will tell you that we did visit quite a few. To make a long story short, we have ended up at Discovery Church. To be honest, I’ve struggled for quite some time with whether I even wanted to write this blog post because I didn’t want to draw attention to any one church or make one of the churches we visited but didn’t end up at look bad (for the record, all of them were wonderful congregations). At the end of the day, though, I guess I felt it was only fair to give this update on our journey.
We made our first visit to Discovery sometime last March and have actually been in attendance ever since. We decided over the summer to get involved in a small group, so we joined one, and then this past fall I got involved with the early-morning men’s Bible study as well as their new discipleship class. After all I’ve written on the subject of finding a church I feel it only fair to say what finally drew us to Discovery. It wasn’t the music, the service time, the pastor, the people, or any of those things (they all played a part, but they weren’t the “deciding factor”, so to speak). Quite simply, the one thing that overwhelmingly drew us in, and why we felt like God was sending us there, was the vision. Again, don’t get me wrong, the pastor is a great preacher, the people are wonderful people whom we’re enjoying getting to know, and the girls enjoy the kids’ program. But at the end of the day those things are, well, just parts of the whole. And, to be completely honest, there are plenty of churches that do a good job with those parts (some perhaps even do them “better”). What we were really looking for, as I look back, was to identify with what held all those parts together. And that was always the missing part at so many churches we visited: our visions didn’t align.
So what is the vision? I’m not sure I can tell you the “official vision statement”, but I can summarize it fairly simply. Discovery church is about making disciples. And that’s what we’ve been looking for for a very long time. Lots of churches talk about making disciples, but this is actually the first church I’ve ever been a part of that has a plan in place to do it. Granted, it’s a plan in infancy, but it’s a plan none-the-less; and it’s a good plan. The leaders and people at Discovery truly want to connect people with Jesus.
And that’s what it’s all about. Our church in Florida had a very simple vision: “Changing lives by connecting people with Jesus Christ.” We saw that start to work its way out before we left, but we weren’t at the church long enough to fully experience it (not because we left the church but because we left the State!) And I see that same desire at Discovery: They talk about it every week, they make it obvious in how they structure their organization, and they’ve spent weeks preaching it and countless hours putting a plan in place. They’ve identified discipleship as having three components: Deepen, Do, and Develop (it’s what we now call the “3-D’s” of discipleship). They’ve even restructured their pastoral staff to align with the three terms – we have a pastor of doing, a pastor of deepening, and a pastor of developing:
- Deepen – it’s about deepening our relationship with God and other believers
- Doing – it’s about serving God and others
- Developing – it’s about intentionally building relationships with non-believers with the goal of sharing the gospel
I’m not saying Discovery is the only church that emphasizes discipleship or that the way they are doing it is the only way to do it – in fact, I know that’s not the case because when I talk to my strong Christian friends around the country I hear them saying the same things but in different ways. I’m just sharing that, for whatever reason, this language makes sense to me. While it’s not been said by anyone at the church (at least that I’ve heard), I get the impression that the pastors are actually working to “equip the saints” to do the work, and that the saints understand they are to be equipped rather than delegate ministry to “full-time, paid” people. And that’s refreshing.
Am I suggesting all those things I wrote in my previous posts aren’t important? Absolutely not. I’m simply saying that they are not the end-all of the discussion. I’ve said for years that those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus are all in the same church, we just worship in different buildings. And I believe this so strongly that sometimes I have suggested to people they attend a different church than the one I attend. For the record, I’ve actually taken some heat for that.
Before I go on, let me be clear: I’ve never suggested to anyone in one of my churches that they needed to leave the church. I’m referring here to people who are searching for a church and I’ve suggested they try a church, but sometimes my suggestion has been different than where I attend based on their personality. For example, if someone was not into liturgy and high-church I suggested they attend a contemporary service even though I may have been at a liturgical church at the time, or vice-versa. I never discouraged people from coming to my church and I always welcomed them if they did. I am just much more concerned with people meeting Jesus than I am with building my local church. One would think those two are the same, but, unfortunately, they’re not. And leaders who don’t get that fact are missing the boat, and they run the risk of setting themselves and “their church” up as an idol.
Which brings me to my point… I get the sense that our pastoral staff gets this – that it’s not about us but about Him. There were two churches we visited this year where the pastors actually said from the platform some variation of, “We want you to be involved in a church, and if it’s not our church that’s okay – just get involved in a church where Jesus is taught and lived.” Discovery was one of them.
It’s not a perfect family, but it is our family. Continue to pray for us as we figure out the role we are to play in our new family, and pray that we fulfill that role as God desires. And thank-you for your prayers as we have traveled this journey.