In a recent ChurchPulse Weekly episode, Aubrey Sampson (church planter and author) joins David Kinnaman to discuss the opportunities and obstacles she’s seeing for discipleship right now. During the discussion, Sampson also takes some time to encourage everyday disciplemakers in the Church.
On the Power of Lament
Recent Barna data highlighted that one barrier to making disciples is that individuals may lack understanding about what healthy friendships look like and what they can offer. Data show only one in five Christians not engaged in discipleship (21%) says they are “very comfortable” helping friends through periods of suffering. Comparatively, nearly three in five Christians who are in a discipleship community (58%) say they’re “very comfortable” helping people through periods of suffering as a friend.
Reflecting on this data and the Church’s role, Sampson explains, “I don’t think the Church has equipped people well to lament collectively, communally or individually… We have not led people well through suffering. We’ve led people well to the mountain top, but we have not led people well to see that God may actually be in the valley and there’s an invitation there.”
She continues, “The positive thing about that to me is that this moment is ripe to bring back the very biblical, ecumenical call to lament as a people of God in our discipleship. I think that can actually be part of the discipleship pathway that we create for people by teaching them regular rhythms of lament for other people and themselves.”
Sampson states, “[Through the practice of lament,] we will make disciples of Jesus who will say, ‘This is really hard, painful and devastating, and we’re not going to pretend like they’re not. But we’re also not going to walk away from Jesus.’”
On Encouragement for Leaders
Barna research has found that people who are growth-minded are more likely to be engaged in discipleship as they know there is always more work to do—these people seek opportunities to challenge themselves in various parts of their lives. Three in five of those individuals who qualify as growth-minded (60%) report experiencing vibrant spiritual growth in the past year compared to just over one in four of all U.S. adults (27%).
Reflecting on data showing that some people don’t want to grow, Sampson provides encouragement for leaders, stating, “I think this is good data to have as a leader … [it prompts] leaders to pray that the Holy Spirit does a fresh work in people and to remember that it’s okay that [ministry is] so hard. It’s okay that it’s taking a really long time. It’s okay that God is not doing what leaders think God should be doing, but he’s doing it in process.
“I think in one sense, that should be encouraging to our souls and a reminder that this is the long work of the Holy Spirit, leadership, obedience and doing the Christian life in community with people as we shepherd,” concludes Sampson. “It’s not fast, [it’s] slow work of the Holy Spirit. I’m encouraged to hear that [data].”
On The Significance of Faithfulness
During the episode, Sampson takes time to share the difference that ordinary Christians can make through their faithfulness. She shares, “Ultimately I do think it’s the faithful, small life lived for Jesus, [where individuals are] loving their neighbors that’s going to make the difference for eternity and the difference for the next generations.
“Keep going and remember that what you’re doing actually really matters in the kingdom of God,” Sampson encourages. “I don’t think we have to do anything outside of our real life [to disciple others]. Just invite people into what you’re already doing, show them how you’re living for Jesus and that will make a difference.”
Sampson concludes, “We need your faithfulness. We need your integrity. We need your endurance. … Your faithfulness, your long suffering and consistent walk with Jesus bringing other people along matter so much right now in our culture where it seems like so many leaders and people are walking away. We need your faithfulness, and God will bless you for it and carry you in these really hard times.”
About the Research
This quantitative study consisted of two online surveys. First, an online survey was conducted among 2,511 adults who self-identify as Christian and live within the United States. The adults who completed this survey were randomly selected through online research panels. This survey was conducted from December 22, 2020 to January 18, 2021. The margin of error for the data is +/- 1.8 percent at the 95 percent confidence level, meaning Barna researchers are 95 percent confident that the true national numbers lie within this small margin of error. Second, an online survey of 2,930 U.S. adults was conducted from June 1 to July 4, 2020. The margin of error for this data is +/-1.5 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2022