The Church Doctor® Report

Closing the Gap: Getting the Most Out of Almost Great Ministries

 VOL. 8 NO. 4 July/August 2012
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Kent Hunter says, "I was born to help churches become more effective for the Great Commission mission."  Pursuing this passion, he has trained pastors and church leaders on six continents and consulted hundreds of churches.

Featured Service 

Consulting:  A Ministry Story...From the Desk of a Church Doctor:

"Why I Love Helping Churches" 


The fancy word is intervention.  In reality, it's not new.  It's New Testament.  It's what the apostles did.  They brought "fresh eyes" to challenged churches.  From the outside, they could see both the forest and the trees.  A Church Doctor is a loving, caring "outsider" who has gained wisdom from helping dozens of churches.  Like this month's article shows, most churches do most of what they do 95% very well.  What holds most churches back from their greatest effectiveness is a cluster of seemingly unrelated issues.  A trained "outsider" can help identify these issues and make recommendations that - once put into action - release the enormous God-power of the local Body of Christ.  When God brings the miracle of health to a church, it removes the stuff that keeps pastors and church leaders up at night.  It restores joy and enthusiasm in the congregation.  Most of all, healthy churches impact their communities for Jesus Christ.  As one pastor said, "It's fun to be, once again, kicking butt for Jesus!"  He asked that his name be withheld, but you get the idea, don't you?  

We recently consulted a large church with a big staff.  Many in the congregation told us that "communication was a big issue" and "a lot of last-minute programming causes enormous stress." 


Looking at staff, here's what our analysis uncovered:  these guys on staff are (1) great people, (2) very gifted, (3) really committed, and (4) hard-working. 


Here's what else we discovered:  (1) most leaned toward the impulsive side of the disciplined-impulsive scale and (2) no one had the gift of administration.  Consequently, (3) most were near burnout and (4) showed signs of being on the high end of nervous and depressed.


Here are the recommendations that speak to "the issues behind the issues":  (1) the church does too much.  We recommended they do less, better.  Follow the objective of "light-weight/low-maintenance."  (2) We encouraged staff to follow the "sabbatical rhythm" of Scripture:  one day off in seven and take all of your vacation.  (3) We encouraged staff to begin every meeting by sharing "what is God doing in your life and ministry, since we last met?"  (4) A church this size needs a full-time administrator to provide focus on details, follow up, and follow through.  (5) Staff should form accountability groups, by gender, and meet every two weeks. 


It's not rocket science, but most staffs can't get past the symptoms. 


"Good staff is a most valued asset in a church.  Investing in a consultant to help us be at our best just makes sense.  We just couldn't get there without the help of our Church Doctor, who cleared the fog and gave us focus.  Our output increased more than we could imagine.  And we're all feeling more balanced, more fulfilled."         


          ~John, associate pastor  



SEND North America   


Training young adult Christians in mission and discipleship


A 10-month experience that changes lives. 


Know a 19-to-29-year-old Christian who loves the Lord?  Is looking for direction?  Wants to make a difference?  Connect them with or phone Josh at 800-626-8515.  SEND:  Servants Equipping New Disciples. 


What is God doing through SEND?  Here are some quotes from the SEND team, as they neared completion of their September 2011-June 2012 journey:

  • "It's a crazy thought, thinking about how nine months have gone by with this team.  We have had over 300 teachings!  All the books we have read/received, and, oh yeah, being almost finished with the Bible readings!"
  • "These past nine months have been exciting, exhausting, stressful, but, most of the time, fun."
  • "The love between each of us for one another could only be gained by walking with each other in life for these ten months." 
  • "Before SEND, I felt lost and confused, like so many other young adults today.  But I was lost because I had no idea of who I am or what I am to do with my life....Now, nearing the conclusion of SEND, God has worked on my heart so hard - and now I find myself more open than ever.  He is not just showing me who I am, but who He is.  He is revealing a world of opportunities through Him."
  • "Even through all the struggles of this year, I would not change it for anything.  I encourage you, if you know someone who doesn't know what they want to do in life, do SEND.  God will blow His fresh breath into you." 
  • "It's becoming clear that the training we received was to make us into missionaries.  It worked.  Sharing Christ is what we do.  It's normal; it's who we are."


SEND North America is now accepting applications for the September 2012-June 2013 training season.  SEND is where God transforms young adult Christians.  Whatever they do with the rest of their lives, wherever they live, whatever their careers, whatever their church...they will make impact.  A 10-month commitment, a whole life changed!  



June 2012 UK Immersion Experience: Catch Missional Flu!

June 6-14, 2012


Limit 20  


Each year, we take a group of no more than 20 leaders to see what God is doing in England.  This movement is more caught than taught.  What God is doing there is coming here.  In this "classroom" of the near future for North America, you will be "infected" with the DNA of the most powerful revival movement we have discovered.  It has just started in Canada and is beginning to surface in the U.S.  If you are a front-line leader who has prayed for a move of God in your church, this experience is for you.  "You will never be the same" - from the written evaluation of 111 participants over the last 10 years.

  • Apply now for 2013. 
  • Limit 20.
  • You will be coached by two Church Doctors and one practitioner.  

Complete our online application: 

or e-mail Jason for more information 

Check Out Dr. Hunter's E-books on  
  • The Future Is Now: How God is Moving in the 21st Century (Coming Soon To Amazon)
  • Michael's Story: A Journey of Life (Coming Soon To Amazon) 
Immersion, Toledo, Ohio, October 4-8, 2012

Limit 20


Experience the coming spiritual awakening at one of the flashpoints of where God is moving.

  • Preparatory reading before the event.
  • Briefing by two Church Doctors prior to the immersion experience.
  • Debriefing each day to help you process what God is going.
  • Guidance to develop an Action Plan specific to your church.
  • Participate in "Love Toledo."
  • Witness accountability groups.
  • Experience "white-hot" worship.
  • Learn how to turn your church inside out.
Now Accepting Inquiries for October 2012

E-mail Jason for more information
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One day, Jesus was hanging out at a well.  He was by Himself, the disciples had gone to get food.  A Samaritan woman showed up to get water, and a great conversation began.  You probably know the story - it's classic.  But what about the rest of the story?  It gets almost personal - for you, me, every pastor/leader, and Christian on the planet. 


The disciples show up at the well.  From a short distance, they see Jesus talking to a woman - a major social adventure in out-of-bounds behavior.  The disciples, of course, did not follow the New Testament culture of Matthew 18, or the injunction to "speak the truth in a spirit of love."  Instead, they gossiped and wondered, behind Jesus' back, about this public display of talking to a woman.  It was scandalous!  Obviously, these disciple guys didn't have the New Testament, so...what do they know? 


These disciples - early followers of Jesus and the seeds of the yet-to-be birthed church - saw this woman leave her water jar and head for the village.  This is a big deal.  Water jars are your link to life-giving water.  They are passed down for generations.  You can't just go out and get one at Wal Mart.  So, these guys could have asked Jesus, "What's up with the woman?  Did she have a spiritual experience?  Did you change her life?  Is she going to her village as a missionary?  Is this a Kingdom event?"


Instead, these guys - the Christian Church in embryo form - said, "Jesus, have something to eat."  Oh, yeah:  Jesus changes lives, and the "Church" is focused on a potluck!  Jesus, gently, says, "My 'food' is to do God's will."  The infantile church - the disciples - grumbled among themselves, sounding like a 21st century, church board meeting in Paducah, and said something like, "Someone must have brought Jesus a hamburger" - or something like that.  


Jesus pointed away from the well and said, "Look at the harvest.  It is ripe and ready to be harvested.  Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers into His harvest field."  Some think that Jesus was pointing to an agricultural reality - wheat or something.  I think Jesus was pointing to a crowd of people - maybe even the villagers the Samaritan woman was bringing to meet Jesus.  Jesus was teaching the disciples focus:  always focus on the harvest.  It's called a Harvest Worldview.  What are you looking at?   


Missed Connections

"Hi, honey.  How was your daycare, spring gathering," asked the husband of the worn-out, but exhilarated, daycare director who he also called his wife. 


"It was fantastic!" she explained.  "The church was packed.  Those kids bring their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles - all kinds of people.  I've never seen most of these people in church!" 


"Did the kids sing well?" her husband asked. 


"Oh yeah, all the practices paid off," she continued.  "I've just never seen so many people.  I'm sure that at least half of them don't even go to a church.  I mean, any church.  You could tell, some of them acted like church was a little foreign to them.  What an opportunity!"


"Were our pastors there?" asked the interested husband. 


"You know," she sighed, "it's so disappointing.  Year after year...they're never there.  It's such a great opportunity...lost."  She paused and then added, "You know, they talk about our daycare as an outreach.  They tell our congregation what a great job we do.  I appreciate that, but one...seems to connect the church and the daycare.  Our church hasn't grown in worship for a decade.  We have all these people with a connection to daycare.  You'd think someone would take initiative...."  Her voice trailed off, moving to thoughts about all the missed opportunities. 


The daycare lady gets it.  She understands the Harvest Worldview Jesus was teaching to the disciples in John 4.  Her pastors preach it.  The church has it in a "mission statement."  They just don't practice it.  The end result?  The church does a lot of great ministry - 80% very well.  The daycare is an awesome ministry, but not woven into the fiber of the ministry of the church.  The disconnect leaves a gap of 20%.  It's like the farmer who prepares the field, fertilizes, kills the weeds, plants the hybrid seed, waters, and nurtures the crop...and fails to bring it into the barn!  The church is not growing.  Disciples are not being made.  New people are not becoming believers.  Worship attendance is flat.  The potential rots in the field.  The 20% disconnect = 95% of the missional difference.  This never happens at your church...does it?    


Disconnect Epidemic


The disconnect between cultivating ministries and the harvest endgame of making disciples is everywhere!  It is so common, it is embarrassing to put into print.  Almost everywhere, in just about every church, there are ministries that are performed very well, but have no Kingdom fruit because they are not cultivated toward harvest. 


These ministries include thousands of Vacation Bible Schools, preschools, support groups, boy and girl scout troops, elementary schools, childcare ministries, summer camps, sports programs, soup kitchens, food pantries, clothing banks, after-school tutoring classes, holiday musicals and dramas, music academies, fall festivals - the list goes on!  It is rare to find any of these great ministries being cultivated for making disciples for Jesus Christ.  It is common for the church to boast about these ministries as their "mission" effort.  It is unusual that an occasional non-Christian crosses the bridge from the ministry to the community of Christ, called the church.  It is usual that they do so almost entirely on their own initiative.  It is common that the pastors and leaders talk about their purpose of making disciples.  It is uncommon for these churches to cultivate significant numbers of people who become Christians through these ministries and grow into the community of the Church - or any church, for that matter.  It's like when Jesus said to those who resisted the Kingdom:  "The Kingdom of God has come near you."  What's the deal?  We have built the organization and forgotten the organism.  Don't you know?  It's always about relationships.    

Connecting the Dots

Disciple-making is not institutional or programmatic.  It occurs when a Christian connects with a receptive, potential Christ-follower and relationally models the Christian life.  A church is a community of people who have that relationship with Jesus, and have the potential to relate to another person. 


Discipling is not like running a program or teaching a class.  You can't mass-produce disciples.  You can mass-teach them, but not produce them - as in make disciples.  Providing a Vacation Bible School, daycare, or preschool - any ministry - likely attracts those who are somewhat receptive.  Meeting a need - doing the Great Commandment - is a wonderful way to tangibly demonstrate God's love; and, in the process, it provides a platform for building relationships.  The relationship is the bridge over which the Gospel travels best. 


Making disciples is more like raising children.  To do an effective job, it takes time and a lot of hands-on attention.  You've heard the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child."  Well, it takes a loving parent to raise a child, too.  It takes a sold-out Christian to make a disciple, and a community of disciple-making disciples to disciple many others.  A ministry like a food pantry, daycare, preschool, elementary school, recovery class is a great place to begin that relationship. 


Everyone in the church should understand the Resistance/Receptivity Axis.  This is simply a way of understanding how receptive a person is toward meeting Christ.  It is a known reality that if you are meeting a person's need, they become more receptive.  If they are in crisis or in a process of change (job, house, retirement, new child) they are more receptive.  Anyone can learn this and every disciple-maker should.  (We teach these basics in our Outreach Clinic, and I'm surprised how many long-term Christians find it a completely new idea!) 


It is also helpful to develop a "centered-set" approach to disciple-making.  Some people are "closed set."  If you don't believe everything I do, the way I do, you're on the outside, and I will treat you that way.  "Closed-set" people often believe that the only other way to live life is by being an "open-set" person.  This is a person whose belief system is "anything goes":  it doesn't matter what you believe about God, or any god, you'll be fine.  But the missionary mindset is not "closed set" or "open set."  There is a third alternative.  It is a "centered set" worldview.  Jesus Christ is at the center and anyone who shows receptivity is considered to be on a journey toward that center.  This gives the missionary-oriented person (read "the disciple-maker") a freedom of grace.  It gives the disciple-maker a posture that is non-judgmental toward people who have aberrant ideas or behavior.  The "centered-set" missionary recognizes that the potential Christ-follower is at a different place on the journey.  That grace allows them to work with a person who is not yet a "polished Christian" (is there such a person?).  This also provides the missionary attitude expressed by Paul, a willingness to "become all things to all people, that by any means some might be saved" (1 Corinthians 9:22).  Christianity and disciple-making are seen as a process, not an event.  Again, it's like raising children.  Parents who follow a "closed-set" or "open-set" approach to parenting often struggle to raise balanced children.  It's the same way with raising the children of God, making disciples.   


The Formula  


Missionaries are taught a formula that is useful for making disciples and working toward "the harvest," where Jesus calls us to work, making disciples.  The formula begins with 1-P.  1-P stands for "presence."  This is the Great Commandment.  To love and care for people is simply part of what it means to be a Christian.  It is authentic Christianity.  But it's only the beginning of missionary work, and the mission formula.  1-P ("providing a cup of cold water," "being the hands and feet of Christ," "loving your neighbor as yourself") is a wonderful way to develop genuine relationships.  It opens the door for 2-P. 


2-P stands for "proclamation."  When a person is receptive - when the time is right (harvesting a crop is always about timing) - disciple-making calls us to tell the story.  It's called witnessing, and it works best when we tell how God has worked in our own lives in the context of a genuine relationship.  Most ministries of churches do this fairly well, especially Vacation Bible School, preschool, daycare, and sports programs like Upward Basketball (though I wish more Christians would follow the guidelines that Upward provides).  2-P is a natural setting to start the discipline of follow up and developing a relationship of discipling.  This leads to the 3-P part of the formula. 


3-P is "persuasion," the long, hard, wonderful task similar to raising children.  It's relational modeling of all the aspects of the Christian life and all the wisdom and depth of biblical teaching.  It is reproductive - like having children:  you multiply yourself - as a Christian.  This is the 20% that is missing in most churches.  This is what changes 95% of the disciple-making of a church.  Again, it is one-on-one ministry with another person.  Disciples cannot be mass-produced.  It takes an army to raise an army.  But when it happens, over time, a momentum begins.  It changes a church from an institution to a movement.  Don't you think that's the way Christianity is supposed to be?


The formula is this:  1-P +2-P + 3-P = making disciples.  If you aren't willing to pursue this, then shut down that daycare.  Close that preschool.  Let someone else do the food pantry - someone who will help people eternally and feed their stomachs at the same time.


It's a long process to change the culture of a church to make disciples, not just talk about it.  It requires that leaders model it.  It takes time to learn the Harvest Worldview, but it can happen.  The disciples got it.  The New Testament Church got it - then lost least for most churches. 


Do you have some of these ministries at your church?  Are you playing church, or being church?  Are you playing around the edges, or serious about the harvest?  Are you fooling around, or raising children for the Kingdom family?  Does this challenge you?

Ten Ways to Get the 

Most Benefit From Ministries


  1. Physically, mentally, and strategically connect every ministry closely to your church, the Body of Christ. 
  2. Train workers in each ministry the Harvest Worldview.
  3. Monitor results gracefully:  not as pressure, but to instill the biblical priority that people become disciples of Jesus. 
  4. Begin with the end in mind:  be loving enough to politely ask if those you are serving practice Christianity.  Ask them if they participate in a church.  Ask for the name of their pastor/priest/rabbi/ imam/spiritual leader. 
  5. Whatever your ministry does, teach the workers in that ministry that the relationships they develop are really the most important dimension of ministry. 
  6. Invest in your workers by equipping them to identify receptive people with whom they make contact in the ministry.  Use the Resistance / Receptivity Axis to profile where people are in their journey toward Christ. 
  7. Train and empower the workers to share their "God stories." 
  8. Guide workers to live out of the centered-set mentality.  Help them to understand themselves as missionaries. 
  9. Develop workers who know and practice the 1-P + 2-P +3-P = making disciples formula. 
  10. Help workers to know the high-end value of connecting receptive Christ inquirers to highly-visible Christians in your church:  especially the pastor(s), staff, leaders, and influencers who are seasoned Christians, who are equipped and empowered in the one-on-one fine art of discipling another person.
Ferguson, Gordon.   Discipling: God's Plan to Train and Transform His People.  Spring Hill, TN: DPI, 1997.   
Herndon, Dr. David. The Quest: Changing a Church's Culture From Missions-minded to Missions-active.  Charleston, SC: CreateSpace, 2011. 

 Hunter, Kent R.   Equipped to Serve: Jesus' School of Discipleship.  Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 2001.  (Audio resource.)


Hunter, Kent R.   Foundations for Church Growth. Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 1994. 


Hunter, Kent R.   How to Design and Develop Fellowship Groups.  Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 1994.  (Audio resource.)  


Hunter, Kent R.   Your Church Has Doors: How to Open the Front and Close the Back.  Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 1982. 


Hunter, Kent R.   Your Church Has Personality: Find Your Focus-Maximize Your Mission.  Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 1997. 


Kuhne, Dr. Gary W.   Follow-Up Dynamics: A Handbook For The Personal Follow-Up Of New Christians.  North East, PA: Ministry Dynamics Press, 1999. 


Lawless, Chuck.   Membership Matters: Insights from Effective Churches on New Member Classes and Assimilation.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. 

McIntosh, Gary L. and Glen Martin.   Finding Them, Keeping Them: Effective Strategies for Evangelism and Assimilation in the Local Church.  Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 1991.


Purvis, John and Ron and Mary Bennet.   The Adventure of Discipling Others: Training in the Art of Disciplemaking (Redefining Life).  Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003.     

Rosenberger, Dale. Outreach and Mission for Vital Congregations (Congregational Vitality).  Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim Press, 2007. 

Searcy, Nelson and Jennifer Henson.   Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church.  Ventura, CA: Regal, 2008.

Wilkins, Scott G.   Reach: A Team Approach to Evangelism and Assimilation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005.