Transforming Congregations Through the Matthew 28 Initiative

A few years ago, our conference worked with Paul Borden to develop the Matthew 28 Initiative. This initiative is “a strategy for transforming congregations to greater fruitfulness in making disciples of Jesus Christ.”

This is the third year of Matthew 28 in our conference. As I understand it, there are approximately 45 churches in the initiative, including the nine that began this year. Centre Grove applied to enter the initiative last January, and is currently in the process. In fact, we are now entering the most critical stage of the Matthew 28 process!

There are three major components of the Matthew 28 process. First, pastors participate in a mentoring group for one year (my group started in January). We read a book, meet and discuss it, and conclude the day with a time of spiritual formation (the formational time is led by a different pastor in the group each month).

Second, a consultation takes place at each church. Centre Grove’s consultation starts tomorrow and concludes Sunday morning (we submitted a congregational self-study report a month ago). The team (made up of the district superintendent, a consultant, and a coach) will spend all day Friday conducting various interviews (with me, several leaders, and a focus group of about 20-30 people). On Saturday, the consultant will teach a workshop, then the team will spend Saturday evening writing prescriptions. The consultant will preach Sunday morning. After the sermon, the consultant will present the team’s report, including a list of prescriptions.

The prescriptions are intended to help us be more fruitful in our mission of making disciples. Each task comes with a deadline, all to be completed within the next year.

The church will have a month to consider the prescriptions before voting on them in a special church conference. If the church votes to accept the prescriptions, we will work with the coach for one year. The coach will guide us and help us stay on track. A coaching relationship is the third component of the Matthew 28 initiative.

Personally, I believe the real benefits of the initiative are not necessarily the prescriptions (whatever they are) as much as the accountability we will have with the coach and also the energy and intensity of trying to accomplish so much in the next year.

I am excited about this process. After spending two years leading Centre Grove through an engagement of Bishop Schnase’s Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, we felt Matthew 28 was the next faithful step. This weekend, and more importantly next month’s church vote, will determine our course of action for some time to come (either in working on the prescriptions or in regrouping!).

As we enter into the heart of the Matthew 28 process this weekend, my hope is that this experience will be energizing, inspiring, and challenging for all of us. It should force us to seek God. It may cause us to wrestle with what it means to be the church!

It should be fun!

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Randy Willis


Follower of Jesus. Husband to Joleen. Dad to Ethan & Sarah. Pastor to Wehnwood UMC.

3 thoughts on “Transforming Congregations Through the Matthew 28 Initiative”

  1. Great Overview; Thank You! I am a member of the Leadership Team in a small rural United Methodist Church in NE Pennsylvania. Once final approval is granted, we will be starting the Matthew 28 Initiative in 2012.

    I have had very little luck in finding any material related to the Matthew 28 Initiative. I have purchased Paul D. Borden’s “Direct Hit” from as I am advised that this bokk plays a large part in the basis of the “Matthew 28 Initiative.”

    By chance, do you have any recommendations/materials that would help me “quench my thirst?”

    “In Christ”

    • Garry, thanks for the comment. Outside of the brochure and/or DVD that you’ve probably already seen, there isn’t much other material.

      Pastors participate in a year-long monthly mentoring group where they read at least one book a month and discuss it. My wife is starting in the next group (which starts this month) and her list of books is significantly different from the current list, so it’s hard to say what might be on next year’s list.

      I will mention Bob Farr’s new book as a major resource: Renovate or Die (it’s the first book on the new list of books pastors will read). Farr is a United Methodist leader from Missouri and is likely to be a significant resource going forward. Farr led a workshop for Matthew 28 churches last April (there’s an annual Matthew 28 all-day workshop for all churches in Matthew 28).

      By the way, I like that Farr is from Bishop Schnase’s conference, since my congregation has spent significant time engaging Bishop Schnase’s “Five Practices.” Nice to know they’re a good fit.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Mt 28:18-20 has absolutely nothing to do with any physical water baptism; it is all about being baptized INTO AND WITH THE NAME THAT IS THE WORD OF GOD. It is all about true Christians being sent by the real Lord Jesus Christ with His Word, teaching everyone to obey what the real Lord Jesus Christ tells us to teach. When true Christians declare the Word of God through God’s Power, then rivers of Living Water are flowing through us. When those who listen repent and believe in the Righteousness from God that is revealed in the Gospel, the Righteousness we were all commanded to seek first and expected to find with God’s Help, then God changes the spiritual Living Water into the spiritual Wine. This is when repentant believers are justified in the Holy Blood of the New Covenant and only then will God pour His Love into the repentant believer’s heart through His Holy Spirit. To believe that Mt 28:18-20 is about any dead work of the flesh, which are all enmity/hostility against God, is blasphemy against His Holy Spirit. God’s Words are Spirit and are Life. His Name is called THE WORD OF GOD! Everyone, who calls upon the Name of the Lord will be saved. There are three that testify the Name: the Water/Living Water/Pure Water/Water of Life; the Holy Blood; God’s Spirit of Charitos. Woe to those of you who preach and teach false gospels and those of you who follow them. Woe to everyone who dies believing in the wrong baptism because blasphemy against God’s one and only Holy Spirit Baptism will never be forgiven.


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