Growing People Beyond the Baptistry

One of the most exciting moments within the life of a church is when someone comes to know Jesus Christ as Savior. We celebrate having new believers in our churches, but are we leading them to become lifelong disciples of Jesus?

Are we helping them continue through the transformation process or are we leaving them in convert mode?

Conversion is not the end. It is the glorious beginning.

We have become masters at getting “decisions.” Conversion is a powerful event in the life of the believer. It is a great moment. But it isn’t the end of the game. Converting those decisions into disciples must be part of the church’s purpose.

Sometimes we put such an emphasis on that moment, we make people think that is all we are after. The not-so-funny joke is that some people are willing to receive Christ just so the pastor will leave them alone. Our goal is often for conversions. But God’s goal is for transformation, which really just begins at conversion.

Paul remarks in his letter to the Philippians (1:6), “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Conversion is central to the beginning of new life, being relocated (spiritually) to another kingdom. Colossians 1:13 tells us that we are “transferred through the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the Son He loves.”

They have been born again, Jesus says in John 3. So there is now a spiritual life present now that was not present before. The Spirit of God dwells in them. They have new life. They are a new creation in Christ even as Christ in them is the “hope of glory.” But that event is not the end. It is a taste of the ongoing transformation that will come.

Spiritual growth should always follow spiritual birth.

How do we follow up for spiritual growth?

It’s a really bad idea to give birth to a baby and leave them on their own. We call that abandonment. People go to jail for that—and rightfully so. But I think sometimes we do that in church.

I call people to trust and respond to Christ every week in our church service. We ask them to share that decision through a card. Others use an altar call where new believers are connected with an established believer.

Whatever you use, it is at this point the process of partnership in spiritual growth is now stewarded to you and your church. We need to prioritize the discipling of anyone who has trusted Christ in our church.

When a church I helped start had ten people, I would meet with that person the same week. Now that our church has grown, I am not necessarily the person who meets with that new believer (unless they are in my neighborhood).

But in that context we grew to where we had dozens of groups that became the “under shepherds,” leading people into the spiritual growth process. Those groups were made of small group leaders—lay pastors in a sense—who were empowered to do the disciple making.

It is essential that someone connects with a new believer. As a matter of fact, I would say that there is no more important person in the life of the church, my church and yours, than the person who has just called upon the name of King Jesus for Salvation.

Spiritual mentoring creates a pathway to stabilization

Why is it so important to connect a new convert with someone who will walk through the spiritual growth process? More often than not people respond to Christ because they are in a life crisis, not just because they wake up feeling the need to be closer to Christ.

Adults who become Christians usually do so because of a challenging situation of some sort, and that means they probably need some help, and often need it fast.

A person who responds to Christ in a crisis then needs three types of stabilization, as I first heard from my friend Dan Morgan. And a journey companion can help with each of these.

Personal Stabilization – Most of the adults who I see trust Christ are doing so as their marriage is in trouble, or they’ve just had a drunk driving incident or whatever it may be. They need personal stabilization. Their personal life is spinning out of control. They are facing and making some crazy decisions. Becoming personally stable is part of what happens during spiritual transformation. So we have people in our church who can help with that.

Relational Stabilization – Now that they’ve become a believer they’re probably leaving behind some things and certain people behind who aren’t on board with their new life. These are usually people with whom they used to get into trouble, and some who helped them into the crisis God used to reach them. Losing friends and family can sometimes be part of following Jesus—not because that is our desire, but sometimes because the old friends aren’t too keen about that new life. But, either way, it isn’t easy. So they need people who can help with relational stabilization.

Doctrinal Stabilization – The unregenerated person does not think properly about God, life, truth, etc. So part of the discipleship process is renewal of our mind. We know “all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) So the convert will definitely need to exchange their belief system for God’s truth. However, most follow up only focuses on doctrinal stabilization.

Yes, let’s teach them what they need to know, but there may be some other stabilization that needs to take place first. Eventually good doctrine will help sustain them through crisis. But in a crisis, a whole new set of truths is not the only thing that is needed.

Spiritual mentoring is follow-up that encourages following.

This piece won’t answer every question, but I mainly want to remind us all that we need to immediately help people grow—and to do so through a process.

Every church needs a pathway which will provide direction for their discipleship plan, and also show how they grow together as a church. So we want them to travel on the pathway—maybe through classes, intentional relationships, a workbook, and more. But particularly when they’re older we want to recognize there’s probably a lot of instability we need to engage.

Part of that process has to involve people. The best thing you can offer a new believer is an older believer. It doesn’t have to be someone older in age, but rather someone who has been walking with Jesus for a longer period of time and experienced ongoing life-transformation themselves.

> Read more from Ed.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Why Minding Community is Better than Finding It

One of the great myths of relational life is that community is something found. In this fairy tale, community is simply out there – somewhere – waiting to be discovered like Prince Charming finding Cinderella. All you have to do is find the right person, join the right group, get the right job or become involved with the right church. It’s kind of an “Over the Rainbow” thing; it’s not here, so it must be over there.

Which is why so many people – and you’ve seen them and probably flirted with this yourself – go from relationship to relationship, city to city, job to job, church to church, looking for the community that they think is just around the corner if they could only find the right people and the right place. The idea is that real community exists somewhere and we simply must tap into it. It’s not something you have to work at; in fact, if you have to work at it, then you know it’s not real community.

This mindset runs rampant in our day. If you have to work at community in a marriage, you must not be right for each other. If you have to work on community where you are employed, you’ve got a bad boss or bad coworkers or a bad structure. If you have to work at community in a neighborhood, you just picked the wrong subdivision. If you have to work on things with people in a church, well, there are obviously just problems with the church or its leadership or… yep, its “community.”

I cannot stress enough how soundly unrealistic, much less unbiblical, this is. Community is not something you find; it’s something you build. What you long for isn’t about finding the right mate, the right job, the right neighborhood, the right church—it’s about making your marriage, making your workplace, making your neighborhood and making your church the community God intended. Community is not something discovered; it is something forged. I don’t mean to suggest any and all relationships are designed for, say, marriage. Or that there aren’t dysfunctional communities you should flee from. My point is that all relationships of worth are products of labor.

This is why the Bible talks about people needing to form and make communities, not just come together as a community or “experience” community. It’s why principles are given – at length – for how to work through conflict. It’s why communication skills are articulated in the Bible and issues such as anger are instructed to be dealt with. It’s why the dynamics of successfully living with someone in the context of a marriage or family are explored in depth. As the author of Hebrews puts it so plainly:

So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet… run for it! Work at getting along with each other. (Hebrews 12:12-14, The Message)

> Read more from James.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Developing the Mature Mind of Christ

God wants you to grow up.

“God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love – like Christ in everything” (Ephesians 4:15 The Message).

“We are not meant to remain as children ….” (Ephesians 4:14 Phillips).

Your heavenly Father’s goal is for you to mature and develop the characteristics of Jesus Christ, living a life of love and humble service.  Sadly, millions of Christians grow older but never grow up.  They are stuck in perpetual spiritual infancy, remaining in diapers and booties. The reason is because they never intended to grow.

Spiritual growth is not automatic. It takes an intentional commitment. You must want to grow, decide to grow, make an effort to grow, and persist in growing.

Discipleship – the process of becoming like Christ – always begins with a decision.

“As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him” (Matthew 9:9 ESV).

When the first disciples chose to follow Jesus, they didn’t understand all the implications of their decision. They simply responded to Jesus’ invitation. That’s all you need to get started: decide to become a disciple.

Nothing shapes your life more than the commitments you choose to make. Your commitments can develop you or they can destroy you, but either way, they will define you. Tell me what you are committed to, and I’ll tell you what you’ll be in 20 years. We become whatever we are committed to.

It is at this point of commitment that most people miss God’s purpose for their lives.  Many are afraid to commit to anything and just drift through life. Others make half-hearted commitments to competing values, which leads to frustration and mediocrity. Others make a full commitment to worldly goals, such as becoming wealthy or famous, and end up disappointed and bitter. Every choice has eternal consequences, so you’d better choose wisely.

“Since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives you should be living!” (2 Peter 3:11 NLT).

Christlikeness comes from making Christlike commitments. You must commit to living the rest of your life for the five purposes God made. Jesus summarized these purposes in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

A great commitment
to the Great Commandment
and the Great Commission
will make you a great Christian.

Once you decide to get serious about becoming like Christ, you must begin to act in new ways. You’ll need to let go of some old routines, develop some new habits, and intentionally change the way you think.

“Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12 NIV).

This verse shows the two parts of spiritual growth: “work out” and “work in.”  The “work out” is your responsibility and the “work in” is God’s role.  Spiritual growth is a collaborative effort between you and the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit works with us, not just in us.

This verse, written to believers, is not about how to be saved, but how to grow. It does not say “work for” your salvation, because you can’t add anything to what Jesus already did! During a physical workout, you exercise to develop your body, not to get a body.

When you “work out” a puzzle, you already have all the pieces – your task is to put it together. Farmers work the land, not to get land, but to develop what they already have. God has given you a new life; now you are responsible to develop it “with fear and trembling.” That is to take your spiritual growth seriously, because it will determine your role in eternity. When people are casual about their growth in Christlikeness, it shows they don’t understand the implications.

To change your life, you must change the way you think. Behind everything you do is a thought. Every behavior is motivated by a belief, and every action is prompted by an attitude. God revealed this thousands of years before psychologists understood it:

“Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts” (Proverbs 4:23 GNT).

Imagine riding in a speedboat on a lake with an automatic pilot set to go east. If you decide to reverse and head west, you have two possible ways to change the boat’s direction.  One way is to grab the steering wheel and physically force it to head in the opposite direction that the autopilot is programmed to go. By sheer willpower, you could overcome the autopilot, but you’d feel constant resistance. Your arms would eventually tire of the stress, you’d let go of the steering wheel, and the boat would instantly head back east, the way it was internally programmed.

This is what happens when you try to change your life with willpower: You say “I’ll force myself to eat less. . .stop smoking. . .quit being disorganized and late.” Yes, willpower can produce short-term change, but it creates constant internal stress because you haven’t dealt with the root cause. The change doesn’t feel natural.

Eventually you give up, and go off the diet. There is a better and easier way: Change your autopilot – the way you think.

“Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Romans 12:2 NLT).

Your first step in spiritual growth is to start changing the way you think. Change always starts first in your mind. The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel influences the way you act.

“Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes” (Ephesians 4:23 NLT).

To be like Christ you must develop the mind of Christ. The New Testament calls this mental shift “repentance,” which in Greek literally means “to change your mind.” To repent means to change the way you think – about God, yourself, sin, other people, life, your future, and everything else. You adopt Christ’s outlook and perspective on life.

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5 NIV). 

There are two parts to thinking like Jesus. The first half of this mental shift is to stop thinking immature thoughts, which are self-centered and self-seeking.  Babies, by nature, are completely selfish. They think only of themselves. That is immature thinking.

“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things” (Romans 8:5 NLT).

“Stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults” (1 Corinthians 14:20 NIV).

The second half of thinking like Jesus is to start thinking maturely, which focuses on others, not yourself. In his great chapter on what real love is, Paul concluded that thinking of others is the mark of maturity: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11 NIV).

Today, many assume that spiritual maturity is measured by how much biblical knowledge and doctrine you know. While knowledge is one measurement of maturity, it isn’t the whole story. The Christian life is far more than creeds and convictions; it includes conduct and character. Our deeds must be consistent with our creeds and our beliefs must be backed up with Christlike behavior.

Christianity is not a philosophy, but a relationship and a life, where we practice thinking of others as Jesus did:

“We should think of their good and try to help them by doing what pleases them” (Romans 15:2 CEV).

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Philippians 2:3-4 NLT).

Thinking of others is the heart of Christlikeness and the goal of spiritual growth.  This kind of thinking is unnatural, countercultural, and rare. The only way we will learn to think this way is by filling our minds with the Word of God.

> Read more from Rick.


 

Connect with an Auxano Navigator to learn more about developing a discipleship process.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Disciplemaking Leaders: Live Out the Five Relationships of a Disciplemaker

Discipleship is a process that begins after conversion and continues throughout a believer’s life. Discipleship calls for our undivided attention and commitment to follow the commands of our Lord. Discipleship is not an option for any church or believer. Christ mandated it in the Great Commission. To disciple others is to obey our Lord’s command; to do otherwise is to disobey Him.

It becomes easy for every church’s disciple-making mission to get cluttered with lots of things to do. And most church leaders are very good at doing things. As a result, administration of programs replaces actual disciple making practices. As you look ahead to the next year, slow down and refresh your conviction for disciplemaking by looking to the Master himself.

How does a Jesus-centric disciplemaking conviction rescue you from a “program management” culture? Have you resigned to herding people through classes and events? Are you relying too much on better preaching? Or do you have a robust, disciple-making strategy built around life-on-life investment, like Jesus?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Discipleship That Fits by Bobby Harrington and Alex Absalom

For far too long, the church has tried to make disciples using a one-size-fits-all approach. Some churches advocate 1-on-1 discipling, others try getting everyone into a small group, while still others training through mission trips or service projects. Yet others focus all their efforts on attracting people to a large group gathering to hear biblical teaching and preaching. But does one size really fit everyone?

Based on careful biblical study and years of experience making disciples in the local church, Bobby Harrington and Alex Absalom have identified five key relationships where discipleship happens in our lives. In each relational context we need to understand how discipleship occurs and we need to set appropriate expectations for each context.

Discipleship That Fits shows you the five key ways discipleship occurs. It looks at how Jesus made disciples and how disciples were formed in the early church. Each of the contexts is necessary at different times and in different ways as a person grows toward maturity in Christ.

Filled with examples and stories, the authors show you how to develop discipleship practices in each relational context by sharing how Jesus did it, how the early church practiced it, and how churches are discipling people today.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The concept of individualism in American culture has at times approached the level of idolatry, and even influenced the way we think about discipleship. After all, we can learn and grow all by ourselves, right?

The truth is Christians need relationships to grow. We don’t grow in isolation; we develop in the context of relationships with others.

Another truth is that we tend to live isolated lives. While that seems almost laughable in today’s hyper-connected society with some type of screen constantly in our faces, the sad reality is we often don’t know how to relate to people.

So how can we develop relationships that make a difference in our disciplemaking?

In the 1960s, sociologist Edward T. Hall introduced his groundbreaking studies that provided a foundation for developing relationships in the various “spaces” of our lives: public, social, personal, and intimate.

Authors Bobby Harrington and Alex Absalom develop the thought of these four spaces as the context for developing relationships that God uses to help us grow.

God disciples us in many contexts, shaping and molding hearts, minds, and lives – and calling us to imitate his example with those we lead.

The Public Context exists where people gather in the hundreds around a shared outside resource. If the resource is physically present, people will generally be at least 12 feet away from it (think of your distance from the stage if you go see a play or concert). In the environment the focus is on engaging with the outside resource, rather than building relational depth with others who also happen to be there.

The Social Context is the range between twenty and seventy people, where we share snapshots of who we are and thereby seek to build affinity with others. In this context (think of a backyard cookout) three things happen: we build neighborly relations, we start to identify those with whom we’d like to become closer friend, and we reveal elements of our identity and our journey. In terms of proximity, we will be somewhere between 4 and 12 feet apart.

The Personal Context forms in groups of four to twelve, where we feel able to share private information. Think, for instance, of good friends talking over drinks, revealing personal thoughts and feelings about their ongoing lives and relationships. Usually we are 18 inches to 4 feet apart in this context, which is both within comfortable touching distance and close enough to see the other persons as they truly are – warts, wrinkles, and all! Such acceptance and physical closeness are representative of the emotional qualities of a relationship in this context, where we experience a genuine depth of friendship.

The Transparent Context is when you are with just one or two others, making a group of two to four people, your closes to relationships. In this context, characterized by complete openness and candor, nothing is held back. This echoes the biblical idea of being “naked and yet unashamed” – an ideal we live out literally in marriage and metaphorically with our best friends. You are 0 to 18 inches apart in the closes moments of these relationships, noting that at such proximity the other person’s flaws seem to fade away (since your eyes can’t focus on them). This blurring of flaws is a wonderful metaphor for what is going on relationally at these safest depths of human engagement.

The Divine Context represents God’s direct interactions with us, his people, at a one-on-one level. Our focus shifts from cultivating relationship with others to being alone with our Creator and Redeemer as he encounters us in our inner world. We delude ourselves if we believe there can be any barriers in this place; indeed, we come face-to-face with our true selves, as reflected in the loving eyes of our heavenly Father. This communion with God in turn equips us to engage more fruitfully in each of the other four contexts.

Bobby Harrington and Alex Absalom, Discipleship That Fits

A NEXT STEP

Using the table below, conduct a personal study of Jesus and the five different contexts as outlined above.

After completing this study, reflect on what you have learned about the five different types of relationships, how you have grown closer to God because of them, and how you will be better able to disciple others in his name.

What next step is God calling you to take as a result?

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 77-2, released October 2017.


 

This is part of a weekly series posting excerpts from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix book excerpts for church leaders.

SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; each solution is taken from a different book. Additionally, a practical action step is included with each solution.

As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS Remix provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

> > Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Critical Importance of Leadership Development in Discipleship

“Your church is designed to lead, designed to disciple leaders who are, by God’s grace, commanded to disciple people in all spheres of life.”

That sentence is near the beginning of Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck’s excellent book on leadership development in the local church. This is the kind of book that pastors and church leaders will use and discuss for many years because it provides an important framework for considering these issues: Convictions, Culture, and Constructs.  I wanted to introduce this book to you by reiterating the importance of keeping discipleship and leadership together.


3 REASONS WE MUST NEVER DIVORCE LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT FROM DISCIPLESHIP

by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck

Consumption is focused on the masses and for the short-term payoff. Discipleship is focused on the person for the long run, for fruit that will last.

Churches will drift without a consistent and constant conviction for discipleship, to disciple people and develop leaders. We must not settle for consumption. Though much more challenging and difficult, we must insist on discipleship. And we must view leadership development as part of discipleship, not as distinct or divorced from it. Here is why:

1. Discipleship is the only means.

God has designed the end and the means. The end is people from every tribe, tongue, and nation gathered around the throne worshipping Him because they were purchased with the blood of Christ (Rev. 5:9-10). Regardless of what happens this week, what unfolds in the news, the ending has already been made clear: God is redeeming for Himself a people from all peoples.

The end was made clear in the beginning. God preached the gospel to Abraham saying, “All the nations will be blessed through you” (Gal. 3:8). God told Abraham that people from every nation would have God’s righteousness credited to them. At the beginning of the Bible, we find that God is going to pursue all peoples through His chosen people, Israel. At the end of the Bible, we find that God has gathered worshippers from every people group.

In the middle of the Bible is the means, the command Jesus gave us: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). We live in the middle. The means to the glorious end is not leadership development apart from Jesus. The means is not leadership development divorced from discipleship. The means is discipleship. He has commanded us to make disciples of all nations, disciples who will obey everything He commanded.

2. Discipleship impacts all of life.

As Christ is more fully formed in people, the totality of their lives is impacted. Those who are overwhelmed with how Christ has served them will serve others. Those in awe of God’s generosity will be generous. Those who are captivated by God’s mission to rescue and redeem join Him in pursuing people who are far from God. Their serving, generosity, and sense of mission impacts their relationships, their approach to their careers, and their view of life. Their growth as a disciple shapes how they lead at home, in their profession, and through all of life.

Discipleship is the only way to produce leaders that serve and bless the world. If leaders are created apart from Jesus-focused discipleship, they are created without grace-motivated service, generosity, and mission.

To view discipleship as distinct from leadership development is to propose that discipleship does not impact all of one’s life. If a church approaches leadership development as distinct from discipleship, the church unintentionally communicates a false dichotomy—that one’s leadership can be divorced form one’s faith. Being a Christian leader must not be positioned as disconnected from living a godly life in Christ Jesus.

3. Leadership development apart from discipleship becomes overly skill-based.

If leaders are developed apart from Jesus, the emphasis is inevitably on skills and not the heart transformed through Christ. Divorcing leadership development from discipleship can leave people more skilled and less sanctified. And when competency and skill outpace character, leaders are set up for a fall. We don’t serve people well if we teach them how to lead without teaching them how to follow Him. We don’t serve leaders well if we develop their skills without shepherding their character.

It is difficult to say this humbly, but maturing Christ-followers make better leaders. Even authors not writing from a distinctly Christian worldview articulate this truth without realizing it. For example, in his popular books Emotional Intelligence and Primal Leadership, researcher and author Daniel Goleman builds the case that the most effective leaders are emotionally intelligent. More than a high IQ (intelligence quotient), great leaders have a high EQ (emotional quotient), and are able to create environments and cultures that are highly effective. Effective leaders, Goleman contends, have the ability to manage their emotions, genuinely connect with people, offer kindness and empathy, lead with joy and inspiration, and display the master skill of patience. Sounds a lot like the fruit of the Spirit in the life of a believer (Gal. 5:22-23).

Yet all pushes for integrity and all the instructions on character development from leadership gurus won’t transform a leader’s heart. Inevitably after these authors reveal their findings that “character matters,” their challenges and their writings quickly degenerate into futile attempts to change our own hearts. We can’t change our own hearts. We can’t pep-talk ourselves into transformation. Only Jesus can transform our character. We must develop leaders who are consistently led and fed by Him before they attempt to lead and feed others.

Leadership development apart from being a disciple of Jesus always results in skills apart from character, in performance apart from transformation.

For more information, check out Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck’s Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development.


Talk with an Auxano Navigator about the leadership-discipleship connection.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trevin Wax

Trevin Wax

My name is Trevin Wax. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My wife is Corina, and we have two children: Timothy (7) and Julia (3). Currently, I serve the church by working at LifeWay Christian Resources as managing editor of The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered small group curriculum for all ages that focuses on the grand narrative of Scripture. I have been blogging regularly at Kingdom People since October 2006. I frequently contribute articles to other publications, such as Christianity Today. I also enjoy traveling and speaking at different churches and conferences. My first book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals, was published by Crossway Books in January 2010. (Click here for excerpts and more information.) My second book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope(Moody Publishers) was released in April 2011.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Are We Really “Churching” As Jesus Described It?

Is Being an Externally Focused Church enough? Are We Doing What Jesus Said Matters Most?

Almost a decade into our church journey of being externally focused, the city of Longmont called me (Brian). They had a problem with one of the residents. The grass in her yard was five feet tall. They had sent the homeowner several letters asking her to take care of her yard, but to no avail. The city was at the point where they were going to have to send out city workers to take care of the yard. They didn’t want to do this and didn’t want to charge the homeowner, because it was going to be very expensive. So, in a last-ditch effort, they called LifeBridge. It is not uncommon for calls like this to come into our church from the city, the local schools, or other agencies. For years we had been getting into the stream of our community to serve. The city employee asked if we would take care of the woman’s yard for her. I said I would look at the situation and get back to her.

As I was driving up, I spotted the house from blocks away. They weren’t exaggerating. The grass was almost as tall as I. I knocked on the door and a woman in her young thirties answered. Standing next to her was a little girl. I learned that this woman had recently survived stage-four cancer, and she was taking care of the nine-year-old girl, who was in foster care. This woman was tearful and embarrassed about her yard, but she said her health prevented her from trying to take care of it.

My heart broke for her, and I was happy that our church was going to help her. I gathered a dozen people and they brought their own equipment. A few hours later we had the yard looking almost as good as new. We came back the next week to put down some mulch. We prayed for the homeowner, and we felt great about what we had done. I was proud of our people, and I was glad the city knew they could call us and count on us to take care of it. It was fun to pat ourselves on the back. Over the next year, I called the woman a couple of times to see how she was doing. After the second call, while I was silently congratulating myself, the Holy Spirit said: “This is nothing to be proud of. This should never have even happened.”

I immediately knew the full meaning of this gentle rebuke by God. The woman’s grass should never have grown more than six inches tall. I started thinking how I would’ve done things differently if I’d received that phone call today. Each time I reviewed it, I made a little more progress. First, I wouldn’t just ask a dozen random people from our church. Instead, I would look to see who lived near her. We have several families within a couple blocks of her house. I would’ve called them and asked them to help me help their neighbor. Then I thought I would go even one better. I would ask them to help me, but I would also ask them to knock on their neighbors’ doors, no matter if they were Christian or not, and invite them to join them in helping this woman.

Truth is, if we, as a church, had done a better job of helping our people learn to love their neighbors, then I never would’ve even received a phone call from the city in the first place. At the very least, when her grass started to get a little too tall, somebody would’ve gone over and checked on her to see what was going on, and then they would’ve stepped in and started helping. Even better, what if the grass never grew more than an inch too tall because neighbors knew one another and knew the moment their neighbor was diagnosed with cancer? They would’ve stepped into action, taking care of her, praying for her, bringing her food, visiting her in the hospital, taking care of her yard, and helping to support her foster daughter.

For years our church was serving the community, but were we loving our neighbors? Were we doing the things Jesus said mattered most? Were we loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves? Her neighbors didn’t know she was sick. The best they knew to do was to call the city and complain about her yard. They had failed at loving their neighbor as themselves. The more our leadership at LifeBridge thought, discussed, and dreamed about this, we realized this relational way of doing ministry proved that good neighbors are better than a good program. Having an external focus and serving our community was very good and now we needed to imbed the value of loving our literal neighbors into our DNA.

Read more from Brian.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Mavis

Brian Mavis

Brian Mavis is the President of America’s Kids Belong and former Pastor of Community Transformation at LifeBridge Christian Church. Brian was the first General Manager of SermonCentral.com from 2000-2005. He has written curriculum for campaigns including Bono’s One Sabbath Campaign, Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, World Vision’s Faith in Action, and The Hole in Our Gospel. Brian and his wife, Julie, have two daughters and reside in Windsor, CO.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

4 Principles of a Multiplying Church

I find myself talking a lot about discipleship these days. It is my passion. A lot of my time revolves around growing in the direction of Jesus and watching others grow. Here are a few threads from my book Guardrails; Six Principles for a Multiplying Church that I explain in more depth here.

Movement thinking is key to discipleship.

Multiplication runs on a different operating system from addition. I often experience this as a pastor. At times I am tempted to just “do church” or to do things myself instead of raising up the people God has put in front of me. Movement thinking sets the table for movement living. Co-ministry with God is more about the who than the what.

Unlearning and learning are both essential. 

Here are to things we need to unlearn.

Complexity. Somewhere in the process we’ve bought the lie that discipleship, growing in the way of Jesus, is complex. We’ve mucked it up, clouded it, so others don’t even want to attempt it.

Expert-centricity. We’ve believed and made others believe the more knowledge you have the more transformed you are by God. We simply must unlearn our notion that experts are the most well-positioned to lead people.

Here is one thing we must learn: how to disciple people, real humans. We have great ideas in our heads, but they rarely work in the practice of discipleship. Discipleship isn’t learned in a manual; it’s learned in the context of life. Most leaders in the church have never been discipled. I encourage every leader to be discipled and start discipling another leader.

Programs aren’t “the thing”. 

Somewhere along the way we have come to believe this equation: More programs + More people = More growth.

Programs aren’t evil, but they are incomplete. They can be a catalyst, but never “the thing”. By nature, programs start from the outside edge and try to move inward. I have observed the effects of over-programming in many churches: exhaustion, frustration, discontent.

Transitioning to a discipleship culture requires two things. 

Urgency. Without urgency people and cultures don’t change. This urgency will often drive churches to re-approach their church ready for change. There is a point of pain somewhere (ineffectiveness, fatigue, lack of fruit, etc), but once a group is urgent they are ready to go through the pain of shifting from the comfortable to the different.

Commitment to the often unseen work of discipleship. To press into truly making disciples requires us to resist other things; activities, metrics and patterns, that we are used to. They are easy to measure, and they make us feel like we are succeeding. We move from the easily quantifiable to the practices that are largely “hidden in Christ”. Mustard seeds don’t garner much attention or influence these days.

> Read more from Alan.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alan Briggs

Alan Briggs

Alan Briggs has a ridiculous passion for helping leaders uncover who they are and how they can reach more impact. He founded Stay Forth Designs to equip leaders and teams for health and impact. He is the Director of Frontline Church Planting, a network and equipping hub in Colorado. He is the Multiplying Pastor at Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs where he makes disciples, develops leaders and launches new parishes. His speaking and writing focus on equipping and unlocking the saints for effective ministry inside and outside the family of God. He has written three books; Staying is the New Going (2015) and Guardrails (2016), and Everyone’s a Genius (2017). He and his wife, Julie, have four kids, two adopted and two biological, and are enjoying the process of growing roots. Their family focuses on building bridges to the lost, largely in the context of their neighborhood. He is passionate about equipping leaders and churches to multiply through relational, experiential and formal learning. He loves climbing, camping, grilling and connecting with his neighbors.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

How Discipleship Becomes More than a Class: Embodiment

The story of discipleship in the beginning days of the church was lived out as those early Christians went about their lives – telling family, friends, masters, slaves, soldiers about their new lives in Christ.

In other words, they lived out their faith every day in the relationships they already had with others.

Fast forward to today: Every weekend, untold numbers of Christians leave a church building seeing no connection between their faith and their everyday lives. The next six days between Sundays seem like a spiritual vacuum, with little to no spiritual meaning.

For first-century believers, daily life was intertwined with discipleship. What happened?

Does your church only see discipleship as a class to be taken or a study to attend?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Faithful Presence, by David Fitch

In our quest to renew the church, Christians have walked through seeker-friendly, emergent, missional, and other movements to develop new expressions of the body of Christ. Now in the post-Christian world in North America we’re asking the question again: Is there a way to be the church that engages the world, not by judgment or accommodation but by becoming the good news in our culture?

In Faithful Presence, noted pastor and scholar David Fitch offers a new vision for the witness of the church in the world. He argues that we have lost the intent and practice of the sacramental ways of the historic church, and he recovers seven disciplines that have been with us since the birth of the church. Through numerous examples and stories, he demonstrates how these revolutionary disciplines can help the church take shape in and among our neighborhoods, transform our way of life in the world, and advance the kingdom.

This book will help you re-envision church, what you do in the name of church, and the way you lead a church. It recovers a future for the church that takes us beyond Christendom. Embrace the call to reimagine the church as the living embodiment of Christ, dwelling in and reflecting God’s faithful presence to a world that desperately needs more of it.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

While we are most comfortable in the gatherings of other believers (both large and small) and in the intimate fellowship of our families, living our lives as a disciple does not stop there. Beyond the familiar lies the world at large, full of broken and hurting people. We see them at work every day. We pass by them on the street regularly. We may even be involved in some superficial way in their lives.

God is already present in all these situations, but are we? Do we pay attention to what God is doing in other lives, or do we move on about our own life?

Something amazing can happen in that space – Christ is present, but will he be recognized and received? We have to be present in those places in order to help others in those places recognize his presence.

In these spaces, we must go humbly and vulnerably, giving up all control, listening, waiting, tending to his presence, and letting Jesus work through the space between us and them. This presence is what makes possible any and all proclamation of the gospel.

The pattern throughout the New Testament is a church on the move.

The church gathers in its place of worship to encounter Christ’s presence. But this same church is sent out to extend his presence into our homes, our neighborhoods, and among the marginalized and hurting in the world. The church’s location therefore cannot be seen in terms of in here or out there. It is an entire way of life.

Christ’s presence goes with us into the many places we inhabit with the hurting and broken of the world. Here the Christian goes among the world as a guest. Here the Christian also extends the presence of Christ into the world. We discern Christ’s presence as a guest among the hurting and the wandering. The question is never whether Christ is here or not. Rather it is whether his presence will be welcomed.

There is a danger in thinking about the church as the number that meets only at the Sunday gathering. When we separate what happens our gathering from the rest of life, we inevitably focus on doing the disciplines correctly professionally, and conveniently. We focus on maintaining and rowing the close circle. In the process we get cut off from engaging the surrounding neighborhoods of God’s presence.

Down through the centuries the church has fallen into maintenance mode. It seemingly happens when the church becomes too comfortable in society or when it aligns itself with power. Less concerned with those outside of Christ, the church retreats into itself. More reliant on secular power, it turns to running things efficiently. And when the church likes its power too much and the culture is no longer primarily Christian, the church desperately tries to preserve that power.

David Fitch, Faithful Presence

A NEXT STEP

Every believer, regardless of age or length of time as a Christian, is a unique treasure of God with a story to share. One role of the church is to encourage its believers to step out and comfortably share their spiritual stories with families, friends, acquaintances, and strangers. The best way to accomplish such sharing is in our day-in and day-out conversations and events.

Extravagant communication is rarely as effective as intimate conversation. What may seem like a small story to one can open the sealed heart of another. Transformed believers naturally honor God’s name by expressing biblical examples and insights in everyday living. All things are viewed through the lens of Scripture; our lifestyles are daily opportunities to bear witness that we are the children of God.

Get Personal: Who has been a spiritual role model for your ministry? How does this person’s lifestyle reflect his or her relationship with Jesus? How was this person communicated the story of his or her faith walk with you and others?

Get Connected: Think of five people in your daily walk that you have not taken the chance to develop a relationship with. Over the next month, plan intentional actions that will help you begin to share your story and life with.

Get Going: As you have an opportunity to develop those relationships, keep track of the how the relationship is developing in a journal. Begin your week with a time of prayer and reflection about this person, and how you might continue to develop that relationship in the coming week.

Adapted from Transformational Discipleship, by Barry Sneed and Roy Edgemon

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 61-2, March 2017


 

This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders.

SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; each solution is taken from a different book. Additionally, a practical action step is included with each solution.

As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS Remix provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Four Reasons to Not Give Up on Small Groups

We may attract attenders through preaching, but disciples are made in small groups.

When you’re leading a campaign, like 40 Days of Prayer, or anytime in the future as you lead your congregation toward a deeper relationship with Jesus, you’ll want to explain to your members why small groups are so important to spiritual growth and why they are more than just a Bible study.

Small groups provide the kind of accountability and support we need to mature as believers, so I want to give you four reasons why they are important to your congregation.

1. Small groups are relational.

You can’t have a conversation with 600 people or 60 people, but you can have a conversation with six people. Generally, when there are more than 10 in a group, people stop talking. It is impossible to learn how to love your neighbor as yourself unless you are involved in a small group of some kind. You don’t need a lot of friends in life, but you do need a few good ones, and you find those solid, supportive friendships in small groups.

Sometimes I hear people say they don’t want their church to grow larger because, if it does, they won’t know everybody in the congregation. Based on that mindset, a church shouldn’t grow beyond about 60 people. The average person knows 67 people.

Small groups allow you to know people, regardless of how big the congregation becomes. You don’t have to know everyone in the church as long as you know somebody in the church. If you miss a weekend service, not everyone will know you weren’t there, but your small group will know. Even the largest congregations seem small when your members are in small groups.

2. Small groups are flexible.

Small groups can meet anywhere. They can meet in a library, at a coffee shop, in a park, in an office during lunch, or in a home. The Bible says, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20 NIV).

3. Small groups are expandable.

You will run out of space and money if you try to build enough classrooms for your groups to meet at church. On the other hand, if your small groups are meeting across the community, then you will never run out of space.

We have small groups spread over 100 square miles around Saddleback Church. Don’t let buildings limit the number of small groups you can have. That’s like letting the shoe tell the foot how big it can get. Buildings are just a tool for ministry. Invest in people; they will last forever.

4. Small groups are economical.

When people meet at the church, we pay for the lights, and we pay for the janitors to clean up. But if a family hosts a small group in their home, they don’t expect the church to pay for utilities that night or to send a janitor over to clean up. In fact, they’re usually glad to take care of those things as part of their ministry to others.

Here’s another thing: You bring a guy into the church for a meeting and he might sit there like a bump on a log, but you put him in a home and give him a cup of coffee, and he may talk his head off. Why? Because you’ve put him in an environment that encourages fellowship.

> Read more from Rick.


 

Want to know how your small groups can be more effective in disciplemaking? Connect with an Auxano Navigator today!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

6 Moments to Engage Families in Small Groups

It happened again.

You just made the same small group announcement.
Sure, it happened on a different Sunday, during a different series. However, you just made that same hope-full announcement and received that same life-less response.
All across today’s church, leaders are saying more, yet somehow congregations are hearing less.

Every prop and trick lay used, relegated to a back-of-the-stage pile of ineffective effort. The funny videos made lots of people laugh, but no one dropped their carefully curated “perfect life” façade to live in heart-level relationships. The moving testimony video made plenty of people cry, but no one took that first, fear-fueled step into schedule-wrecking community.

Our best, most creative emphasis and announcement efforts bounce harmlessly off the Teflon-strong force field of the family calendar. For most in today’s church, a crisis-level lack of family engagement in groups boils down to this: the felt-need of life in community has yet to surpass the real-pain of an over scheduled life.

All of the church-speak generic “life together” reasons for “living in community”through “life groups” ring hollow as cul-de-sac gatherings, travel team parent bonding, and friends (with boating benefits) deftly imitate true and Gospel-centered relational connection.

After all, who needs yet another night away with yet another group of people?

We make the announcements but fail to articulate the value of community, especially with other people experiencing life-change. We promote the seasonal sign-ups, but neglect the most natural entry-points during life-stages.

Consider the many, fear-inducing moments of change and seasons of adjustment that every family experiences. Most are perfect opportunities to leverage the wisdom and comfort of community as a real and natural need to be a part of a group.

Here are six life-stage opportunities to expand engagement in small group life:

Newlywed / Engaged Couples. The first friends as a couple are typically life-long. Leverage premarital counseling and intensive wedding preparation seasons to focus young lovers on building depth of community into their marriage, not simply crafting Pinterest-worthy moments into a ceremony.

Expecting Parents. Parents-to-be, especially when it is their first child, are usually scared to death and more open to asking questions and being influenced by parents who have “been there, done that.” Working together, the preschool minister and groups leader have a natural opportunity to encourage and resource parents into group life.

Baby Dedication. More than preparing for a Sunday moment, this is a natural time to gather families in a small-group environment as a prerequisite to participation. Gather new parents to discuss a book or parenting bible study for 4-6 weeks before the Sunday morning ceremony. Church leaders can reinforce gathering in a home as more important than standing on a stage, and see those groups continue for years.

Kindergarten / Grade School. The tear-filled eyes of parents driving away from the campus after dropping their “couldn’t possibly be this old already” child at school are indications of shared emotions. They are also likely indications of an openness to prioritize time with other parents wiping their eyes as well. Giving parents a place to do more than cope or commiserate, groups in this life stage encourage connection and iron sharpening. Start the conversation by introducing parents to the children’s ministry while at the same time introducing them to other parents just as scared and hopeful as they are.

Middle / High School. Puberty, dating and social media… enough said. Parents with children entering middle school or high school need help, and quickly. As your next group of youth age-up into the student ministry, do more than just meet with parents and talk at them. Make it a goal to get those parents talking to each other and finding common ground together. Convene a round table on important topics, and spin off discussion groups that can grow into meaningful small groups or bible study classes.

College / Empty Nest. The last 18+ years have been spent focused on successfully getting their children out of the nest, and prayerfully staying out. Now these suddenly purposeless parents struggle to reconnect and establish the new normal once their baby birds finally fly off. Graduation Sundays offer a great chance to celebrate each student, but also a great connection with the parents wondering “what’s next.” What if leaders offered one or two strategic gatherings over the summer to prepare parents for this new normal, all the while pointing to a Fall season of group life?

Families in your church are physically, emotionally, and spiritually right where you have led them to be… in groups and not.

Now is the time to stop thinking about small groups in ways that work on a ministry calendar or for a pastoral preference.

Now is the time to start engaging families during the seasons and moments in life that actually matter to them.

Now is the time to truly engage people in meaningful Gospel-centered community, not just make that same small group announcement.


Learn more about engaging people in a Gospel-centered community: Connect with an Auxano Navigator.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Rose

As Lead Navigator for Auxano, Bryan Rose has a strong bias toward merging strategy and creativity within the vision of the local church and has had a diversity of experience in just about every ministry discipline over the last 12 years. With his experience as a multi-site strategist and campus pastor at a 3500 member multi-campus church in the Houston Metro area, Bryan has a passion to see “launch clarity” define the unique Great Commission call of developing church plants and campus, while at the same time serving established churches as they seek to clarify their individual ministry calling. Bryan has demonstrated achievement as a strategic thinker with a unique ability to infuse creativity into the visioning process while bringing a group of people to a deep sense of personal ownership and passion.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

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