Previous posts in this series:
Part 1: What’s the Big Deal?
Part 2: What Does It Look Like?
Part 3: The Early Church
Part 4: Oikos in the Bible
Part 5: Sociological Matters
Part 6: Being the “Right Size”
Part 7: Is Structure a Dirty Word?
In the first seven (!) posts of this series, I’ve discussed why mid-sized communities are important, what they look like, and why they make sense from a theological, biblical, historical, and sociological point of view. Today I just want to talk practically about how we are moving toward this “model” in our little church plant; the process we are implementing to create a culture where these kinds of communities grow and multiply.
Now, these kinds of communities do not come into being by social engineering or the will of a leader or because everyone thinks it sounds like a good idea. Good intentions and wishful thinking don’t result in healthy, multiplying missional communities popping up everywhere. Furthermore, it’s not like a business where you can make something cool happen as long as you have capital, hard work, and some street smarts. This is ultimately a Holy Spirit thing. We don’t cause it or control it, but we do get to participate in it, and our efforts do make a difference. We plant seeds, we water, we fertilize, we weed, but God makes it grow (1 Cor 3:6).
The foundation this kind of network is built on cannot be marketing savvy or magnetic personality or emotional buzz. If you’re going to have all kinds of missional communities incarnating the life of Christ in all kinds of neighborhoods and relational networks, you’re going to need a lot of quality leaders who know how to listen to the Spirit and are having their character transformed steadily and consistently by being in relationship with Jesus. To get a lot of leaders like that, you’re going to have to invest a lot of time in developing them, because they don’t grow on trees.
In short, you’re going to need to make lots of disciples. This is the foundation of a multiplying movement of missional communities (say that five times fast!), and, surprise!, it’s exactly what Jesus told us to do before he ascended: make disciples.
More precisely, it’s making disciples who make disciples who make disciples… This seems obvious, but we find that we have to be very intentional about defining discipleship, because it’s easy to assume we’re making disciples because we’re doing “churchy” things. For example, in the church we have often equated discipleship with church attendance or loyalty to a leader or involvement in church programs or knowledge of the Bible. The assumption is that if we can get them get them to come to church, or get them involved in the worship team, or teach them Bible knowledge, that they’ll grow in maturity and Christlikeness. This is simply not true. All of those things might be important things for people to do, but doing them doesn’t equal discipleship.
So if the foundational key to cultivating a multiplying movement of missional communities is simply making disciples, how do we start? What does that actually look like if it’s not getting people to come to church services or Bible classes or service projects? That’s what I want to discuss in the next post.
Next post –> A Culture of Discipleship