The problem is not so much with what churches are doing; it’s with what they are not doing.
Many churches are so focused on growth that the majority of their resources (money, materials and people) are focused on growth initiatives; i.e. building campaigns, community events, etc. This leaves little left for internal growth initiatives. In other churches, particularly those overseas, there is precious little resource to invest in either external or internal growth. Either way, churches are struggling to help people to grow. We are adding to our numbers, but we’re adding ‘fringe’ and we’re not helping ‘fringe’ move to the core.
BUT, what if there existed a community of ‘core’ believers whose sole purpose was to birth new believers from the ‘world’ and develop baby believers in the ‘fringe’?
If this community was effective, it would complement churches of all sizes, shapes and styles while filling this all important gap of internal spiritual growth. It would have to be orthodox and yet inter-denominational. It would have to be united on the essentials of the Christian faith, but mature enough to give and receive the freedom granted by grace. It would have to be seemlessly global, not bound to a region or local church body. It would have to be large in number, but it would have to be more concerned about the maturity of the community than it’s size. It would have to be simple for community members to communicate with one another; it would have to be accessible, transparent, authentic, and helpful to those outside of the comunity.
If such a community existed, ‘fringe’ building churches could leverage the community to supplement their existing internal growth initiatives, practically free. If such a community existed, a small town church in west Texas, an isolated body of believers in Zambia or an underground small group in a communist or muslim country would have equal access to the same global support structure as a mega-church in the USA.
Does this sound exciting? Do you want to engage? Let me know…
“When surrounded by war, one must eventually choose sides.”
The opening line to a recent Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode (above) struck me as applicable to our discussion. In his comments from a couple of posts ago, Bob ended with “At least we’ll all know where we stand!” One day, we will certainly know where we all stand b/c all will be forced to take up sides at some point.
Over the past few years, I’ve spent considerable time researching and developing small group strategy. I’ve participated in small groups, led small groups, coached small group leaders, and helped churches start and grow small group ministries. Through all of this, I’ve tried to keep the focus on the role a small group plays in the spiritual war we are presently engaged in (Eph 6:12). Unfortunately, the momentum is to think of small groups more as social clubs than army platoons. Small groups ought to be more than friends being friends; they ought to be a means of mobilizing God’s people in our struggle against the “spiritual forces” Paul speaks of.
This trend is another driver toward the need to go back to one-on-one discipleship. If the Church has an effective means to grow people (and the forming consensus is that small groups are not an effective means to grow people spiritually), then small groups can safely be more “communal”. You would train your small group leaders to identify those in their small groups who are willing to be disciples, then take them aside for deeper training or pair them with someone else who can.
To bring this back to where we started, the point is that we in the Church are indeed “surrounded by war”. Not a war with flesh and blood, but with the spiritual forces that are trying (and will ultimately fail) to overcome God’s people. Only the most core of the ‘core’ remember this on a daily basis and live their lives accordingly, yet all of us should.
What does that mean in a practical sense? It simply means taking spiritual growth (i.e. knowing God and his Truth more, developing a Christlike character, and obeying God in all things regardless of the potential sacrifice) more seriously than anything else.
Have you chosen a side? Are you engaging the enemy? If not, will you? If you will, keep coming back and we’ll continue to discuss how we can do that together.