Like I said in the last post, I fully believe in our system of creating followers of Christ. However, I would be ready to throw it out today if the system were the problem. I never want to be so connected to community groups, and the way that we do them at Grace Community Church, that I am unwilling to abandon them in favor of true discipleship. My goal in ministry, in a broad stroke, is to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) My goal is not to start 5,000 community groups and train 10,000 leaders to host a group in their home. I want to make passionate disciples of Christ! Right now, the way that I do that is to start new community groups, shepherd our current community group leaders, and recruit new leaders. Though these activities may seem mundane, I believe that true growth in godliness happens best in the context of community. So, I willfully and joyfully take on the administrative burden and the difficulties that go along with assimilating people into group life at Grace.
Why are we not making disciples more quickly at Grace? There are a variety of reason. Here are five:
1. Not everybody who hears the Gospel becomes a disciple the first time they hear it. I know that I sure didn’t! Did you? Then why should I expect vastly different results from those in our community groups? God didn’t give up on me when I rejected His call. Instead, He continue to pursue me.
2. The devil is real! “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Satan loves to distort the Gospel, remind us that it’s not relevant to us today, and snatch it from our hearts before it has the chance to take root. In short, he’s vying for the worship of our hearts, and this is true whether the Truth is coming from the pulpit or from a couch in somebody’s living room in a small group setting.
3. I need to take it upon myself to apply the Gospel to my life every day. CJ Mahaney, in The Cross Centered Life, says it well,”If there’s anything in life we should be passionate about, it’s the gospel. And I don’t mean passionate only about sharing it with others; I mean passionate in thinking about the gospel, reflecting upon it, rejoicing in it, allowing it to color the way we look at the world and all of life” (15).
4. Our group leaders need to take it upon themselves to ask difficult questions that drive their group back to the Gospel. “How are you living out the Gospel today? How are you more like Christ today than you were 12 months ago? What part does the Gospel play in your everyday life? What is the Gospel? Why did Jesus have to die? How is the truth that you are a sinner saved by grace affecting the way you parent your children, or love your spouse, or work at your job, or serve in your church?”
5. Group leaders need to be reminded that they are the shepherd leaders of their group, and as such, should concern themselves greatly with the eternal state of the souls in their group.
Based on that, here are 5 things I resolve to do:
1. I will not give up on people.
2. I will create an atmosphere of openness and vulnerability in our groups. It is only when group leaders, and group members, are open and honest about their struggles, that the more reluctant folks will feel the freedom to open up their lives, and the struggles they are facing.
3. I will apply the Gospel to my life every day. I need to preach to myself, reminding myself that I am a sinner saved by grace, that Christ died to free me from my sin, and that Satan wants to destroy the Gospel in my life.
4. I will develop Gospel questions to put into group leaders hands that help them have intentional, Gospel-focused discussions that are laid back enough that everybody feels comfortable asking even the most “simple” questions (though these tend to turn out to be some of the most profound questions).
5. I will pray for all of my group leaders, that they will shepherd their group in a way that honors God and holds high the banner of the Gospel.
Are your groups structured so that basic Gospel questions and concerns can be brought to the table? Or are you so laid back that the Gospel is never discussed? Or are you so “holy” that you jump to “deeper” questions (as if there is anything more life-changing and “deeper” than the Gospel!) Are you group leaders ready and willing to ask these questions?
Do you or your group leaders make the mistake of assuming that, just because a person is attending your church and frequents your small groups, he or she is saved? How are you giving your group members the freedom to explore faith?
How are you living out the Gospel today?