This past Saturday twenty-some people gathered at my home for a meal and some envisioning what it might look like to join God on his mission to make disciples in a changing church that finds herself in the midst of a radically changing city. For those unable to make it, or for those simply interested in the vision of Disciples Church Life Groups, below you will find text from my talk. Take some time to read it over, and if grabbing a coffee sometime to talk in greater depth will help you find your next step in this grand vision, let’s do it!
There are three fundamental shifts in our shared world that beg a response from us as a church, but more specifically, these shifts beg a response from you as one interested or invested in Life Groups. For those who value the disciple-making that uniquely happens in a Life Group, hundreds whose lives you will touch this year are counting on you responding. So the response is not inconsequential — it will make all the difference in our church in the year ahead and in the next ten years ahead. I believe your response to these three shifts could serve as a spring that gushes stories of life change for decades to come.
I am convinced of this much…
- Any lasting growth Disciples church experiences in the year(s) ahead will happen as a direct result of your response.
- Any systemic and consistent spiritual maturity among our people will be as a result of your response.
- Any significant impact in our city that announces the reality that the Kingdom of God is alive and well, will be traced back to your response.
Three shifts in our world require this response.
The first shift is a shift within Disciples herself: disciple making is solely in the hands of the people…
- Some of this disciple-making is happening in one on one relationships, organically…people meeting up in parks or over a coffee to talk about their life with God. This is beautiful! However, the miss here is easy to see: it cannot be systematized, it’s got to happen organically. So we have to add to this beautiful expression of disciple-making something that provides a slightly less organic approach.
- Some of this disciple-making is happening in teams – children’s ministry, worship bands, preaching team, outreach team, pastoral staff, elder team, and other specific ministry teams in our church. The potential miss here is not system failure, but a miss in aligning gifts. For example, if I am not a musician, it’s pretty unlikely that my pathway to disciple-making is going to happen on the worship team, but I need to rub shoulders with those on other teams to learn from them and be strengthened through their gifting outside of Sunday.
This is where Life Groups provide such potent power in disciple making!
Our response to this first shift…
For those who fall into the above groups, and especially for those who are currently falling through the cracks of “organic discipleship,” or “ministry team discipleship,” Life Groups must serve as our central nervous system for disciple making. The call to respond here is to get involved deeply in a Life Group and use your gifts:
- Leading the discussion or co-leading with a partner.
- Apprentice leading to develop the skills required to keep a conversation moving in The Spirit’s direction.
- Hosting a group in your home.
- Leading worship.
- Leading the prayer efforts of your group.
If every single person in the Disciples kingdom family who is not currently leading elsewhere found a way to use their God given gifts and passion in a group, our people would be transformed — and in turn our church would be as well. And transformed people, living in transforming churches, change whole cities!
Jesus had his twelve, but the real carriers of his movement were the next concentric circle, the seventy-two. Here’s what he said to them:
Jesus Sends Out His Disciples – Luke 10, (NLT)
10 The Lord now chose seventy-two[a] other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit. 2 These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields. 3 Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves. 4 Don’t take any money with you, nor a traveler’s bag, nor an extra pair of sandals. And don’t stop to greet anyone on the road.
5 “Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’ 6 If those who live there are peaceful, the blessing will stand; if they are not, the blessing will return to you. 7 Don’t move around from home to home. Stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay.
8 “If you enter a town and it welcomes you, eat whatever is set before you. 9 Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.’
The Second Shift: The near-end of Christendom is upon us.
There was a time, in some areas of our country it was in our lifetime, when church sat at the center of life and culture in any given community. The church and her leaders, especially it’s pastor(s) had a measure of power — for better AND for worse. The city council would invite the pastor to pray for meetings, and people in the city generally felt a sense that they should go to church, even those who only darkened the door a few times each year.
Well, that has all changed.
The city council isn’t calling anymore. And when I meet people far from God or disconnected from a church, they don’t feel any sense that they “should” go to church. In fact, my experience has been that they often feel suspicion that if we become friends they’re gonna get some drive-by guilting to show up on Easter or some bait-and-switch tactic to buy their presence at the next event — show up this Sunday and be entered into a drawing for a free trip to Hawaii! —Ugh. Some of the suspicion is warranted, and some of it has served us as a beautiful gift. After all, for the people who are with us, like yourself if you’ve read this far, it means you are serious about your own discipleship and the call on your life to be a disciple-maker.
The Christian experience was never intended to be about power or guilt. It has always been meant to be an invitation into the most beautiful and satisfying ways of living ever imagined: A life found with Christ in His church. In this life we learn to care about the least like it’s our second nature, looking out for the lost, and inviting the left out into that beautiful way of living.
Again, I am reminded of Jesus’ words about how we are supposed to lead as disciples…
Jesus Teaches about Humility – Luke 14 (NLT)
7 When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: 8 “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? 9 The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!
10 “Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. 11 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
12 Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. 13 Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”
15 Hearing this, a man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet[c] in the Kingdom of God!”
16 Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. 17 When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ 18 But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ 19 Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20 Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
21 “The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 22 After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ 23 So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. 24 For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’”
Our response to this second shift…
For many with a curiosity about re-engaging with God or his people, Sunday morning will be a perfect front door. But Sunday is not really a time designed to answer the questions of the skeptic or heal the broken. If these things happen on Sunday, we all rejoice, of course. However, Sunday is first and foremost a time for the missionaries in that community to gather together and celebrate what God did in and through their lives in the last week; and to receive inspiration, teaching, and exhortation for the work God will put before them in the week ahead.
So if every person in the Disciples kingdom family had a regular gathering of friends who met up weekly to share a meal, talk about their life with God, and learn the “unforced rhythms of grace,” as Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message, we would open up seats at God’s table.
I believe now more than ever the future of your personal discipleship and the undeniable call on your life to be a disciple-maker depends on you carving out time every week to be a contributing member of a Life Group. You have a part to play around the table – maybe it’s stepping up and leading, hosting, or co-leading. Maybe it’s time to learn how to lead a group by serving in an apprentice role. Or maybe you need to dust off that old guitar or keyboard and start leading your group in a few worship songs each week. Maybe your role will be to help your group find a reasonable way to serve on mission. Or maybe it’s your mantle to carry the leading role of prayer in your group. If each of these roles were filled up in each group, that would create a pretty magnificent reflection of the Kingdom of God at work.
The third shift is the simplest and easiest to see: Folsom is growing!
For the first time in nearly 20 years, new homes are being built in Folsom at a break-neck pace. That represents tens of thousands of new families coming to our city – many directly across Highway 50 from us that will be in desperate need of community. When they connect with you in town, or visit us online, or even pop in for a Sunday experience, we must be prepared to invite them around a table where there is a seat available! Will you join me in carving out space for them?
Life Group sign ups open this weekend at Church in the Park, and weekly Life Group gatherings start up the week of September 22.
On mission with you,
To find out more, or grab that cup of coffee with me to talk in greater depth, hit me up – firstname.lastname@example.org