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Growth by Discipleship (Issue 24)

By Rich Robinson & Simon Ford (from 3DM ministries Europe). 

If you visit Berlin today you’ll find one place where the wall still stands. Written on it is this quote: “Many small people doing many small things in many small places can change the face of the world.” Long before the wall came down, a reformation was rumbling around in the hearts of the people, forcing them to do small things in many small places, over and over again.

There is a similar restlessness in the people of God today. They sense there’s a drift and they long to be connected to a faith that understands itself as part of something movemental. Something of the Kingdom.

So what does this Kingdom movement look like? Jesus made it simple: “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19).

This is the calling Jesus has given us: to be disciples who follow him and make disciples of others, helping them to follow him. In this way, one-by-one we can transform the world around us. That’s what a Kingdom movement looks like. It’s a discipleship movement.

The ministry we’re part of, 3DM, has spent the past 20 years making disciples across Europe. We’re now equipping churches and organisations around the world (including in New Zealand) to make disciples, empower leaders and catalyse these kinds of movements. Over the years we’ve done this, we’ve made a key observation: Making disciples always grows the church. Always. However, just growing the church doesn’t always produce disciples.

When churches realise that attendance is dropping, the typical response is to develop programmes and hold evangelistic events in hopes of curbing the trend. Our default mode seems to be attempting to (re)grow the church through events. However, is it possible that in all of this we’ve actually neglected the call of Jesus to make disciples?

Bigger Churches or a Discipleship Movement?

What we’ve seen in key centres in Europe, where we’ve focused on making disciples rather than just growing churches, is a culture emerge that’s creating an unstoppable, multiplying movement. It’s no longer about a church building or gathering. Rather, discipleship leads to a shift in the way that people think and live on a day-to-day community level, which leads to the discipling of others, which leads to multiplication.

Is our focus as leaders on having a bigger church? Or is it to be and make disciples who look to Jesus and, as a result, see the places where they spend their day-to-day lives transformed? In Europe we’ve seen lives transformed as a culture of discipleship has been established. In Sheffield, England for example, where 3DM originated, church members have gathered in mid-sized communities in the different neighbourhoods and networks that they live in. The result? Many people across Sheffield are encountering God’s love for the first time – drug addicts, Chinese students, single parents, office workers – all seeing their lives and situations transformed by Jesus through this pattern of community based missional discipleship.

In order to see this kind of shift take place, we need to start with ourselves. Are we spending most of our time focussed on the machinery and mechanics of church growth, and perhaps missing the real people and processes involved in real discipleship? Are we following the person and pattern of Jesus in our everyday lives? Are we helping others to do this too? We need to recapture the way of Jesus and once again become familiar with how he lived and led, so that we can empower those
around us to do the same.

Temple and Household: both-and not either-or

A huge part of this shift in culture is about recapturing community life together. If you read Acts 2, you’ll notice the disciples met together regularly, not only in the Temple, but also in houses with one another. The word for house here is oikos and refers to the household and ‘extended family’ way of life that would have been so familiar to the disciples. In this chapter you see how the disciples regularly ate together, shared the Apostles’ teaching, prayed together and shared all they had within this oikos environment – and the same concept is found throughout the New Testament. Through this they lived full and radical lives as disciples, and God added daily to their number those that were being saved!

Though we’ve retained the importance of meeting regularly in the large ‘Temple’ style gatherings on a Sunday, somewhere along the line our modern culture has told us that living out this day-to-day lifestyle of discipleship in the context of smaller, ‘household’ sized communities is less important. Yet, our experience is that this is the context where the most effective mission and discipleship takes place. These extended families on mission together are now the heartbeat of many thriving, passionate, missional churches across Europe and beyond.

Many people, in many places, doing many small things to change the world. That’s a discipleship movement.

For resources about the ideas mentioned in this article, visit 3dmpublishing.com. To connect with the 3DM team in New Zealand email admin@mc.org.nz.

 

For discussion

Why do you think our default mode seems to be creating and running more programmes?

What can you do to find a better balance between ‘Temple’ and ‘household’?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.