In a recent post, I pointed out the fact that we’re not living in “a day when the status quo is a good thing. At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century…it is clearly time to develop a bias toward what’s next.” To help all of us figure out what’s next, I’ve asked a number of the best-known grouplife practitioners to share their latest learnings. Here’s what Randall Neighbour had to say:
Last year, my organization published an excellent book entitled Organic Disciplemaking by Dennis McCallum and Jessica Lowery. This book is possibly the most important book I’ve read in five years because it provides an exhaustive look at the way the disciplemaking member-leaders at Xenos Christian Fellowship move a new believer into a disciple of Christ and a discipler of other new believers. The church has an impressive statistic: Over 80% of the church body is discipling someone or being discipled by someone. That, my friend, is an amazing find in North America.
I must say though, despite the excellent writing style, personal stories, and “no rock left unturned” attitude by the authors, the book has not sold as well as I hoped. After all, in a previous blog entry, I ranted about the complete absence of discipleship in many US churches today.
I must revisit this issue of making disciples over and over again, charging at the issue from numerous directions. Each church must discover their own unique way of moving every committed believer from spiritual infancy to adolescence to maturing believer to spiritual parent. It’s not something one can hope happens on its own or it would have happened by now, right?
As I look at the history of Xenos, their seemingly “organic” culture of discipleship wasn’t a naturally occurring chain of events. It began as a very determined, people-centered, relationally-driven program to equip a collection of house church members to do more than they’d ever done for Christ. The house churches wanted affiliation with other house churches, and they wanted the benefit of the excellent Bible teaching that a few of the house church pastors possessed.
[I won’t go into the history of the church and how very differently it operates on nearly every single level of ministry and membership. If you want to learn this information, I highly recommend visiting the Xenos’ expansive web site.]
I recently had a conversation with a pastor who is opposed to a programmic discipleship path to maturity, saying it’s too lock-step. He commented that any curriculum driven process would be too mechanical for his church.
Of course, when I asked what he was doing to insure each member of the church was becoming a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ, he didn’t have much of anything to share that was substantive. The new member class and existing programs every church member was encouraged to attend did not teach Bible basics, tenants of the faith, how to develop spiritual disciplines, etc.
I see a huge challenge to implement a discipleship program in churches that have none today. People are busy and many who have been small group members for a while or are currently leading a small group think they are disciples when they are simply faithful attendees. “Rolling out” a new discipleship program that every person in the church should move through immediately is going to work as well as Moses telling a million Israelites to walk into the parted Red Sea simultaneously, which we all know didn’t happen, right? [Moses stepped in first, followed by his family, followed by the leaders and their families, followed by others, and on it went until they were all in it and through it.]
Developing and implementing an organic discipleship process in a local church has even more challenges. A relationally-driven pathway where individuals see the need to become a spiritual parent and take a young believer through the stages of maturity required to achieve a level of maturity that produces more fruit is far more difficult to develop than widespread program involvement.
Yet, Xenos has done it, so I know it can be done! Churches can develop a culture in which the members of the church, who live and serve in Biblical communities (holistic small groups) and live out the mandate to make disciples.
Randall Neighbour leads a non-profit called TOUCH Outreach Ministries. He’s also the author of The Naked Truth About Small Group Ministry. You can read Randall’s blog at www.randallneighbour.com and follow him on Twitter.