In an ongoing thought process concerning the role of relational discipleship in biblical community, I pose a new thought for you to consider, expand upon, disagree with, or take into account as you work the harvest fields in your neck of the woods.
I read a lot of books about (and have personally visited) churches around the world who are growing with conversion growth that sticks... in other words, their back door is smaller than their front door and they do a fair to excellent job of reaching people for Jesus, baptizing them, and helping them find spiritual maturity and a strong sense of purpose in life.
These churches report that their growth comes primarily through relationships formed at the small group membership level. While their stadium-sized services draw huge crowds, many of those first time visitors are friends of small group members who were most comfortable coming to a stadium vs. an unfamiliar residential home where a group might meet.
Because of this highly relational entry point, discipleship is much easier to do. In these churches, every incoming group member is shown a pathway to spiritual maturity that everyone before him or her has walked and everyone after him or her will walk as well. They very quickly see that everyone is being led down a pathway and they too will lead people down that pathway.
I'm looking for churches in the US who understand this and have actually set it in place and are making it work. Most are just trying to get people to join a group and be faithful to the relationships in that group, then move them into an opt-in discipleship program or process... this poses a problem that is hard to undo. People want community, but unless there is spiritual growth and sustained, increased levels of maturity, one could easily argue that it's the man-made creation of pseudo biblical community, not true, Christ-centered, bibical community.
If your church has a discipleship pathway on which every incoming small group member is walking, I sure would like to know about it so I could study your model. I know of a couple of big churches (6000+ members) doing it, but I want to know how average sized churches of 200 or less are making it work and what they're using.
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