The Life of Discipleship Beyond Church Programs

0

The first conversation about Jesus I remember having was at McDonald’s with my mom. I was probably four or five at the time. Every week my mom and I went to McDonald’s on our way to the grocery store. We would split a Happy Meal and talk. My mom’s first conversation about Jesus was with her grandmother, a devout Methodist, who taught her to memorize the Twenty-Third Psalm from a needlepoint that hung on the wall in her bedroom.

What about your first conversation about Jesus? Who were your influences along the way? Outside of my parents, I had the good fortune of being influenced by “a great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1), most of them at the First Baptist Church in Conroe, Texas, where I was baptized at the age of eleven. I went to Sunday school, joined the new Christians class, and later joined the youth group. When I got to the seventh grade, Pamela, one of our youth ministers, told me I was a leader. She pulled together a group of four or five of us for weekly conversations about God and she taught us how to have daily devotions, “a quiet time,” she called it. She taught us how to share our faith and how to give talks at a breakfast group we had before school at 7:00 a.m. In high school, these early morning gatherings were held at McDonald’s in hopes that our friends who wouldn’t come to church might meet us there.

Then came the day when our pastor retired. Not long after that, Pamela was called to be the youth minister at another church—a good move for her. By the end of that year, all but one member of our pastoral staff had moved on to new places of ministry. Soon it became apparent just how much our church relied upon paid staff for our spiritual development.

Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but what if the central organizing principle of our church were the families that made up our congregation rather than the programs orchestrated by church staff? What if these families had been challenged, developed, and organized in such a way so they saw their home and family life as a solution to the problems—not just in the church community—but in the city and society as a whole?

This way of organizing the church might look something like this: the pastor recruits a few married couples with a natural inclination of sharing their home and family life with others. These are the families who throw parties and host the youth group. They’re the ones who already know their neighbors. Through the pastor or other staff members’ intentional mentorship and spiritual direction, these families and their households become hubs for mission and extensions of the congregation. In some cases, these homes and families might form the backbone of a more decentralized way of being church. When the realities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic hit, this is exactly what our little church community started doing.

Most church leaders I know spend a lot of time and energy coming up with new initiatives and programs for the members of their church. Many Christians I know sign up for these programs or at least think they’re supposed to. The programs come in a variety of forms: classes, seminars, and small groups, often with a lecture-based format. In this format, the teacher plays the role of expert. Everyone else listens. They nod along. Sometimes they respond to a question or comment proposed by the teacher. The teacher is active, the participants passive. That’s how it goes week after week.

These aren’t the only programs or initiatives offered through the church, however. There are service projects. And mission trips. And music ministry. All of it deeply enriching and rewarding. But activities or programs organized once a week or once a year are not enough. Christian discipleship is not simply learning information about Jesus or doing things for Jesus. It’s becoming like Jesus in apprenticeship with others who are committed to doing the same. Apprenticeship is a lived reality. It’s learning from the way that Pamela taught us to lead the breakfast group at church and applying it back into the laundry room at home.

In a day of statistical decline in church participation, what if we imagined marriages as little churches and households as living demonstrations of the way that God’s love is reoriented around Jesus? Bringing Church Home: How the Family of God Makes Us a Little More Human invites readers are invited into a kind of radical kinship rooted in family-community love. In his first book, author Gannon Sims shows how our homes can become hubs for mission pointing toward our true home where we—no matter our previous experiences of family or home or love—can find kinship in God.

Perfect for:

  • Leaders adapting to new cultural realities
  • Churches engaged in mission
  • Small groups focused on neighborhoods
  • Church planting groups

In these pages you’ll:

  • Learn how and why the church as God’s family forms disciples
  • Be encouraged to engage in mission for homes, neighborhoods, and cities
  • Discover the family household as a hub for reaching the lost with the gospel

Order the book from our store here.

SHARE

Gannon Sims (MDiv, Duke Divinity School) is director of ministry formation and a founding team member of Fresh Expressions US, a movement seeking to bring the church Jesus loves closer to the people Jesus loves. He lives with his wife, Carey, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where they direct the Center for Faith and Leadership, a training and equipping hub for university students and young leaders and the Center Community.

NO COMMENTS