QUIT INVITING PEOPLE TO CHURCH! ..and start inviting them to church.
Most churches in western 21st century settings have Small/Life/Huddle/Cell Groups that they say are vital parts of the ministry of the church. They give percentages saying how many people they have in their Life groups and say that it is very important to how church is done. But is that really the case for them? Are churches actually focusing on their Life Groups more than Sunday morning programs? If the church is really found in Life Groups, then why do we count how many people show up to our worship services instead of how many people are showing up to their group gatherings? A paradigm shift must occur in order to actually change the way true discipleship works in our culture. We need to focus on the few, like Jesus did.
If real life discipleship is going to happen in these groups, then people need to stop thinking they are the same thing as a bible study or "small group." For the past two decades, at least, people have been showing up to their small groups thinking that this was discipleship, and don’t get me wrong; sometimes it almost is! People are gathering together and growing relationally with each other as well as with the Father in Heaven. But the problem is that it stops there. We are not then going and making disciples of our community, let alone all nations!
People do not have an end goal with the traditional idea of “Small group.” They see it as another thing to show up to in order to check off the box that says, "I'm a good Christian." But, if we can add an end goal, the whole dynamic of the group changes. You go from showing up to this group for a few years until people get to busy, move away, or have drama and break up, to a group that will meet and train up leaders who will go and lead their own group that trains leaders. In other words, you have a group that makes disciples who make disciples. So, I say we must change the language we use for groups that have an end goal of discipleship because they are not the same thing as a small group. To 21st century America, small groups means Bible study, not discipleship.
Average Christians do not see themselves as ministers. Allen Hirsch, in is his book Untamed, tells about the time he gave out white collars to everyone at the worship gathering as they walked into the service. They were all clearly confused, but most just played along and were curious about what was going on. As the gathering progressed, he ended up ordaining everyone in the congregation empowering them to be the ministers God had already set them out to be. Often times, people unintentionally assume that the guy who’s paid is the only one who is supposed to be a disciple-maker. But all disciples should be disciple-makers. Too many people show up to church on Sunday to get “fed”, then go home. But our job really should be to make disciples of those in and out of the community. An incredibly practical way for paid-pastors to begin showing that they believe all disciple-makers are ministers is by getting new faces on stage. Maybe get someone other than a paid-pastor to do the announcements. Or, and maybe this is just too crazy of an idea, but maybe stick a trusted leader behind the pulpit to actually preach a sermon.
Our first thought as Christians is to do what we have grown up hearing in our culturally Christian society our whole lives. If you make a friend at school or work, invite them to church.
While it is obviously not a bad thing to get a friend to come to church with you, it is not making a disciple if it stops there. So, instead of inviting your friend to CHURCH, what if you invite them to your church. Let people find what the church looks like through a discipleship-centered, house setting. A breaking bread together church that has real relationships with those 6 to 12 people. Then eventually, after hearing you all talk about what the sermon was about on Sunday and where you served instead of having the worship gathering, they might join you at your Sunday morning gathering?
All of a sudden, their idea of “church” has gone from this place where you go and listen to music you don’t enjoy and hear this man condemn you to hell, to a place your little church shows up to in order to be with the other little churches that make up the community for only two purposes; worship God and connect with others. In other words, love God and love neighbor.
So quit inviting people to CHURCH and start inviting people to church. Let’s stop padding our church stats, and start making disciples.