What should your church do well? Discipleship? Missions? Evangelism? Worship? Teaching and education? Service? Well, it’s all about context, right? Wrong. The answer is all of them. That’s the challenge of being the church. You will not do all of these to perfection. Realistically, you will only do a few of these better than average.
But here’s a frustrating truth consistent throughout Scripture: the impossibility of perfection does not loosen its claim on us. God’s vision of the bride of Christ without spot or blemish translates to an annoying shortage of loopholes. That means that when someone complains: “Shouldn’t we be doing more in evangelism?” One cannot respond, no matter how many church profiles have been filled out, “I’m sorry, that’s not in our target marketing zone.” Everything is in your target marketing zone. In a sense, every gospel believing church owes a debt to every person in the world, and to transform every facet of life to the glory of Christ.
If you think this is an exaggeration, listen to Paul’s description of why God has given an assortment of gifted people among his churches. The point is: “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:12-13)
Pretty simple, right? All your church needs to do is make sure everyone, everywhere attains the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. With such a lofty goal, one might fear that many churches would throw up their hands and say: ‘Who is sufficient for such things?’, and start praying for the grace of Christ and the power of His Spirit. Don’t worry, it rarely comes to that. Rather, the answer lies in more programs, more committees, more ministries. Once you create a ‘unity of the faith committee’, a ‘knowledge of the Son of God committee’, and a ‘mature manhood committee’, you’ll be well on your way.
After we’ve finished poking holes in our excuses of abdication, and our short-sighted self-sufficiency, where does that leave us? Church leaders and Christian believers must still wrestle with a calling to be all things to all people, combined with the inadequacy of a programmatic response, which leans toward an ingrown experience of meetings for the sake of meetings. How can the church avoid the freeze of indecisiveness and take meaningful steps toward an impossibly broad calling?
The answer lies in a bold and brand new approach: small groups. The universal presence of a small groups ministry at every church, whatever name they go by, speaks to an inescapable awareness that this must be a vital part of what it means to be the church. Once a church affirms a need for small groups however, their implementation and execution spurs as much diversity as there are churches and denominations. Not only is that right and good, but it confirms the purpose of small group ministry, which is nothing more or less than ‘doing church in real life’, or ‘building up the body of Christ’, which is why the term ‘house churches’ may actually be more suitable.
Though most iterations of small groups offer some value, the best model comes in the form of same-sex groups of no more than six men or women, who meet weekly. Randy Pope terms this ‘life-on-life discipleship’. Perhaps ‘relieving’ the burden of the church’s massive commission through small groups only kicks the can one step farther down the road. Yet it does provide a structure and context, and unleashes localized sovereignty in tackling the charge to all Christians: to make disciples of Christ.
This article was first posted on Reformation21.