Pursuing Truth, Choosing Sacrifice, Serving All People, Making Disciples…
One of the most important reasons to be a part of a church is the connections we build with each other. We become brothers and sisters in Christ – but what good is that if we don’t share, learn, grow, and transform from those bonds? Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV) says “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” The word “encouraging” there is parakaleo – it is not just saying we should go around patting each other on the back every Sunday. Parakaleo means “to come along side” and to “comfort, console, encourage, urge, appeal, exhort” which sounds a lot more like the way you treat a brother or sister than a Sunday acquaintance. And that is a problem right? If the church is not a building but all of us who are brothers and sisters in Christ; and if we are to be brothers and sisters by coming along side each other, how can we do so if we only interact one day a week for about 90 minutes? How can we comfort, console, encourage, urge, appeal, and exhort with each other if we don’t really know each other? Facebook is not the answer, I’ll tell you that much.
But before we go there, let’s take a step back. Last week I wrote about sharing the Good News through relationship and by being a witness. But that is just the first step. The goal of evangelizing through relationship should not be to simply get people to come to church. It should be to show them love, develop a bond with them, to bring them to the place where being a part of a church together is a natural piece of the relationship. If they choose a different church, it doesn’t matter, continue to build on it. Building on those relationships is just the first piece of the brotherhood and sisterhood, and it is not confined to new followers either. Being a part of a church gives us several outlets to “come along side” our brothers and sisters. There are three that the leadership here at Crosswalk wants to encourage and I want to touch on each of those and how they relate to each other: Equipping Small Groups, Life Transformation Groups, and Discipleship.
Equipping Small Groups
We consider all of the small groups here at Crosswalk to be “equipping” because what you receive from groups is not meant to be held in, but then turned and shared back out. But small groups are where the sharing and relationships go from the five minute conversation you have on a Sunday to something deeper. You go from “acquaintance” to “friend.” You pray for each other, you learn together, you share your experiences together, you serve together. Small groups are where you can learn from people’s perspectives, opinions, and experience. When you are a part of the small group, it doesn’t matter if you know people or not, you get to know them better through it. As you get to know people, you find out who can be in an LTG with you and who could benefit from your discipleship – or if you could benefit from theirs. If you aren’t part of a small group, I highly encourage it. It is not a place of judgement but rather a place of learning and connection. I have never attended a church and truly felt like I was a part of the community without being a part of a small group. I got to know my wife in a small group, I proposed on a group camping trip, and half our wedding party was from the group. Our current group includes a doctor, a teacher, someone who helped fight sex-trafficking in India, and even people who have traveled to Tibet. I would have had no idea if I did not spend more time with them than Sunday. The point is, you get to know people and build some deep, long-lasting connections in small groups. Studying the Word is an essential part of group, but being connected with people and sharing life is important too.
Life Transformation Groups (LTGs)
Out of my current small group, I was invited to join an LTG with two other guys and it has been great so far. There is no leader in an LTG – everyone is considered an equal. That opens things up for the group to discuss what is going on in their lives in intimate detail and for mutual accountability. To me, the most important part of an LTG, the part where transformation comes from, is that accountability is not just about staying away from sin. It is about where you are going, what you are actively doing to improve your life, what you are actively doing to further God’s Kingdom, and what you are actively doing to passionately demonstrate the love of Jesus. When someone asks you those questions each week, and you know they are, you make sure you have something to share with them. The guys in my LTG have encouraged me in my leadership, held me accountable to what I say I want to work on, and given me confidence to take the next step.
In this context, it is also known as mentorship. There are different types of discipleship but I am going to focus on mentorship since that is what I have had experience in. What is a disciple? It is a follower. Literally. A couple of weeks ago Pastor John preached on discipleship and spoke about disciples following a Rabbi into the bathroom so they did not miss anything. When you are in a discipleship/mentor relationship with someone you study Scripture together but you also discuss how it affects your life, how to live out Christian principles, and it is a sharing of experience and Scripture. My inner geek relates it to Yoda and Luke. Ideally, you should be learning from one individual while teaching another. In his book Multiply, Francis Chan says making disciples is not just gathering pupils to listen to your teaching. “…it’s all about being faithful to God’s call to love the people around you. It’s about loving those people enough to help them see their need to love and obey God. It’s about bringing them to the Savior and allowing Him to set them free from the power of sin and death and transform them into loving followers of Jesus Christ. It’s about glorifying God by obediently making disciples who will teach others to love and obey God.” The young man I had the privilege of teaching had a profound effect on my life. I have no doubt that he will go on to other greater mentors than myself and far exceed anything I have accomplished, and it has been a joy to see him grow and transformed by God into someone who does not just seek God, but seeks to honestly follow Jesus. It all started with going out to lunch together and discussing Scripture – and now he will be a lifelong friend. Making disciples has many forms, this is the one I have experience in and I feel is a powerful way to pass on and share the love of Jesus.
For all of these, I would suggest starting with a small group. Get to know people, build relationships, be encouraged and walk alongside each other. As you get to know people better, find a few peers with whom you can be mutually accountable with. Find someone else whom you can disciple and take them out to lunch – and see where it goes. God has given each of us amazing experiences in life, share them with your brothers and sisters. Many of you are probably thinking that all sounds nice but you don’t have time for it. Others are probably thinking you don’t have enough experience for it. Start with a small group, pray about the rest. Don’t hesitate when God gives you the opportunity.