This is the fourth in my series inspired by an article in The Lutheran Magazine called The Shrinking Church. That article is about the decline taking place in my denomination, the ELCA. Two weeks ago in The Shrinking Church: Part Two I shared my thoughts on that decline, and shared that God is bringing about a new way of being church. Last week I posted what that new way of being church looks like. Today I will share how The River is trying to bring that new vision about. Next week, in the final installment, I will share some of the miracles of personal transformation that have taken place because of our shift to a discipling church. The week after that I will share details about a workshop to share how to be a discipling church.
Here’s what we have done to become a discipleship church:
1. I found someone to disciple me. I had been hearing for years that the key to this new way of being church was to disciple people, but no one could tell me how. Bill Easum drove me nuts because he would talk and talk about discipleship, but despite attending several of his workshops Bill could never tell me how to actually do it. Bill knew how to disciple people, but couldn’t tell others how to do it. I finally found someone who could. They are called 3DM, and they showed me why Bill could never explain discipleship. It’s because the only way to learn how to disciple someone is to be discipled. 3DM discipled me, and that is the first step in becoming a discipling church. There is no other way.
2. We made Up, Out and In our rhythm of life as a church. Worship, outreach and community are what The River does. That is how Jesus lived with his disciples, so it’s how we live too. As I shared last week, most churches are strong in two areas but week in the third. By becoming a church that is healthy in all three, we made our church into fertile ground for discipleship. Being church together prepares people for the next step. Making church an Up, Out and In culture is crucial if discipleship is to take root.
3. I started discipling others as I had been discipled. I started a group called a “huddle” where the stated goal, from the beginning, was for me to share everything I’d learned about following God. I offered to pour out into my huddle all my knowledge, wisdom, and mistakes. In short, I discipled them as I had been discipled, to be a disciple of Jesus. My huddle is small, but it isn’t a small group. The bible is at the center of every conversation, but it isn’t a bible study. It is discipleship, and it doesn’t just take place in a room. It takes place in our lives, as I mentor and coach and support them to become disciples of Jesus. As part of that group, they are learning how to disciple others.
4. The people in my huddle started huddles. My “first generation” huddle is still ongoing, and while only one of the five people in my huddle has begun a second generation huddle, two are getting close. Before the year is out I expect that we will have at least one third generation huddle. That is how discipleship multiplies from just one person into disciples who make disciples who make disciples. That is how we are becoming a discipling church, which is God’s new way of being church. It is happening in The River. People are being changed and becoming more like Christ. It is awesome to see.
If you would like to see for yourself, stop by worship sometime. On the surface, it will look like any other small church. As you start to meet people and get to know them, though, you will notice the difference. You will see it even more if you join us not just for Up, but also for Out and In. I hope for more than that though- I hope you decide to take the plunge and join a huddle. I can promise you that your life will be much better for it.
Next week I will share some of the miraculous personal transformations that have taken place in The River because we are a discipling church. The week after that I expect to announce an exciting workshop on how to become a discipling church.