How do I disciple AND reach out?

One of the many challenges in starting a church is the tension between spending time discipling the saved and spending time reaching the lost.  The planter has limited time resources—as well as energy—which demands wise stewardship decisions.  Add in the oft-heard churched-voice of “Where’s my Bible study?” and it is easy for the planter to lose focus (from external to internal) and create a congregation that never gets going into the community nor gathers much of the community into the congregation.  It remains a small church, a congregation for those seeking a new congregation, striving for the admirable goal of making deeper, stronger believers.  Yet the missional aspect of being a local community church is never lived out nor evidenced by much of the local community becoming believers.

Try this:

Disciple the current congregation by presenting them (1) a Bible reading plan they can do on their own; (2) small group non-Sunday-morning Bible studies led by you (and once the group is larger than 12-14, led by others); and then (3) serving opportunities, especially regular, entire-congregation community serve events.  This way you disciple them into a person who loves Christ by loving his people, especially his lost people.

Talk openly of how Sunday morning is a time for worship and for some type of serving—welcoming, assisting guests and single parents, playing instruments, setting up chairs, teaching children Bible stories…  And this type of serve is critical.  But at the end of the day, it does not do enough in getting the congregation into the community so that the community can see the Jesus it needs.

Also and especially needed are consistent, monthly entire-congregation serving events.  These events should (1) go to where the community already is (soccer fields, day-worker hangout spot, busy intersection, trailer park…) rather than require the community to come to the congregation; (2) meet some need or value in the community (acceptance, refreshment, fun…); (3) be organized around the concept of “High impact/Low threat,” meaning that it touches as large of a crowd as possible in an unexpected way (buy everyone a pair of shoes in the shoe store, give everyone in the car a free coke) yest is not intimidating for the server to perform or for the receiver to accept (no calls to repent on street corners or handing out tracts); (4) expect the participation of everyone in the congregation, especially all of those in leadership.  This last expectation helps the congregation see just how it is larger than the individual while also building momentum and significant awareness in the local community.

Do this all-congregation, local community serve event monthly for at least the first year.  You will be pleased how this process creates followers of Jesus who love both Jesus and the people in the local community, a key mark in growing, healthy congregations, and a key ingredient in church plants that move beyond small to large.

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