The Gospel Community Process
Blog Post by Michael Finley (Gospel Community Director for Redeemer Church)
Part of being a disciple of Jesus is being the family of God, to be his people that live intentional and relational lives with Him and each other. At Redeemer we call this our Gospel Communities. And just like every other aspect of discipleship, our growth in Gospel Community is a process. It would be nice to plug everything we need to know into the back of our heads like a scene from the Matrix but the truth is discipleship is often very slow.
In Ephesians 4, Paul tells us that we are to grow up in everyday into Christlikeness. Growing is an ongoing process. Just like our bodies we all have times of growth in different areas of life at different times. Whether it is your physical body growing taller, your intellect growing smarter, your love capacity growing larger, or your skills growing more refined, we are to be growing in everyday of lives into Christ. However we often neglect to see Gospel Communities in this same way.
In my time in group ministry I have witnessed a "Group Model" in which all the groups in the church attempt to reflect the same model. While models have their role, I have found some problems. Here are three:
1. Reaching The Goal Of A Model Instead Of Reaching For Jesus
Often we are so focused on "how" our group should look that we forget "Who" we are suppose to look like. At Redeemer we have two goals for our Gospel Communities, for those who know Him to love and look more like Jesus and for those who don't know Jesus to meet Him.
2. Models Tend To Encourage or Discourage
Some groups fit the model already in personality, maturity, and/or ministry development. While others may find it hard to reach the model because they do not have the time, the training, or the overall group maturity to obtain it. The first group finds the model very encouraging because of their success and the second gets very discouraged because of their perceived failure to look like the first group.
3. Group Models Tend To Move The Bar
The question is, where do you set the bar for where a groups should be? No group has arrived; in every group on the planet there is room for growth. If you set the bar to low, the group isn't challenged enough and often halts the discipleship process. If you put the bar in the middle, for some it is too high and some it is too low. It is always changing.
Progress Is A Win
Rather than placing a model in front of every group and say, "this is what your group should look like," I have found it more helpful to say, "praise God your group looks like it does, here are some ways you and your group can continue to grow in Christlikeness."
When a new Christian puts their faith in Jesus we celebrate. We are not discouraged that they do not know how to pray or they do not understand the Bible. At every step of a Christian's walk we celebrate progress. We need to start looking at our Gospel Communities in this way as well. There is always room for growth but we should always celebrate progress. I am pretty sure I have not see an unhealthy group that is growing in Christlikeness. When a group becomes static its health declines, when it remains dynamic Jesus shines.
Think of your group as a family growing together in Christ. Do not get discouraged, celebrate the evidence of God's grace where you are, and then put your hand to the plow and move forward!