From Community to Kingdomby Kaben Kramer
While we may not realize it or use this wording, most often our view of small groups is as a maintenance element of the Christian-industrial complex: a means to keep people connected to the larger programs of the church, to feel good about one another, and stay in-touch with what’s happening in the local church building. While this may be useful in maintaining steady tithing, it is not “useful” in advancing Kingdom in-breaking.
Instead, and without changing much of what it practically looks like to meet together throughout the week (this is key), our view of mid-week community gatherings should be that of the bleeding edge of ministers at work: of disciples gathering together to become more like Jesus themselves while at the very same time leading others to become disciples. While this can be more messy (how do you deal with training, vision, or discipline?), it is absolutely key in advancing “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…”
SMALL GROUPS FAIL AT THE MOST BASIC CHRISTIAN TASK - MAKING DISCIPLES
In Matthew 28 Jesus sends a message to his disciples to gather together at a particular time and place to meet him. They do, some with hope and some with doubt, they gather as Jesus had asked. When Jesus shows up, they all worship him.
Then Jesus says to them, "I've overcome death itself; all authority is at my disposal and subject to my rule. In my power, go out from here - to every highway, byway, town, country, and continent: Go! Where ever you go, just do one thing: make disciples."
To Jesus, disciple-making is the de facto normal of a Christian life, it is the centerpiece of the Great Commission, and it’s the measure by which Jesus will evaluate our Kingdom effectiveness. It isn’t for the weirdos or the professionals; making disciples is for everyone who claims to follow Jesus. It is not an optional bonus-package for the super spiritual, it is the baseline to tell if we actually get who Jesus is.
SHIFTING FROM MAINTENANCE TO MISSION
When we allow our vision of mid-week gatherings to shift from maintaining comfortable community to seeing the Kingdom come here and now, the result is an inherent bent towards multiplication.
I was recently meeting with a local pastor and the question of small groups came up. When I asked what his vision was, it pointed towards a maintenance-mentality. I said, “Let’s assume things go smashingly well and brand new believers come into the Kingdom because of your mid-week groups, triple the number who currently attend on Sunday. What do you do with them? Go multi-site? Multi-service? Or something else?”
His answer was good - rather than grow his own program he would want to see churches planted throughout the city. I asked him, “So are you training your small group leaders to be mission-minded church-planters?”
Mid-week community gatherings are not meant to promote the status quo of church programming, but to cut into unknown territory - enemy territory - and lay claim to it in the power of Jesus’ Name. When we make some simple changes to lead more missionally - both in our model and in our vision - small communities rediscover their incredible Kingdom potency, and are incredibly useful and vital to advancing God’s will and Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven.
THREE 'HOW-TO' PRO-TIPS FROM JESUS
When the disciples gathered as Jesus asked, Jesus showed up and sent them on mission. After giving them clear instructions to go out and make disciples, he gives them three indicators for successful disciple-making:
- Teach them Jesus' words. All of them.
- Model for them how to live a life obedient (transformed by and conformed to) Jesus' words. Implore them to model you in obedience as you model the life of Jesus in your own life.
- Welcome them into the community of faith through baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Community is important as a byproduct of and a supply depot for multiplying mission, not as a way to maintain the status quo.
If we do this simple thing - if we actually go out from our place and meet with real people and engage them around the person and purposes of Jesus in order for them and us to be more like HIM - then Jesus promises that he will be with us no matter what. Pretty cool.
Will your gatherings be maintenance of the church program, or will they be a living extension of the mission of God in your geography?
Have a big view of what God wants to accomplish through your team: whether it’s your family, your believing co-workers, or your entire congregation. Jesus has already thought of bigger dreams and better visions - so aim big and follow Jesus into better.
Editor's Note: This content originally appeared on a personal blog. Kaben Kramer works with Global Fellowship. He and his wife, Jenn, and two kids reside in Auburn, C.A. For more from his blog, go to www.tenderlyrooted.com.