Last week, I talked about disciple-making structures, emphasizing church gathered (attractional), church scattered (missional), and leadership development (training). This week I want to take a little different angle at disciple-making at discuss the three venues, namely large gathering (macro), small gathering (micro), and one-to-one (organic). A church with a healthy emphasis on disciple-making will leverage all three “venues” to accomplish that goal, and those who are responsible for kingly administration should have assessment metrics to determine how well each venue is being accessed.
I’m not the guy who says there is only one venue for disciple-making. I’m a big fan of church gathered (large venue), of church scattered (small venue), and of organic church (one-to-one venue). In evangelical circles today, however, there tends to be those who emphasize one venue to the exclusion or at least downplaying of the other. Traditional churches who accustomed to large venue gathered services will downplay micro church because they like the kind of discipleship large venues offer (generally preaching and teaching). Micro churches can undermine gathered church because it feels too institutional, hierarchical, or professional. While churches may have a venue that is a strong suit, they ought to be accessing all three venues for healthy and robust disciple-making.
One of the most basic ways of assessing discipleship from a kingly administrative perspective then is to determine (to the best of your ability) how members are accessing all three venues. Are there members going to church gathered but opting out of church scattered? Are there members who are enjoying relational one-to-one community throughout the week but negligent of the weekly gathering of God’s people? Are each of these venues accessible to members easily? Are they scalable in the sense that those who participate can experience growth and development as a disciple of Jesus?
While the micro venue is most commonly references to the structure of small groups, it is important to realize that the most prominent micro venue in the church is the family. How are believers being discipled in the home? Is the husband discipling his wife? Are the parents proactively shepherding the hearts and lives of their children? Are they regularly participating in family devotions/worship where Scripture is read and studied, prayers are offered together, and the family is brought to worship Jesus as a community of disciples? It is sad to say that even the most conservative and “committed” Christians in the macro venue of church gathered have little to no regard for the importance (and responsibility) of disciple-making in the home.
Perhaps the hardest venue to cultivate in the organic, one-to-one venue of discipleship. Both macro and micro church have an attachment to “going to church” (as incorrect an assertion that may be), but one-to-one is not “going to church” but “being the church” 24/7 in relational community with fellow gospel-loving followers of Jesus. One of my hopes with the emphasis on micro church (small groups) is that they would be catalytic to more one-to-one discipleship throughout the week where ministry is not defined by one day of the week, or a program, or a time slot where only then does discipleship take place. Instead, gospel rhythms are established in everyday life with such intentionality so that every sphere of life becomes a venue to learn what it means to love, honor, and worship Jesus. That is why, I believe, Jesus spoke of parables using the most common, everyday illustrations such as salt, light, soil, family, etc. to explain the deeper spiritual reality that makes sense because discipleship is taking place “as you go” (Matt. 28:19).
One of the practical takeaways to thinking about discipleship venues is to recognize other venues that are not plausible or profitable to the mission of the church. In other words, there are venues that should not be encouraged or accessed. For instance, if there is to be the kind of organic one-to-one discipleship taking place during the week and yet your church calendar is full of activity and events, how can members even begin to create such discipleship rhythms such as hospitality and community involvement if they are already tied up? People are busy enough as it is, and the church does not need to add to our overly complex lives with well-intentioned activities that unfortunately become counter-productive to the mission of making disciples.
In kingly administration of disciple-making venues, it is a good reminder that busyness does not equal godliness. There are avenues that are dead ends when it comes to discipleship. Good stewardship of, and an unwavering commitment to, disciple-making means that we access appropriate venues for the sake of gospel growth and kingdom advance, and sometimes this means doing less in order that we might be more.