I’ve come to find that healthy churches make disciples in multiple venues, namely church gathered (large group), church scattered (small group), and life-on-life (one-on-one). From a triperspectival approach, church gathered focus on the normative perspective (prophetic), church scattered focuses on the existential perspective (priestly), and the life-on-life focuses on the situational perspective (kingly).
Church gathered is normative because it deals directly with the text with the primacy of preaching and calls disciples to repentance and faith where God’s revelation becomes normative in their thinking, believing, and living.
Church scattered is existential because it deals directly with the context of one another’s lives and calls disciples to apply and appropriate the text to each other’s lives in a gospel community.
Life-on-life is situational because it deals directly with the subtext of what is going on beneath the surface of people’s initial responses and probes deeper the matters of the heart, enabling disciples to expose areas where they are not gladly submitted to the reign and rule of king Jesus.
I call this triperspectival church structures because the multiple venues of church life should serve the mission of the church, which is essentially to make disciples. Each venue has a dominant perspective, and each perspective emphasizes either the text, context, or subtext. Together, the gospel is to work in (text), around (context), and through (subtext) the disciple. Therefore, church gathered is typically confrontational; church scattered is typically communal; and life-on-life is typically conversational (though all three definitely overlap).
Each venue/structure is contingent upon the other. For instance, church gathered should fuel church scattered, and church scattered should facilitate life-on-life relationships. Working in reverse, life-on-life relationships should encourage gospel growth in church scattered, and church scattered should encourage community growth in church gathered.
A church committed to disciple-making ought to evaluate it’s structures to determine their effectiveness in accomplishing the church’s mission. Do we have realistic expectations for each structure? Are we expecting, for instance, church gathered to make disciples in text, context, and subtext? Can we really counsel one another, speaking the truth in love, if there is not ongoing life-on-life relationships taking place? Can we expect life-on-life relationships to form without meaningful gospel community (church scattered) where disciples are positioned around each other’s lives?
So my point is that we need all three (triperspectival) structures. A healthy church will make disciples in venues large and small, or attractional and missional. Disciple-making disciples (life-on-life) is ground zero for gospel multiplication. When you have disciple-making disciples forming gospel communities, then it stands to reason that gospel communities will reproduce into other missional expressions of a sent church. And when a church is composed of reproducing gospel communities, then the church gathered will have the DNA necessary to be an equipping, training, sending, and parenting church. Church planting churches, therefore, require reproducing gospel communities that are littered with disciple-making disciples.