Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NIV)
Gone are the days where if we offered decent worship services, sermons, and various programs, we could keep and grow a good church. The context for how we live out our Christianity in our congregations in North America has radically changed in our lifetime. Many are referring to that time now past as “Christiandom.” It was nice. It’s gone. Our present reality is that most people in North America don’t and probably won’t go to church. We now live in a context where we literally need to live as missionaries in our own communities – and having a sign that reads, “Now Entering The Mission Field” as you leave the church parking lot is not enough!
How we do church must change because of our new context. You could say that we must do church for the unchurched.
That’s why last week I wrote an article titled, “Preaching for a Change” on the idea that preaching in our Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) congregations should have the goal of seeing lives changed (transformed) not just passing on “head” knowledge. That’s not enough anymore – if it ever was.
This week, I want to address the same idea as it relates to small groups. The goal of small groups or even Sunday School should be the making of mature, missional disciples of Jesus –Christians who, “are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18b (NIV) Bible Study for knowledge alone doesn’t necessarily translate into a transformed Christ-like life. Combining that good knowledge with experience is more likely to produce changed lives.
As you make plans for developing or strengthening small group ministry in your congregation this year, would you include ways for groups to experience Christianity as much as they are learning about it? Perhaps this Fall you could initiate some new groups with this in mind. Or even be thinking and planning now for the New Year or Lent in 2019 which are natural times to launch new groups.
Here are two possibilities you could utilize that I’ve seen work:
- Rooted. This is an excellent small group. The church I am a member of, Grace Anglican in Fleming Island, FL, uses Rooted as the second part of their spiritual formation process. The course covers the essential aspects of becoming a mature, missional disciple of Jesus, and also includes experiences to put them into practice. I joined the group expecting just another small group Bible Study and was pleasantly surprised with how “real” it allowed participants to be and how the experiences built into it quickly helped move information from the head to the hands (application). I saw both long time church members and brand-new believers being transformed. Did I mention it was excellent? This is how it is described on the Rooted website:
“CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT DISCIPLESHIP.
Rooted changes the way people are discipled and impacts holistic church growth while building, launching and sustaining healthy, life-changing small groups in your church.”
“WHY DOES ROOTED WORK SO WELL? Through an experiential model, Rooted teaches people what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, built on faith’s foundational elements such as worship, generosity, service, evangelism, prayer and studying God’s word.”
I wish I had learned about Rooted earlier as I’m sure I would have utilized it to try to do small groups for a change. And as Anglicans, we can appreciate that Rooted has its roots in the African Church. Please check it out for yourself at: https://www.experiencerooted.com/
- I’ve written about campaigns several times because they really work. The reason they work is what is referred to as “the power of alignment.” For usually 40 days, or six weeks, you have the whole congregation aligned on the same topic. They are hearing a weekly message, studying the same small group curriculum, reading the same daily devotional, experiencing the same practicums, memorizing the same Scriptures. There is power in that alignment. More life change happens more quickly in this way in my experience. There are many campaigns out there that you can purchase and use. They are very user friendly – open the box and follow the instructions. After buying and doing several campaigns, we understood the important components – including adding experiences – and we started putting together our own. You could do that too!
These are just two ideas that I’m tossing out there that will help you do small groups for a change. What are your ideas? What have you seen that actually helps reach and then transforms lives in the love of Jesus Christ? Please share them with us and we’ll pass the information along! Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The Rev. Canon Mark Eldredge is Director of Church Revitalization and Coaching at the American Anglican Council.