Austin Stone is a church that comes up on this blog every once in a while because they have been leading the way in many missional practices. And it’s clear that we can TEACH persons until we’re blue in the face. We can TELL them all about Jesus and read from the Bible to them. We can see if they BELIEVE certain basics of the Christian faith. But, really, those are not discipleship. Discipleship is following in the way of Jesus. It’s about practice.
At Austin Stone, the primary location for this is in Life Transformation Groups. Here’s how Todd Engstrom says it:
Obedience, for us, is being serious about obeying God’s word personally.
Going deeper happens with individual accountability to being a disciple. We tried a bunch of names for these kind of gatherings, but they all sound weird.
Finally, we just decided we’d stick with life transformation groups, or LTGs for short. Neil Cole just unpacked them for us, and to be honest, he got it right!
An LTG is a smaller group of two or three believers of the same gender that commit to meeting outside of the group meeting time. This is the place to study the Bible deeply and to be known deeply by another.
There are three primary elements to this kind of group:
First, we want to Hear and Obey – we want to read God’s word every day, and be held accountable to what we need to DO in response
Second, we want to Repent and Believe – we want to confess and repent of our sin and disobedience. Second, we’re going to remind one another to believe the good news of Christ’s perfect life, his atoning death, and his resurrection.
Third, we want to Consider and Pray – we want to consider opportunities we have to share the gospel, and then pray by name individual people, not just generic groups.
You will notice that there really isn’t a “missional” component to the LTGs as part as “going out.” But that third section, “Consider and Pray,” is the first step in being able to go out and take the gospel to folks. However, one could argue that each of these steps is necessary before anyone is “missional.” It is laying the foundation.
I am enthralled with this model, even in a small town. What might it look like if we had neighborhood expressions of our own church, each involved in mission? Are we so small that we’re already a neighborhood unto ourselves? Or do we have distinct areas?
Here’s what I found from City Parish:
Each parish is committed to living beyond Sunday services but moving to the heartbeat of the surrounding area, fully engaged with the neighborhood as a whole. With a local pastor living within the neighborhood, the parish is guided by local elders and a leadership team who provide spiritual direction and a specific missional vocation for the congregation. Each neighborhood community also has its own structures for pastoral care.
Permanence, proximity and priority in relationships are so elusive in city life but crucial to neighborhood transformation. For this reason, leaders establish their roots in their neighborhood near one another and encourage members of the church to do the same if they are able.
These neighborhood churches hold weekend worship gatherings, the purpose of which is to celebrate the signs of the kingdom of God breaking out across the neighborhood. Each community has the freedom to contextualize its worship to the culture of its neighborhood communities–meeting in areas with many families may cause a parish to focus on developing a thriving children’s ministry, while a gathering in a neighborhood full of artists may include interactive, creative elements in its worship.
I’m wondering where this might work here?
What that Church of Jesus Christ needs is people whose heart breaks for the neighborhoods that they serve and when the love of Jesus comes to the brokenness of world, the Kingdom of Heaven is unleashed, and we begin to see what God wants happening on Earth as it is in Heaven.
–John Tyson, Verge Disciplemaking Blueprint Course
From John Burke
From the Verge Disciplemaking Blueprint Course
“Well, I really only have one thing to say. If your unchurched friends are not finding faith and becoming the church, you’re not missional, period. Let me say it again. If your unchurched friends are not finding faith and becoming the church, the body of Christ, you’re not missional.”
Here’s a quote from Alan Hirsch:
What does this mean when so much of our Christian discipleship is about “teaching” people certain facts and belief, rather than showing them?
What does this mean when most Christians do not act differently than the non-Christians around them?
What does this mean when I, a pastor, feel so inadequate for the job in front of us?
Who are we teaching to act in a new way?
(From Verge’s Disciplemaking Blueprint Course)