Growing up in the church, I observed our pastor taking the good news of the gospel to every corner of our city. The pastor never focused on numeric growth but always asked the question, “Are we developing disciples of Jesus?” We did not have the language, the systems, or the processes that are available today. Still, we were obedient to “go and make disciples.” After planting a church later in my life and serving on staff at a mega-church, I find myself asking the same question: “Are we developing disciples of Jesus?”
Are we developing disciples of Jesus?
Right before the pandemic, I was talking with a few people about the idea of identifying, equipping, and empowering people to live out the great commission. It was nothing more than a conversation and a dream I had for our church. I knew the need in my city was larger than I could ever meet alone. Then, the pandemic hit. As all churches, we had to act fast and look for ways to continue to be the church even when we could not physically be together. We shifted to online services and small digital groups. If you were a part of a church staff team, you’ll remember trying to figure out what to do next.
It Takes Experimenting
However, people still missed being with one another, even if that was in smaller gatherings. Therefore, we started to experiment by inviting people over to watch the online services together, which generated transformative conversations. Our relationship with one another grew tremendously, and soon, the people in the group asked the question, “How can we do the same with our friends and family who do not know Christ?”
It’s about relational discipleship.
That’s when the idea of starting full, but smaller, expressions of the church came to fruition. As part of a mega-church, we tend to like big things, not small ones. Yet, we knew we needed to let go of some of the preconceived notions of what the church looks like to move forward.
It Takes a Paradigm Shift
No matter the size of your church, we tend to imagine the church in terms of the songs we sing, the teaching, the flow of the service, and Sunday morning. These things are great but are usually dependent on a platform and based on performance. These things are necessarily bad. However, this focus can create consumers instead of disciples. People come to hear a great teacher, great music, be present for about an hour a week on Sunday morning, and then continue to do their everyday lives. But if we are serious about the great commission, we have to see the church from a different lens.
Are we creating consumers or disciples?
In Acts 2, we see a glimpse of the early church design. There is fellowship, prayer, the word, breaking of bread, and generosity. Notice that it never mentions platform, lights, or one particular gifted teacher. It’s about relational discipleship and empowering people to live on a mission.
It Takes Time
Relationally developing disciples takes time. We hope that as we make disciples and share the gospel, a new church will emerge. But the whole process takes time. Starting microchurches involves identifying, equipping, and releasing people to live missionally. At the Kansas City Underground, we have identified five phases in this process.
- Identifying and Assessing. In this phase, we have lots of “I see in you …” conversations with potential leaders. But, we also want to make sure there is cohesiveness between what they feel God is calling them to do and what we think God is calling us to do as a church. If we feel there is alignment, then we pass to the second phase.
- Training and Equipping. In this training, we help lead from a healthy self, live missionally, and understand the nuts and bolts of a microchurch.
- Commissioning. When we commission leaders to live out missionally, eventually, a microchurch will emerge.
- Ongoing Coaching. We have rhythms of coaching that help leaders lead from a healthy self and feel cared for and supported.
- Multiplication. Our prayer is to see a movement of disciple-making leaders who are planting and starting new microchurches.
As you can see, it is a long process. But we heard from a good friend of ours that slow is the new fast.
It Is Worth It
So far, we have 19 microchurches that have launched and 5 that are about to launch soon. We have churches ministering to millennials disengaged from the traditional church, serving first and second-generation Hispanics, and reaching previously incarcerated people. Plus, we have a network of churches in India that are ministering in remote villages in the southeast part of the country. We hear story after story of transformation. Some of those stories are as simple as people having the strength to find stable jobs or about people who are thinking of starting a microchurch.
You do not wait to have everything figured out to start a disciple-making church. Trust the work of the Holy Spirit and know that God cares for his people. He has gifted each and everyone to live out a mission. Let’s not be afraid to step out in faith and trust God for new expressions of the church where every believer is no longer a consumer but a disciple-maker. As a result, we will see a movement in our neighborhoods, cities, nations, and world. Ask yourself: “Are we developing disciples of Jesus?”