As a church desiring to do God’s will and be effective in our ministry efforts, we always want to evaluate what we’re doing to ensure we’re not overlooking opportunities to be as healthy as we can be. Our church does many things well: teaching, evangelism, missions, leadership development, etc. However, sometimes, even by accident, other important aspects of ministry can be overlooked. Two that have been neglected in our case are fellowship and discipleship. While it’s true that there are some opportunities currently for fellowship and discipleship, it’s also true that we have not been as intentional with those two aspects of ministry as the Lord calls us to be. Acts 2:42 says the early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…” We’ve got that part covered! However, the verse continues, “…and the fellowship.” That’s where we are falling short. We haven’t been as devoted to fellowship as God calls His people to be.
Something else we always want to consider in evaluating our ministry efforts is whether or not the Lord is blessing our efforts and whether or not we are seeing fruit come from those efforts. The Bible says, “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:17-18). In the same way, healthy ministries will produce good fruit. Currently, our Sunday evening services, while producing occasional fruit and often producing benefits related to growth in understanding, are not producing consistent fruit.
Rather than eliminate the service altogether, we want to ask, “How can we utilize this time to address neglected areas of ministry in hopes of seeing good fruit?” After over a year of prayer and much conversation, our church has decided to move away from a service model on Sunday evenings and transition to a small group model.
The goal of the gospel groups is to fellowship with other believers, grow with other believers, and live out the faith with other believers. These groups will provide our church with the opportunity to be intentional with fellowship and discipleship. Whereas Sunday School on Sunday mornings focuses on education through the teaching of God’s Word, the gospel groups will focus on fellowship and discipleship (growing closer in our relationships with each other and with God) through a conversation-based Bible study. In other words, gospel groups will not be another Sunday school time. The Bible will be central, as it is in everything we do, but the approach will be different. Instead of having one person teach a lesson to a group, each group will have a leader/facilitator who will guide the group in a discussion that comes from a biblical passage. This way people will have the chance to open up and share what they’re going through, learn what the Bible has to say about what they’re going through, and see how to apply the Bible to their everyday lives. This will help us deepen our relationship with each other as we deepen our understanding of, love for, and relationship with God.
We will also, for the foreseeable future, be using a facility-based model, meaning we will meet at the church property. Our groups will also be homogenous at the start, meaning groups of people in similar walks of life: kids, youth, young married, working, retired, single, etc. The way this will work is at 4:00 pm on Sunday afternoons, we will all meet in the sanctuary to sing one hymn, read one Scripture, and pray before we dismiss into our groups. The groups will then meet together for approximately an hour before dismissing. The gospel groups will also meet for a certain number of weeks for a given session and then have a short break before the sessions start again. For instance, our first study is a 6-week study, so we will meet from November 6 to December 11. We won’t have gospel groups the last two Sunday evenings in December due to a Christmas Contata and Christmas, but then we will start a new session in January.
We’re excited about this new ministry in the life of our church. We have been praying about this for over a year and are excited about what the Lord is going to do in our church through the gospel groups. It’s very common for churches to fall into a rut and just do what they’ve always done. Many churches just exist. We don’t want to just exist. We want to thrive. We want more than just cultural, nominal Christianity. God wants more for His people, and so do we. We want our church to move beyond the “Hey, how are you?” conversations before and after service and strive for deeper more meaningful relationships with each other that come from fellowshipping together, growing together, and living our God’s Word together.
We will be coming out with more information in the coming weeks, so be on the lookout for that. In the meantime, click on the Frequently Asked Questions tab for more information.