The key focus of the Faith Avenue is to help people grow as disciples of Jesus.
By Randy Bloom, GCI Board Vice Chair
How were you discipled? Reflecting back on your life, how did the church of Jesus help you grow closer to him, participate more with him, and grow deeper into the community of believers – his church?
Perhaps you can clearly identify and describe various ways your local church has helped you grow as a disciple of Jesus. Sadly, some (many?) Christians aren’t sure how they were discipled. Upon reflection, they realize that while they have grown in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus, the process of growing closer to Jesus and into more active participation in his church and its mission was more of a process of osmosis. It just gradually “happened” over time. Too many churches have been weak in their intentional process for “making disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20). We want to change that in Grace Communion International. Thus our 2021 theme of Faith Forward.
One suggested framework for intentional disciplemaking
It’s true that discipleship is a life-long, gradual process beginning with evangelism (in various forms) and a person’s response to the gospel. It is also true that we cannot transform people—the Holy Spirit transforms people in Christ. But the church is called to participate in the Spirit’s process of making disciples. The disciplemaking efforts of a healthy church need to be intentional, just as Jesus was intentional about the growth and development of his followers during his earthly ministry. One framework, as seen throughout Jesus’s ministry, has been expressed as reaching, nurturing, equipping and multiplying.
Reaching (outreach) ministries are those focused outside the walls of the church for and with people in the community surrounding the church meeting place. Nurturing has to do with helping people enter a relationship with Jesus and grow as mature believers. Equipping entails helping people learn to participate in various aspects of ministry service. Multiplying involves developing leaders who can lead ministries and start new ones (and perhaps pastor churches or start new churches).
Keep in mind, this only describes a working framework. Disciplemaking is not a linear process by which people move from “one step to another” along a projected trajectory of time. It is personal, dynamic, and varies from person to person. The challenge for a healthy church is to have Faith Avenue ministries in place to disciple people wherever they are in their life journey with Jesus.
Disciplemaking is community building
In addition to focusing on helping individuals grow as followers of Jesus, disciplemaking includes making intentional efforts to build community – building up the body of Christ as an integrated community of Christ.
Small groups continue to provide one of the best ways for creating opportunities for relationship building and spiritual growth. They provide ideal environments for building relationships, nurturing believers, and equipping them for ministry service, community engagement and leadership development.
Informal social gatherings (picnics, game nights, community service projects) provide excellent opportunities for relationship building that contribute to a healthy church environment.
Building a healthy community of disciples entails bringing people of all ages together in as many ways as possible to get to know each other, learn from each other and grow together in Christ. This often takes effort and creativity, but the rewards are great.
No doubt you have several effective disciplemaking ministries in place, in your church, in addition to your weekly worship service. I hope you take time to brainstorm some new ways to engage people of all ages to help them grow as followers of Jesus. Doing so contributes to the health and vitality of a congregation and fulfills the church’s mission in Christ.
Faith Avenue small group ideas
There are innumerable ways to reach people with godly principles and help others to live like Jesus. Any group started with the right foundation of sharing Jesus’ love and life with others can be successful and helpful to others.
- Focused on evangelism
- Building relationships in the community
- Women’s group – encouraging women in the congregation to invite friends to learn from other women
- Moms’ group – a good way to reach moms in the neighborhood
- Young mothers’ group – specializing in caring for a first, or very young child and sharing biblical principles with young mothers
- Men’s group
- Dads’ group
- Single parent group
- Singles’ group – encouraging singles in the church to invite friends from work or their neighborhood to share, grow and learn together
- Exercise group—running, cycling, going to the gym together
- New believers’ group
- Cooking and sharing menus group
- Groups for those who often get little attention
- Unwed mothers group
- Widows and/or Widowers group
- Mentoring teens and youth
- Youth group
- Young adults group
- Crafts group
- Sewing, crocheting, etc.
- Basic home maintenance
- Managing your finances
The list is endless. Send us information of your discipleship groups so we can share best practices and grow together.