As some of you may know, I attend and volunteer at our church here in Post Falls, Idaho, called Real Life Ministries pastored by Jim Putman. Recently, I attended a lunchtime meeting as part of Real Life Ministries conference series called DiscipleShift. The overriding theme of both Discipleshift and the mission statement of RLM is this: Making disciples who make disciples.
What does that mean to you?
Given the sheer number of pastors, staff and volunteers who attended the DiscipleShift conference (held monthly: information here), it depends on who you ask. And just as importantly it seems, it depends on where they’re from.
Ask a church pastor from Oregon and he’ll tell you that it’s important for the church to live out the intentionality and focus of small groups; for the church to expand beyond its four walls, embracing the Acts 2 mentality of “devote[ing] themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Adding to their numbers through pouring the Word into each other, as well as the fruits of the Spirit; raising up disciples who can then branch off into their own groups to then repeat the process.
Ask a church pastor from Africa and he’ll tell you of the great thirst for the Word in his country. Furthermore, he adds, teaching people about the importance of small groups is surprisingly unnecessary because that is simply how church is done throughout the towns and villages of his community. “Every day is church day,” he says with a broad smile, “we just get to meet together on Sunday’s.”
“What we need,” says Ronald Kizito of Living Spring Church in Uganda, East Africa, “what I hope to take back to my church, is a method of organization and coordination. To make sure that everyone involved is on the same page, with the same goals and results. Our biggest concern is getting the people into the Word, and getting the Word to the people.”
Ronald speaks of a pressing need throughout the villages of his community that may seem strange to someone from the U.S.; a country where pretty much every household has a copy of the Bible on a bookshelf, nightstand or cell phone app. By comparison, Ronald’s church hosts a congregation of over eighteen hundred people; some traveling as far as fifty miles round-trip, or more, to listen to what may well be the only Scripture they’re exposed to for the entire week.
“There is such a need, such a hunger,” he continues, “I hope to take the tools I learn here with Discipleshift and go back to my church leaders. We will meet the end of this next month. Then they will take what I am able to teach them, go back to their own groups and teach them as well. Those people will then go into the villages, into their own groups and begin the discipleship process there.”
For Bob Dilley, Associate Pastor for New Beginnings Church in Medford, Oregon, the process he hopes to take back will be more in attempting to establish a pattern, a discipline, and certain level of comfort for the folks to be okay with raising up disciples through their CARE groups who will then branch off to form their own groups. “They’re going to have to step out of their comfort zones a little and realize that, when a group branches, it’s not like you’re not going to see them anymore. In fact, in many ways, it draws you closer, because now not only do you have the Word to share but also the experiences of home group leadership and fellowship where you can help each other in those ways as well.”
Ronald Kizito smiles as Bob speaks of these dilemmas. “With my people,” he says, “it is no problem to have a leader raise up a small group, and he also brings up an assistant to help him. When it gets to a certain point, the leader can step out and the assistant takes over and becomes the new leader. The old leader then goes and starts another group. Then, both the old leader and new leader bring up another assistant who they eventually turn over the group to, and the process begins again. Right now we have over fifty core groups; and all this since only February after the first DiscipleShift training in Africa.” (Read more about RLM’s DiscipleShift training trip to East Africa here)
So, what does a DiscipleShift mean to you?
For myself, and for pastors like Bob and Ronald, it means being able to provide the tools, training and mindset necessary to your particular group, and your unique circumstances, in order to grow people closer to each other, closer to the Word, and most importantly, closer to their Holy Father and Savior, Jesus Christ. It turns out it truly makes no difference if you’re group is on the next street over, in the next state, or halfway around the world; the goal is the same: To make disciples who make disciples—winning the world for Jesus, one person at a time.