Have we got the ‘big’ question wrong?
We cannot hide from it. It seeks us out. It’s an enquiry that won’t go away and it’s just too easy to ask. It permeates our thinking. It dictates our programs. But most importantly it takes us to a place far from God.
I’m talking about these five powerful and destructive words: “How big is your group?”
This question haunts us in every area of church life - whether we are a part of a kids club, youth group, a new Christian group, or various other ministries. I believe it has saturated our churches because it has saturated our world. Every company, business, school and university wants to get bigger and bigger. More people, more numbers, more everything. Whoever has the most, wins.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I don’t like ‘big’. I love big churches. I love huge churches. It is a great encouragement to see thousands of people meeting in the same place to worship God. More of that please. What I am saying is that asking about size is the wrong question, because it produces insecurity, negative competition, guilt and sometimes inactivity.
That’s enough about the issue and its cause. Let’s find a solution. Or at least, start moving towards one.
Our journey begins with the well-known final instructions from Jesus to his followers before ascending to heaven. (Matt 28:19) “Go and make disciples of all nations…”. Here we have the mission for every ministry group, every local church and all other Christian activities: Get involved with this ‘discipling business’. This might mean growing them, sustaining them, equipping them or sending them out. Every group has a role.
So if every group has some part to play in discipleship, it seems that the ‘big’ question to ask, as we serve amongst our groups, does not concern size, but rather how we grow as disciples of Jesus.
The beauty is that discipleship is a process, not a destination or result. No group should claim that they have ‘arrived’ at perfect discipling. Every team needs to keep going. This is a great reason to keep encouraging each other.
So maybe the ‘big’ question should look something like:
“How is your group involved in discipleship?” or “What is your group learning from Jesus right now?”
Paradoxically, numerical growth is a direct result of true discipleship. However, it does not come from an emphasis on numbers but a focus on discipleship. This requires us to re-frame our question in terms of discipleship and allow God to continue building his Kingdom one life at a time.
Arana Hills Church of Christ
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