Article by Tom Houser
You can’t win a race if you don’t know where the finish line is, and you can’t run a race if you don’t train for it.
Grace Point started as a church plant in 2000, and quickly grew until our weekly attendance topped 500 people. We grew so fast we didn’t take time to pause and assess where we were and where we were going. Then things changed: our numerical growth stalled. When a family left in search of a church where people were “getting discipled”, I was honestly irritated and defensive…but I also suspected they were on to something. I had a nagging feeling that something just wasn’t right.
When we finally paused to look a little deeper into how we were doing, we came to some disturbing conclusions. The gospel our church family understood did not include the idea of a changed life this side of heaven, only some vague notion of getting to heaven when they died. Even if they expected a changed life, most didn’t know how to find it. Therefore, many fell away or acquiesced to a tired, unassuming, uninspiring church life.
We knew needed a way to illustrate the whole Christian race: how you start the race, how you train to run it well, what the prize looks like, and how you train others to run it. And so, we embarked on a journey to clarify the mission our church family and equip them to carry it out. First, we crafted a new mission statement: Introducing people to Jesus Christ and living together in His Kingdom.
Then, we crafted a visual representation of how that mission statement works itself out in the life of a Christian. We call it the Cross of Kingdom Living. It includes the Gate to life in the Kingdom (surrender), the Power and Purpose to live that life (Christ in me to change me for His glory), the life itself (mind, character, and life of Christ), the way to find that life (new narratives, soul exercises, Christian community, life challenges), and the need to share that life with others.
Once we polished up our mission statement and the Cross of Kingdom Living, we wrestled with how to best make them a reality in the life of our congregation. For people that wanted to know how Grace Point could help them run their race well, we narrowed things down to four Pathways to Kingdom Living:
- Family Gatherings, where the church family gathers to celebrate, learn and worship together.
- Life Groups, where small group of friends enjoy life together as they learn what it means to live in Kingdom of God.
- Discipleship Groups, where a few people commit to walking side-by-side into God’s Kingdom together, passing along the life they discover to others who will do the same.
- Personal Devotions, because time spent alone with God and His Word is the foundation of a growing life in His Kingdom.
This been a fantastic process at Grace Point. I’ve never been a part of something quite so encouraging. We have seen people’s lives change in dramatic ways as their minds and character has been transformed. It has also been a very long process. My patience has been pushed to the limit. It has been exhausting. We have argued and debated. We have wrestled (and are still wrestling) with the way we have always done things.
And so, our struggle to disciple our church family is not complete. In fact, it is only beginning. The language and concepts have not yet permeated into everyone’s hearts and minds. Getting our second level of leaders trained and excited has proven challenging. Discipleship Groups are by far the most significant thing we have done to disciple people. But still people resist them. They are small and slow, and birthing their second generation has proven difficult. Our time and energy spent focusing on discipled living is just now turning outward to missional living…but it is turning.
My suggestion: Clarify the win and race for your church. Then focus on it with everything you have. Start with yourself and then give it to your church. You will never, ever regret it!
Visit Tom’s website: www.runinsuchaway.weebly.com