Outside the Walls

I was recently talking to friend about the church that they attend, one which has many Bible study groups, largely meeting in homes. Many, if not the majority, of churches have such study groups, indeed there are tens of thousands around the country, which may have a range of other names such as Home, Life, Growth, Grow groups etc.

However, as my friend was telling me such groups are nearly always somewhat insular. Yes they study the bible and pray and may even sing Christian songs and these are all very important things, but largely it is all in-house stuff. In most cases there is not any missional dimension that will grow the Kingdom.

Reflecting on this, I started to think how such groups, of which there are so many, could be re-engineered such that a missional dimension could be added to them. There are two reasons this is important. Firstly, and the main one, is Jesus’ imperative to ‘Go and make Disciples’ (Matthew 28:19). He did not give this as an optional extra for those gifted as Evangelists or zealous Christians who were ‘keen on this sort of thing’, (Paul told Timothy that even though he was young and timid he should do the work of an evangelist – 2 Timothy 4:5).

Secondly, and crucially, the now decades long catastrophic decline in church membership across, and loss of Gospel influence on, society as a whole.

Even outside Jesus’ specific command, the biblical mandate and exhortation is clear, e.g.-

Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise –
the fruit of lips that openly profess His name.’          Hebrews 13:15 and
But you are a chosen people . . .. God’s special possession that
you may declare the praises of him
who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light’.

1 Peter 2:9.

So the question that came to me was ‘How can we turn a largely inward-looking Bible Study group (or even a House Church which generally has the same missional four-walls-limitations as a standard church building does) into a Missional Community that will impact its local community, and so become more faithful to Jesus missional command? Here is a suggested strategy that over time might work.

Step 1- Sensitise

The first thing we can do is to regularly remind the group of, and sensitise them to, Jesus’ instruction for them to make disciples, a process that will not even start unless we intentionally engage with unbelievers. We can do this by starting the first part of our time every meeting with a question such as –

How have you acted as a Kingdom Agent since we last met? That is engaged in conversations or actions, whether great or small, that might point somebody to God.

Or- Have you had any spiritual conversations with a non-believer recently?

Why do this? Firstly, if the group does this every time they meet, it will sensitise the members as to God’s expectation for them to act as the Salt Jesus died to make them.

Secondly, as members hear what ‘spiritual encounters’ others have had, or deeds they have been involved in, over the time since they last met this will both encourage and spur them on in their own efforts.

Thirdly it holds them accountable for their obedience to Jesus’ disciple-making mandate.

Step 2- Initiate the ‘GO’ Dimension

Jesus’ instruction to make disciples, which as stated above is not an optional extra just for ‘keen’ Christians, includes the exhortation to ‘GO’, not sit and wait for people to come to us so we can disciple them.

Therefore, the next step once the group has been sensitised to the fact that while their bible study and prayer times are important, God expects them to also be making disciples, i.e. to have a missional dimension to their existence. Indeed, as much as he does for the standard church.

So the next step will be to gently encourage the group to move out of their comfort zone by planning a fairly non-threatening missional activity. This might simply be that they decide one week that, instead of meeting in their normal comfortable location of someone‘s lounge room they meet in some public place. This could be a coffee shop, a club, a pub, a park or the food court in a local shopping centre (or other creative options where non-believers gather) where they just act as a group of friends catching up. Which is in effect what they are; they just happen to be Christians.

They should have a bible visible, but the study might be reduced to just a one verse topical discussion, and they might end with just one person praying briefly at the end.

Step 3- Slowly Develop the Missional Dimension

Once having ‘broken the ice’ with the first and second steps, the group can then be encouraged to repeat their activity on an increasingly frequent basis.

Experience has shown that, over time, a group just being in a public place on a regular basis has a Gospel influence on the ’regulars’ who meet there.

If the Christian body (the Church) is to have any chance of meeting the colossal missional challenge in a now increasingly hostile and pagan society (a challenge the Church has not faced for 1500 years) its members have to start to move out of their ‘four walls’ meeting places, i.e., their comfort zones. From lounge-room Bible studies and House churches to active, intentionally missional, Kingdom Outbreaks in the ‘Live, work and play’ spaces where the ‘Lost’ spend their time.

Image the effect on society, of hundreds of regenerated, previously ‘inside four walls’ groups, embedded as gospel implants spread across the community.

For encouragement, this is not just some theoretical idea, rather there are many examples where this has already been done.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.