Christianity is under attack. But is that really news?
In every generation, the survival of Christianity gets called into question. Voltaire declared, “Another century and there will not be a Bible on earth.” He died in 1778. Robert Ingersoll was even more bold, “In twenty-five years, the Bible will be a forgotten book.” He died in 1899.
The bones of those assailants have long since returned to dust, but the church still stands. The survival of Christianity is in no more danger today than during any other age. So be alarmed, but there's no reason to despair.
That said, it seems fair to suggest the church today is prevalent but not powerful. Given the sudden rise of the “dones,” “nones,” and the alarming lack of “discipled” disciples, what is the way forward for today's Christian church?
Urgent Problems Screaming for an Immediate Solution
I think some of the hardest things for someone to really believe about churching together are 1) that "I" can make a difference, and 2) that my participation "really" matters for more than just for the current big push. Most of us don't feel integral to church success. We feel like, “The church will succeed with me or without me.”
These are big obstacles to overcome. People usually have good reasons to think and feel the way they do, even if they can't put it into words.
What's the underlying problem? Chiefly, most of us don't need more food, we need more exercise. Paralleling culture, spiritual obesity is a health crisis. In our day, there are so many spiritual overeaters who have been gorging on good teaching for years, but haven’t been following the Jesus way of discipling others as they have been discipled.
In my opinion the current bottleneck, the one problem (and opportunity) most holding back churches from being faithful to their mission, is "disciples not making disciples--starting at home." Of course, "disciples not making disciples" is an oxymoron.
How Does God Provide to Solve These Problems?
So what's the solution? How can we help people really believe that they can make a difference? That their personal involvement is not only desirable but necessary, even crucial? And what is the structure that will help them make that difference?
"Disciples making disciples" is God's designated way of releasing the power of his gospel on every problem we face.
The really great news is that while implementation takes a few years, the solution is quite simple. There is a method for disciples to make disciples with proven results. It’s the method Jesus inaugurated as the cornerstone of his strategy to bring the gospel of His kingdom to the whole world.
He started a small group.
Jesus wagered the success of His entire mission on the success of a single small group to spiritually reproduce themselves.
What makes a small group so special? A small group is where people can get so personally invested in others that they come to believe that what they say and do really can make a difference, and that their personal involvement really does matter.
What makes a small group work? There are several factors, of course, such as a leader who cares, two more people who really want to grow, and a respect for the process of relationships.
But like a shade tree over all of these is love. Love makes me care. I may love the masses in a general way, but when I really love the most is when I go small.
Small groups are the venues designated by Christ where we can get close enough to each other to care—really care—about each other.
And that will change the world.
It already has.