A fresh breath of theological insight to me when I was desperately seeking God with the prayer, “Lord, there has to be more about your church. Help me discover it.” —Reuben P., pastor, India
Are you effectively making disciples? Your small church can have a big impact if you focus on making disciples within the framework of early church practice. It was specifically designed to help bi-vocational pastors in their ministries.
Since every New Testament church letter was written to an illegal congregation that met secretly in a private home, the ecclesiology presented in the epistles was designed for making disciples in smaller settings. Using these inspired apostolic practices, believers were effectively taught to obey all that Jesus commanded. The result was that the Church spread like yeast throughout the nations of Roman Empire.
You can’t play baseball in a forest. You could play it football field, but it is best played on an actual baseball field. So too, the best setting for shepherding, teaching, counseling, and disciple making is in the context of early church practice.
First-century ecclesiology got far more people involved, making every member a minister. This spread-out ministry load also took undue pressure off the bi-vocational leadership (there typically was no professional pastor). Small churches that have adopted Jesus’ approach are more organic than organized, more like a family than a business, smaller rather than larger, more relational than programed, more informal more than formal, focus more on one another than any one leader, and prefer authenticity over the expertise. It is the perfect seedbed for growing disciples. For example:
• The Lord’s Supper was celebrated every week, as an actual meal (hence the name “supper”). It was a time of fellowship, one-another ministry, and building unity. This is the perfect setting for Hebrews 20:24-25 “one another” ministry to take place. Click here to learn more about the Lord’s Supper and disciple making.
• A first-century church meeting was not a spectator sport. Any member could contribute verbally to the proceedings. The prime directive was that everything said had to be edifying, encouraging, equipping, or motivational. The leaders were more like side-line coaches than star players in this phase of the gathering. Click here to learn more about church meetings and disciple making.
• Their weekly teaching times were more dynamic discussion than monolog. Spiritual maturity and critical thinking skills skyrocketed. The weekly sermons (to which the congregation passively listened) did not develop until much later in church history. Click here to learn more about Sunday teachings and disciple making.
• The leaders’ main authority lay in their ability to persuade with the truth. Rather than a top-down CEO model, church leaders took the time to serve the church by building congregational consensus on major decisions. This process strengthened the church through the democratic process. Click here to learn more about making decisions and making disciples.
You’ll find free video, audio, and columns at here at NTRF.org. A Baptist church planting network interviewed us about the results of doing church this way. Click here to listen to this short, 20-mintue interview. It may give you some biblical ideas to help your small church have a big impact.