One of my tasks as associate pastor of discipleship at Grace Chapel is to bring fresh life to our small groups. Everyone wants to know what kind of “model” of small groups I’ll implement. Full disclosure: I’ve never been a fan of models for ministry. It seems plastic and forced, at times. People can get so into their “model” that they fail to be faithful to Scripture, contextualization is forgotten, and innovation is stymied. So it would be easy to do away with all models and say we’re just going to “do small groups.” But that doesn’t work either, does it? There is a more balanced approach than simply rejecting all models. Everyone has a model, after all. Even a on-model is model. So how can we understand models? Models are bad masters, but they are good servants. Jesus is the master and Scripture is our final authority. Models are merely servants to a greater end of glorifying Jesus by making disciples who make disciples.
Now, what about our model? For small groups—and the church as a whole—I’m convinced that a “missional community” (or “gospel community”) model most closely aligns to what true biblical community is.
This post and the next two are going to address the nuts and bolts of missional community. None of this is my original work. I’m not going to try to cite sources at specific points because this stuff is all over church websites and blogs and in books that it’s hard to know who first formulated it. What I can tell you is that I’m indebted to churches like Coram Deo in Omaha, Nebraska, Austin Stone in Austin, Texas, and, Soma Communities in Tacoma, Washington, among others. I have most certainly ripped off these ideas from them. And I have no doubt that they ripped them off from someone else. Many thanks are due to these communities and their leaders—I praise God for your influence on my life.
In this first post, then, let me explain what the DNA of our missional communities (what we’re calling small groups)—and eventually our church as a whole—will look like.
Every “model” has a DNA. Which means every local church and smaller group has a DNA. DNA is a set of deeply rooted values that define it. DNA gives something its unique characteristic. At Grace Chapel, want to be a gospel-centered church–a gospeliscious church (to borrow a Scotty Smith term). We want to eat, breathe, live, speak, and sleep gospel. We want the gospel to be our DNA.
Why gospel? “The gospel is the power of of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). But what exactly is the gospel? Some people believe the gospel is a doctrine to believe. Some believe it is a personal experience of God. Some believe it is a cause to champion. The gospel is none of these, yet all of them! One of these cannot be in isolation from the others, otherwise, imbalances will arise (we’ll address that in the third post). Collectively, the gospel message, the gospel community, and the gospel mission define us. This is our DNA:
- Gospel Message: The gospel is a message about God’s redemptive work through Jesus which is to be preached and believed (Mark 1:14-15; Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 15:1-3).
- Gospel Community: The gospel is a power to be experienced; a power that creates a new community of people (1 Cor. 5:17-21; Gal. 4:4-7; Eph. 2:11-22; 1 Pet. 2:8-9).
- Gospel Mission: The gospel is a call for God’s new community to be ambassadors of his kingdom. (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Pet. 2:10).
Every aspect of our church and small groups are oriented to these defining characteristics in some way. This is everything the Bible says. But it is the main thing. Now, when this gospel DNA takes root in us it changes us by God’s grace. It produces a fundamental change. How we see God, ourselves, and the rest of the world changes. In other words, the gospel gives us a new identity, and that’s what I’ll address in our next post.