Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Conversation Worthy of Attention

Who: Brian Jones, pastor of Christ Church of the Valley, Collegeville, PA and Frank Chiapperino, Small Group Pastor of the same church and founder of Small Group Help.

Topic: The role of small groups in discipleship development.

The conversation began Tuesday with Jones' post, Why Churches Should Euthanize Their Small Groups (and what we should replace them with). Money quote: Small groups are things that trick us into believing we’re serious about making disciples. The problem is 90% of small groups never produce one single disciple, ever. They help Christians make shallow friendships for sure. They’re great at helping Christians feel a tenuous connection to their local church. And they do a bang-up job of teaching Christians how to act like other Christians in the evangelical Christian subculture. But when it comes to creating the kind of holistic disciples Jesus envisioned, the jury’s decision came back a long time ago – small groups just aren't working.

Continuing on Wednesday with, Church-Initiated “Small Groups” Begin From A Flawed Starting Point. Money quote: Well intentioned Christians, armed with the latest insights in organizational theory, let their pragmatic and utilitarian hearts delude themselves into thinking they could organize, measure, and control the mystical working of the Holy Spirit in community in order to consistently reproduce disciples in other contexts. Then these people starting writing books and hosting seminars. And then church leaders like you and me bought into what they were saying because we didn’t recognize that the same faulty worldview that produced a mechanized approach to Christian community fostered a ready-made market in our hearts to consume their quick-fix solutions. So we came home, armed with our “101 Sure-Fire Discussion Starter” books and binders full of slick recruitment techniques, and started “small group ministries” at our churches.

And: The key issue, to me, as a church planter, is always contextualization. I would ask, "How is God already at work in this culture and how can I assist, nudge, prod a genuine expression of God's spirit in community among the people I serve?"

Today Brian writes The Small Group Movement’s Achilles Heel. Money quote: The Achilles heel of the modern-day small group movement is simple: Small groups don’t create disciples, disciples create disciples. And modern-day small groups are led, for the most part, by people who have attended the church, had a conversion experience, lead a reasonably moral life, and can read the study-guide questions, but in many situations are not disciples themselves. American churches have lowered the bar of small group leadership so low that it’s simply ridiculous. In fact, it’s so ridiculous that most churches would be better off not even having small groups than to offer them with disciple-less leaders.

Take time to follow this ongoing conversation. Read the comments. Wrestle with the competing ideas. It's worth your attention.

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