The following is part 2 in a five-part series, Finding Your Disciple-Making Sweet Spot, by Scott Sullivan, Georgia Baptist Discipleship catalyst. You can access Part I of Dr. Sullivan’s article here.
Jesus made disciples in multiple layers
Ok. You may be wondering what corporate worship or “big church” has to do with disciple making. Based on a careful examination of the Scriptures, I believe that Jesus made disciples in at least four different layers, or contexts, to help move people toward spiritual maturity.
- He shared the Gospel with unbelievers and encouraged the saints in the large group assembly (Jn. 6:1-15; Lk. 8; Mt. 5).
- He invested purposefully in a small group of believers (Mt. 10; Mk. 3:13-19).
- Jesus modeled a disciple’s life in a smaller group of three (Mt. 17:1-13; Mk. 14).
- Jesus spent one-on-one time with God the Father, perhaps the most crucial layer (Lk. 6:12-13; Mk. 14:32-42).
If Jesus saw great value in the large group assembly, then so will I!
Which is more important?
I recently engaged in a discussion on whether a local church worship environment should focus more on being guest-friendly or Christ-honoring. My answer was, “YES, both. Not one or the other.” Every church with a genuine desire to reach its community should assess whether its worship environment is guest-friendly and Christ-honoring.
Leaders may ask, “Should we adopt a traditional, contemporary, or blended worship style?” That’s a decision for you and your leadership team to struggle with, but, wherever you land, do it very well!
Instead, I want to challenge you to think through your entire large group gathering experience. A worship gathering without Holy Spirit inspired purpose will limit your ability to make disciple-makers. Consider the following statements that are based on best-practices from growing and healthy churches.
5 considerations to create a guest-friendly and Christ-honoring worship experience
1. Does your service have a clear gospel focus?
Make Jesus the focus. Only add elements to the service that exalt Jesus and lead people to experience Him genuinely.
2. Does your welcome time need a tune-up?
Most churches have what feels like a 60-second pile of awkwardness called “the welcome,” when they randomly shake hands without any real genuineness or a sense of purpose. Consider another layer to your greeting experience. One church empowers 2-4 trained members in each section of the sanctuary to serve on what they call a “Secret Service” team. This team strategically sits in the same section weekly, looks for guests to greet warmly, and attempts to make sure they have a memorable experience.
3. Feature sermon mini-series or multiple big Sundays in a row.
When you have big attendance days, consider launching a new mini-series that will entice people to come back. Or create what our discipleship team calls a “Second Impression Event” that happens the Sunday after Easter and is designed to get guests in the habit of attending.
4. Put the right people in the right seats on the bus.
Creating a warm and welcoming environment starts with the people you equip to create that culture. The last church I visited mastered the art of what I call “the handoff.” When I arrived, the greeter looked me in the eye, greeted me warmly, then escorted me to the children’s area to check-in my children. The greeter handed me off to the children’s worker who walked with us to our children’s room. Next, the children’s worker led my wife and I to our Life Group room and handed us off to the Life Group leader. Finally, the Life Group leader accompanied us to the sanctuary and sat with us during worship. WOW! These are the kind of laypeople you want representing you and our Lord: joyful, kind, and trained in the art of the handoff.
5. Have a significant follow-up plan!
Most churches send a follow-up letter from the pastor, but what if the follow up began sooner, like within one hour? One church employs what they call a “Minute Men” ministry. These team members leave at the beginning of the worship invitation and pick up a guest bag from the welcome desk on the way to their car. The guest bag includes a map to the first-time guest’s home for the team member. Upon arriving at the home, the team drops off a welcome bag filled with quality informational material about the church and small gifts at the front door. Incredible! Can you imagine how many times they hear things like, “How in the world did you get to my home before me” and “super impressive!”
If you would like help thinking through more on this topic, contact our Discipleship Team at the Georgia Baptist Mission Board by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scott Sullivan serves as Discipleship catalyst for the Church Strengthening team of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. For full bio and previous articles, click on his name at the top.