Thursday, September 07, 2006

FAQ: How do you do discipleship in rented facilities?

We are asked this question quite a bit. Sometimes, it’s from people who are also doing church in rented facilities. Other times, it’s from people who attack us for meeting in rented facilities because they assume that we can only be a Sunday morning “entertainment venue” without Sunday School classrooms, equipping centers, etc. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but it does happen.

Here’s our vision: to meet at movie theaters at metro stops throughout the DC metro area. That vision stems from a core conviction that the church belongs in the middle of the marketplace instead of being relegated to the margins of society. For us, that core conviction plays out by actually holding our weekend services in the marketplace. We have 5 services in 3 locations—at Ebenezers Coffeehouse, at the movie theaters at Union Station, and at the movie theaters at Ballston Common Mall.

This question typically assumes that discipleship requires some sort of classroom setting. I would submit that the assumption that discipleship requires physical space reflects confusion over what discipleship is really about. I’m a Southern Baptist girl by upbringing, and I am very grateful for the Sunday School experience that I had. But I don’t know that “Sunday School” or “discipling” requires a class. We do it at NCC through small groups.

We have over 75 small groups this semester that will meet all over the Washington, DC area. The groups allow opportunities for people to connect with other believers and to connect with God. Some small groups focus on inductive Bible studies. Some focus on serving our homeless community. Some focus on prayer. Approximately 100 people are expected to go through our Alpha small groups.

All of these groups are involved in discipleship-- the process of helping people become fully devoted followers of Christ. We model our small groups after the church structure outlined in Acts 2, where the new followers of Christ met with one another in both the temple (large group setting) and in homes (small group setting). We have basically taken the Sunday School idea and thrown it out into the community where it is more accessible to people by placing it in the marketplace and neighborhoods. But I believe we have also improved on the Sunday School model. Our small groups are not simply academic in nature, but also experiential. We force people to put feet to their faith and bring application to the things we have learned.

Yes, rented facilities definitely makes it harder to do discipleship. But I think forcing discipleship to happen outside the church walls, in the context of our normal everyday walking around lives, it produces an approach to discipleship that is more pure, organic, and maybe even more effective.


Post a Comment

<< Home