As I’ve shared in multiple blog posts, we are continuing to pray about how to best leverage everything at our church for the sake of seeing a Disciple Making Movement (DMM). For the last year or so our weekends have centered around prayer, testimony, and training. We’ve had so many powerful & life-changing weekends since we first started using this format & it has given many people the opportunity to use their spiritual gifts and be involved in the gathering.
As we’ve continued to ask the Lord how to best leverage our weekends, several of us sensed the need to get even better with our training component. The training has still felt a bit like a traditional sermon even though we were trying to be laser focused on not just transferring information but helping people to obey. It’s just hard to really tell if people were applying the passages that we were training from.
I talked to my DMM coach, Stan, about this & he reminded me of something churches do in Africa and Indonesia, particularly in areas that are more open to Christianity. I had heard this before because some of our Leadership Team had been to Africa before and witnessed this for themselves.
Stan said that one of the things these churches do is have people break into groups right in the middle of the gathering and do a DBS together over the passage for that day. Wow! This way everyone gets to participate & people get to listen directly to God (John 6:45) as they read the passage & then keep each other accountable in applying it to their lives.
Stan said these gatherings often have singing and prayer at the beginning, then they’ll break up into small groups to do DBS, then they’ll come back together for a time of testimony. Sometimes the testimonies are about how people were obedient to the passage from the previous week or their new “I will…” obedience statement for the coming week. Other times they might share something that God spoke to them about through the passage or even a more general testimony of how God is working in their lives. He said the heart of the service, though, is the Holy Spirit using the Word of God to speak to each person in their DBS groups.
I loved this! It made so much sense & seemed like it would be a much more effective tool at training people (or “teaching them to obey” according to Jesus in Matthew 28:20) than what we had been doing.
There was only one problem. I had no idea how it would work in an American church service. Breaking up into small groups in the middle of the service? What?!?! Who does that?!?! Most people aren’t expecting to have to get involved and participate when they come to church. They’re hoping the pastor has prepared a good message & they can just sit and enjoy listening to him/her speak. Not so in these gatherings. DBS prompts you to interact with God directly over a passage & let him speak to you about what you should do about it & who you should share it with. Quite different than a typical American worship service.
Even though it seemed risky, and we weren’t sure if everyone would participate, several of us thought we should give it a try. After all, our commission from Jesus is to make disciples, and we need to be willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish that mission.
Here’s an example of how it has looked the last few weeks.
The band opens with a couple of songs. Then a staff member will welcome people, remind people of the passage we read the previous week, and ask if anyone had a story of how they applied it this past week. Several people will raise their hands and we will take mics to each of these people and let them share a testimony of how they lived out the passage from the previous week. This part is always very powerful! We may also have a time of prayer here too.
Then another one of our staff members comes up on stage & introduces the Bible passage for the day. We’ve started out with the key DMM passages so that people discover that God really can speak to them & that he wants to use them to multiply disciples everywhere they go. The staff member will read the passage & then encourage everyone to break up into groups. They’ll encourage the groups to have everyone retell the passage in their own words & then ask:
1. What does this passage teach you about God?
2. What does this passage teach you about people?
3. What should you do this week in response to this passage?
4. Who should you share with this week?
**See the Focus on God’s Word blog post for more details on the DBS process.
Each of these questions will be on the screen so that everyone can refer back to them. The staff member will remain on stage & watch the time so that they can prompt people when to move on so we don’t run out of time.
We try to come up with creative ways to make questions #3 and #4 stick since those are some of the most important questions. An example would be having them write the answers to question #3 and question #4 on the front and back of a notecard so they can keep it with them that week to remember to do it.
Once they’ve made it through the questions, we’ll often transition into a time of prayer asking God to help us to obey him and share his Word with others. Then we’ll conclude with more singing.
We’ve been doing it the last 4 weeks & it has been awesome! Much to our surprise, almost everyone is participating. People are sharing insights with each other into the passage that we’re reading that day. Then they’re coming up with an “I will…” obedience statement that they will do that week & the name of someone they feel they need to share with. What’s great about breaking into these smaller groups is that they’re likely to be with a similar group each week & when they return the following week, we’re able to have them break into groups again and ask them to go around & ask each person how it went with their “I will…” obedience statement and the person they shared with. That’s what we were missing before. Really no way to do accountability in the gathering. Now we had a way!
Another thing we’ve loved about this is that it feels like God is actually preaching the sermon! Instead of us taking a passage & telling everyone how God spoke to us through it, we’re letting all of these groups take the same passage & letting God speak to each of them through the DBS process. This is taking the “priesthood of all believers” seriously! Everyone is participating & God is speaking to everyone uniquely through the passage. Amazing!
Our plan for now is to continue to have folks break up into small groups right in the middle of the service during the weekend so they can hear from God through his Word, figure out how he wants them to apply it, and then keep each other accountable each week.
This also helps people get a feel for what it would be like to be on a DMM Church Planting Team or to facilitate a Discovery Group with their lost friends & family. We’re training them to do the DBS process without them realizing it & it’s equipping them to hopefully one day make disciples & see churches planted.
I’ll continue to keep you updated on how it goes, but for now, our plan is to continue doing this. We’re still focused on prayer, testimony, and training, the only difference is that the training is small group oriented now rather than lecture oriented and it appears to be more effective and fruitful this way.
Our prayer is that God would continue to use our weekends to recruit more workers for the harvest (Matthew 9:37-38)! We are praying that people would begin to believe that God really can use them to make many disciples & plant many churches.