The article is a part of the Easter Aftermath series.
After a large event with a big spike in new visitors, your attendance reports are going to look pretty nice for a week or two. But it doesn’t take long for reality to set back in as you see a return back to your regular pattern in the weeks to follow. Why is there such a drastic fallout? I believe a major factor comes down to the lack of community and relationships.
People are more likely to stick around when they get to know other people in your church. Fostering authentic, biblical community and developing meaningful relationships around the Word of God are essential for growing a healthy church on mission for God.
This need for community is more evident today than ever before. In his book Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam claimed that the greatest epidemic in American life is not a disease, but loneliness. New technology has made communication easier, but connection rarer. It drives us to screens instead of to other people. It facilitates entertainment but, at the same time, isolation and loneliness. Humans are not designed to live in isolation.
The need for community is at the very core of who we are as human beings.The need for community is at the very core of who we are as human beings. Click To Tweet
God created us for community—both with Himself and with each other. When we create true biblical community, we step into God’s design for how we are to live and for how He planned on spreading His name throughout the nations.
There are around two billion people on the planet who claim to be Christians—more than any other religion (so far). This is an astounding fact, considering Acts 1:15 tells us that the number of Jesus’ disciples around the time of His ascension was about 120. Over the next 2,000 years, these disciples continued the movement that their Master started. This movement outlasted the Roman empire and spread to every populated continent on the Earth.
So how did the first-century church accomplish such an amazing feat?
They didn’t do this by having a few well-spoken master evangelists or by only focusing on large events; they did it by creating true, life-changing community. Biblical community is more than a Bible study or a hangout time with friends; it is what happens when the people of God come together to be His Church.
Our task as the Church is to continue the work that Jesus began when He passed the baton to His disciples in Matthew 28. It should be our mission to help people know God, find community, make disciples, and change the world with the Gospel. If this is our true desire, there has to be a place where that kind of God-guided transformation can occur in their lives. Biblical community, based on the community Jesus built, is the space for that transformation.
Disciple-making churches understand that inviting people into community is more effective than merely inviting people to attend events. People are longing for meaningful connections. They are longing for a place to belong. Ultimately, people want to belong to a community that gives them purpose.Disciple-making churches understand that inviting people into community is more effective than merely inviting people to attend events. Click To Tweet
Am I against having large crowds come to events? Of course not! That being said, the key to reaching your community is not merely inviting people to more large events as some in the church growth movements have suggested; the key is inviting people into meaningful relationships that can lead to discipleship and multiplication.
Effective ministry is all about relationships. Our relationship with Jesus motivates us to develop meaningful relationships with people in our community that provide us with opportunities to introduce them to Jesus and His church. Brothers and sisters, it is time for us to step out of our comfort zones and invite people into our lives for the sake of the Gospel. We need to stop merely inviting people to events and start inviting them into biblical community. Churches should have a pathway to help move people from the crowd to community.
Moving People From the Crowd to Community
Many of us who serve as leaders in churches desire to see revival breakout in our communities. In fact, I’m sure many of us have prayed for revival on several occasions. Imagine what would happen if God answered our prayers and brought droves of people to faith in our community. Would our churches be able to handle all that numerical growth? As exciting as it is to see many people respond to the Gospel message, have we created a culture in our existing church body that can embrace and assimilate all these new people?
Those questions got me to think about my local church and eventually drove me to search for answers in the Scriptures primarily by observing the life and ministry of Jesus and the early church.
When Jesus commissioned His disciples to make disciples of all nations, He didn’t also give them a step-by-step manual for how to do it. Rather, they simply did it the way that Jesus had modeled it for them. They relied on His precedent to be sufficient for them. The strategy was going to have to be both flexible enough to handle large numbers of new believers and simple (and powerful) enough to be replicated in any place where there were believers to replicate it.
Soon after Jesus left them, the model that He ingrained in them was put to the test. In Acts 2, we see an amazing response to the Gospel message:
“So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. 44 Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. 45 They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” Acts, 2:41-47 (CSB)
As Peter boldly proclaimed the Gospel while being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, God allowed over 3,000 people to respond and be added to the newly launched church in Jerusalem. Let that sink in—3,000 new believers after one sermon. Talk about an assimilation problem! So what did the apostles and followers of Jesus do with all these new believers? They baptized them and invited them to be part of their Christian community. Jesus’ disciples embraced the new converts and began teaching them how to follow and obey Jesus.
This first-century church moved people from the crowd by intentionally forming communities that devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Their devotion to this specific set of values was remarkable, and it helped create one of the fastest recorded explosions of the church in history. It also did something else: it fostered an atmosphere of mutual care, unity, and a missional mindset that would soon spread all over the world. The early church moved people from the crowd into community.
In summary, healthy biblical community focuses on spiritual transformation that leads to multiplication. Churches should disciple their new believers in the context of community in order to deploy them as disciple-makers to the nations.
Don’t settle for the occasional spikes in attendance; strive to create a multiplying movement of disciples that has the power to change the world for the glory of God!Don’t settle for the occasional spikes in attendance; strive to create a multiplying movement of disciples that has the power to change the world for the glory of God! Click To Tweet