Evangelism and Community Groups
Our discipleship structure at Cities Church leaves our Community Groups with the broad task of outreach.
Our Community Groups, we’ve said, is our arm for “discipleship in distance” — it’s for taking the gospel to others. For welcoming outsiders. For connecting with those who are not currently part of our faith family. The actual “how to” on that, however, is pretty undetermined. We’ve wanted to allow flexibility for our groups because every group is truly different — they are made up of different people in different places throughout the cities.
This has led to variations among groups that we’ve tried to identify as three main types:
Some groups will overlap with these descriptions, but the point is that groups are different and that’s “okay.” At the most basic level, the groups are a shepherding strategy that allows our pastoral team to account for every covenant member of our church. And that is happening. Every member is connected to a pastor through our Community Group structure.
Shaping and Welcoming
So what about evangelism and our Community Groups? The way to prioritize and encourage evangelism is to hone in our focus on what it means to be a disciple (that is, to be a worshiper, servant, and missionary). As discipleship happens in our Community Groups — as disciples grow into who they truly are — they will do evangelism. Put plainly, maturing Christians share the gospel, and Community Groups (not just Life Groups) are a means to maturing disciples.
The language tweak goes like this: rather than saying that Community Groups are for evangelism, Community Groups are for discipleship, and as disciples are formed and grow, those disciples evangelize — and the Community Group is a readymade network of relationships to welcome would-be and new disciples.
This is not entirely different than how we have talked previously, but it’s a little different accent. In Robert Coleman’s The Master Plan of Evangelism, he describes the three audiences of Jesus’s ministry: the crowds, the twelve disciples, and then the huddle of Peter, James, and John. Our threefold discipleship structure is patterned after this (Corporate Worship, Community Groups, and Life Groups). And like in Jesus’s ministry, as each group shrinks in size the investment increases. When it comes to Community Groups, the first goal is not multiplication per se, but it’s being equipped for multiplication. Jesus’s disciples were trained to be disciples, which includes alongside worship of God and love for others, becoming “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).
This might change the way you think about your Community Group, or it might clarify your current practice. The responsibility of evangelism is not on your Community Group, it’s on the members within your Community Group, and the Community Group is simply another means — a network — to shape the members as tellers of the gospel and to welcome those new to our church.