Missional Pattern 2: Biblical Formation and Discipleship
The missional church is a community in which all members are involved in learning what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ. The Bible is essential to this discipling process, because the missional church takes the Bible as normative for its life and witness.
Discipleship means following Jesus. During his earthly ministry, Jesus was physically present to teach, guide, and form his disciples. Now we not only experience Jesus’ presence through the Spirit, we have the testimony of these first disciples in written form in the Bible. This witness as recorded in Scripture can continue to teach, guide, and form disciples of Jesus Christ.
Christians need training. Missional congregations don’t assume that anyone automatically knows how to be a Christian. No one automatically knows how things are done in the reign of God. Becoming a citizen of the reign of God requires a naturalization process, learning a new vocabulary, learning new practices. Missional congregations train converts through some form of intentional catechesis. They continue to disciple new Christians after baptism. They assume that all Christians can continue to grow in discipleship. No one is ever “finished” with learning how to follow Jesus.
Missional formation can happen through Bible study. Not all Bible study is missional formation. People can approach Scripture with a “what’s in it for me?” attitude, rather than looking for how the Bible can transform us as individuals, and transform us as a congregation. Authentic Bible study leaves open the possibility that the scriptural text we are reading or hearing might challenge and change us.
Small groups are important to the discipling process. Discipling happens best in living-room-size groups of people in which people develop significant relationships over time. Such small groups can:
• Study the Bible together, letting the Bible challenge their lives and the life of the congregation.
• Share issues of their lives with each other in the light of the Scripture. Some small groups practice a “review of life,” in which one person each meeting tells the group about their lives and listens to the group’s response and guidance. Other small groups have a practice of sharing spiritual pilgrimages with each other annually.
• Care for each other and hold each other accountable to their baptismal vows.
Committees and other regular church meetings can be shaped by the Bible. Some congregations begin and end their committee meetings or congregational meetings with listening to the Bible. They expect the biblical text to guide them in their process of becoming a more faithful church.
The missional church is a community where all members are learning what it means to be disciples of Jesus. The Bible has a continuing, converting, formative role in the church’s life.