In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, self-isolating has caused many to reconsider what church really is. With fresh eyes, we see that church is not about the building or a certain set of programs. Church is the community of Jesus’ followers.
We all agree Jesus commanded us, his followers, to make disciples – but have we actually changed our behavior to align with that calling?
Many would agree that every believer can study God’s Word and hear directly from God. Yet globally, most churches still have Bible studies led by one main expert – such as a trained pastor or Sunday school teacher using a lesson written by a Bible expert. People sit and listen. They may briefly interact with some questions at the end.
In John 6:45, Jesus tells us that all [God’s people] will be taught by God. In movements, churches are groups of people focused on listening to God’s Word — not someone else’s thoughts about God’s Word. All share God-given insights. Everyone commits to obey in the coming week whatever God asks.
Last year, BEYOND’s president, Kent Parks, was in East Thailand. He joined Steve, BEYOND’s Mekong strategy leader, at a four-hour service. The atmosphere of worship, love, and obedience was tangible. “Every single one,” Kent reports, “from young to old, male or female, participated fully as they reviewed the previous week’s Bible study and discussed the new passage. They sang praises. They prayed. They laughed. They fellowshipped. They celebrated the Lord’s Supper. They supported each other.”
As they reviewed the previous week’s biblical passage, a 16-year-old girl sitting three seats from Kent opened up an accounting ledger. Obviously assigned by the group, she asked each person: “Last week, you said God told you to obey the Scripture by doing __ (and she read each person’s recorded commitment). Did you do what God asked you to do?” One by one, each person reported what they had or had not done.
As they discussed the new Bible passage, she wrote each person’s new “obedience commitment” for the coming week in the ledger. What wonderful accountability to God and each other!
Recently, five Thai church leaders from another province visited this church. They returned home and totally revamped their church services to this simple, participatory, accountable style. They added a weekly outing to share the gospel in their community. They changed their behavior to be consistent with their belief.
At BEYOND, we believe every disciple can and must make other disciples who obey. We equip people to be vibrant disciple-makers who reproduce as they love and obey God!