Desired Future 2: Churches Nurturing Disciples
Our churches will be vibrant communities, radiating grace. As we preach, teach, and live out the gospel within and beyond our walls, we nurture people of all generations as they grow into the likeness of Christ Jesus.
Our congregations will
- speak mercy and offer hospitality to all.
- create a welcoming home where people of all ages, ethnicities, genders, and abilities learn to love and to help each other grow into the likeness of Christ.
- search out resources and model practices that nourish our members and ministries so that all may strengthen their bond of love to God, to each other, and to neighbors everywhere.
- put children, youth, and young adults at the heart of the church’s life and value their contributions to church ministries.
- worship in ways that are both sensitive and stirring, encouraging people of all ages to participate.
“When my wife and I first came here, we really wanted to do community intentionally. And we didn’t want that community to be about Bible study only. We wanted to eat together and have fun together and serve others together. A handful of us were the youngest people in the church by 20 years, but we started inviting anybody we met to our house. Within four years we had 12 missional small groups meeting around the city.”
“We always try to start new groups by hiving them off of existing groups so that we replicate healthy culture. Healthy culture is nearly impossible to teach—it has to be experienced and internalized. We try to start new groups with at least 10 adults, and we encourage highschool-age students to go to a group apart from their parents. When teenagers are brought into the real life of discipleship, we see zero falloff when they become young adults. They catch the healthy culture.
“What we desire for people is to have fellowship and community. We really believe what AA has known for years—that community will socialize people into the kingdom. Believing rarely comes without belonging first.
“So our groups have a hefty sharing time when people confess and ask for prayer. And they’re held accountable for growing. Another accountability piece is that group members work together to serve others. There’s a lot of accountability in our groups.
“We tell people that if they have to choose between Sunday worship and a small group, they should go to a small group, because we actively believe that the primary discipleship mechanism is intimate community. We’ve found that people who are connected in a small group grow a lot faster than people who just come and sit in church.
“Culture has power. With a healthy discipleship replication culture, people can’t help but be swept in, and then they replicate good healthy things.”
Mark Hilbelink pastors Sunrise Community Church in Austin, Texas, which bills itself “The Weirdest Little Church in Texas.”