All posts by Summiteer

Summiteer is the pseudonym for posts that are general to the summithome web page.

Step By Step

As I consider the communities that make up the Summit Fellowships, I realize that many of the people are what might best be called “nesters.” They naturally gravitate towards a community and, sometimes a leader. They are the comfortable “center” of the community. Frankly, they just don’t think in terms of being outward bound.

This is good. A community must have a center, a soft place for people to land, grow and be nurtured; a place for love to be.

Nevertheless, for groups of people to advance the kingdom, there have to be outward bound people among them, what Vernard Eller calls, expediti. Moreover the group has to recognize that various gifting are necessary for the expansion of the church.

Kinds of Groups

There is a progression that small groups will probably go through.

It seems to me that the first step in a growth pattern is fellowship, that is Koinonia. It is been said that Christian Life moves from relationship, through relationship, and to relationship. A first step of developing relationship, and by that we mean friendship, is to have a group give themselves permission to become friends. That, of course, isn’t enough. Tarrying too long as a fellowship group results in the group becoming a club. Kingdom communities ought not be clubs, they ought to be purposeful and useful.

That brings a group to a second step. Often that second step is to become a discipleship group, developing wisdom and knowledge in the things of God, and learning to apply those things by working together toward a kingdom goal.

team, grass, cheer

Sometimes, there is a level of knowledge and maturity in a group even as they are growing in their fellowship and love for one another. In that case, a group might take a step from simple fellowship to mission and ministry. The discipleship, spiritual formation stage, may not be necessary. Spiritual formation may happen as the group is challenged in their missional work. Communitas is a wonderful outcome when people work, and reach out together.

Stay Loose, Stay Organic

Small group churches–Kingdom communities–should adopt the organic paradigm. They should, at the beginning, understand that they do not intend–indeed it is not an option–to shift to an organizational paradigm or corporate structure.

If they understand at the beginning that it is not an option, then they have to be thinking in terms of multiplication, not addition. They need to understand that more distant relationships are a natural outcome as numbers increase. Even if you grow larger as a congregation, the increase of numbers naturally creates distance because people tend to have only enough margin to invest in a limited number of people. If a group is growing, in the organic model they begin to think about multiplication.

There is resistance to that because it inserts distance in the relationships. People need to understand, even convinced, that that is going to happen anyway. As numbers increase groups or clusters of people will form. The relationships within those subgroups will deepen and other relationships will become more distant. This result doesn’t reflect rejection or animosity, it is simply a function of growing larger.

This is why I advocate for a network. In a large Church people mix and mingle in distant relationship, but typically there are clusters, small groups, that reflect the closeness that is so important to those in a house church. If we are voluntarily interdependent, we make a place for those clusters to connect as they would naturally in a larger church that has a campout, or a Sunday picnic, or an all-church seminar. The analogous gatherings in the organic Network are called Vines, that is “Voluntary Intra-Network Events.”

Leave a Bigger Footprint

Evangelism by Overlapping Circles.

Evangelism in small-group churches is by relationship. As new people come into a fellowship, it grows requiring the group to multiply. A few members start fresh, stepping out with a small footprint. The prayer is that eventually this new group leaves a bigger footprint.