Structural Principle: The problem is not to change or replace structure but to utilize existing structures for disciple making.
All too often, the learning opportunities offered by most churches only seek to benefit those who are already attending a church; none are offered to meet the needs of outsiders.
People are expected to come to worship first – enter by the front door, and then move on to other parts of the church. In the world’s fastest growing church, the worship service is so crowded that people have to wait in line for more than an hour to get a seat in the sanctuary.
In these churches, the first contact a person has with the church is through the side door – they first attend a class or fellowship meeting in their own neighborhood, away from the mother church. The simplest change that we can make in our discipleship system to become more effective is to encourage the first contact to be to join a small fellowship or class, even for one time. When people form relationships that meet needs in the small group, IT IS INEVITABLE that they will eventually attend worship.
But if only 17% of those attending church through the front door ever go on to become a part of a weekly Bible study, Sunday School Class or Prayer meeting, then there is something about attending worship alone that inhibits spiritual growth. Most churches only invite unchurched people to worship, and unchurched people are generally uninterested in worship. Irreligious people might be interested in a meal, having fun or in learning something that would help them in life … but they are often excluded from that part of the life of the church. Open the side door!
It is, for example, a very simple thing for a Sunday School class to organize a monthly game night or an occasional picnic or progressive dinner. When you do this, is inviting and making friends with unchurched persons given a priority? Or is the fun “just for our own group”? Do members of the group invite their friends, relatives, acquaintances and neighbors to the fun activities of the group?
Exercise: review the groups you listed for fellowship in the “F” corner and the classes and learning opportunities in the “I” corner of the 4 Cornered Room. Star those activities where unchurched persons are participating. Share who these folks are with members of your group and what you have learned from making room for them.