In the church world, leaders tend to track a lot of numbers. This can be a healthy thing, looking at figures to track health and growth—or it can be an unhealthy obsession where leaders use numerical markers to determine their identity or perceived worth. Our goal has always been to make disciples of Jesus, and not just to draw a crowd. We could bring in circus performers or have a dirt bike jump over a pastor (that’s a real thing) if our only objective was to beat last Sunday’s attendance. But from the beginning of our ministry, we’ve had a desire to care about the right numbers in the right way.
Our Most Important Number & Why
One of those numbers that we track and care a lot about is the number of people we have in LifeGroups. There are many reasons why we care so much about this number, but here are just a few:
- Discipleship happens in community. We believe corporate gatherings are an essential part of Christian formation, but we realize that Gatherings alone will not make disciples of Jesus. The Holy Spirit applies and works the things we learn on Sundays into our lives during the rest of the week as we rub shoulders with one another and practice the “one another” commands from the New Testament.
- Mission happens through community. The type of community that Jesus creates is so compelling, and we believe the best way for people far from Jesus to truly see the gospel is to experience it by getting a front row seat to a gospel-centered community. We want non-Christians to get to see the gospel lived out in real, messy people and relationships.
- Care happens in community. Life is really hard and there are so many temptations to get off track, even as believers. There is an incredible correlation between a person’s long-term spiritual health and their connectedness to genuine Christian community. If a person is deeply connected to community, they can persevere through anything. If a person is not connected to Christian community, it is typically only a matter of time before they go off the rails somehow. As pastors we have seen this happen too many times to mention. We were not created to follow Jesus alone.
- We believe it’s an indicator of health. If only 10% of people that come on Sundays are walking in community, that’s a major red flag. For the past year or so, we’ve actually had more people in LifeGroups than we’ve averaged on Sundays, and we love that. That's an indicator that many people are being brought into LifeGroups through relationships and not just sign-ups, and means that much of our church are living missional lives throughout the week.
A Crazy Goal & a Crazy Celebration
A couple of years ago, we set quite a lofty goal at the time—we prayed that we would get 1000 people into LifeGroups. What could happen, we thought, if we could get that many people plugged into healthy, vibrant, and outward-focused community? How would that change our city? How amazing would it be to have 1000 missionaries on the ground here, seeking to help those around them take next steps towards Jesus?
For years, we prayed and we worked towards this. First, back in 2012, we hit the 500 mark, and we celebrated it in ridiculous Midtown fashion (we had a cake made with our LifeGroups pastor's face on it). Because of our population and high rate of transition (mostly from being in a college town), growing that number is actually not easy (we lose about a quarter of our church every year, so we have to grow by 25% just to stay even).
Then we prayed and worked some more, and during the spring of 2014 we went through Grassroots Kingdom, a formative series for the health of our LifeGroups and our mission as a church. That helped launch us into this fall, where we have hit our goal of having 1000 people in LifeGroups!
Why We Celebrate this Number
We are very excited about hitting this goal, as it’s been something we’ve been praying about for a long time. Jesus has been so faithful to us, and He has used our meager efforts to grow His church here in Columbia in really beautiful ways. We are so proud of our church family and the way you guys are owning the mission of God in everyday life. Namely:
- You’re walking in community with each other.
- You’re loving one another, serving one another, and walking in the light with one another.
- You’re strategically building relationship with those far from Jesus and inviting them into your community.
- You’re carrying each other’s burdens and watching out for one another’s blind spots.
Jesus is building His church here in Columbia, and it’s amazing to be a part of. He’s raising up disciples and sending out missionaries. And He’s not finished—not by a long shot.
There are many more who are far from Him, many more who need to be discipled, many more who need to see the gospel in community, and many more who will be raised up to be sent out as missionaries.
That’s going to happen primarily through people getting plugged into healthy, Jesus-centered communities—so let’s get after it.