4. Holistic Disciple Making
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to megachurches being missional is the ease with which individuals can simply blend into the large crowds, remaining faithful as attendees but disengaged from other members and uninvolved in service and outreach. However, many megachurches are reversing this trend by reorienting their members to the centrality of Jesus’ message: discipling people toward living their lives in outward ways, like missionaries.
For megachurches, a praxis style of discipleship is catching on, whereby seasoned workers are taking others hand in hand to the real places of ministry, quite often beyond the church campus itself. At 4,300-member Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas (mdpc.org), this missional training starts at the beginning for newcomers. The New Members Class is a six-session process, spread out over six weeks, that deeply embeds a missional outreach experience in its participants, driving home the value of being an outward-focused church and building relationships with other members.
As Diann Turet, the New Members director, explains, “We try to get our new members to understand that these ministries happen because everyone is involved. We take a Saturday and spend five to six hours on a project. When they experience the joy of reaching out to the food pantries we serve or in the junior high school where we’ve done makeovers for the library, painted the teachers’ lounge, and weeded the flowerbeds—they get it. It makes all the difference.”
Also teaching church members to live their lives from a missionary stance is 16,000-member Phoenix First Assembly in Arizona (phoenixfirst.org), which sends enthusiastic, well-organized teams to conduct more than a dozen outreaches, transform neighborhoods, and break the cycle of poverty and violence. Through one ministry called Sponsor-a-Bus, Phoenix First Assembly picks up people for church—and nine bus routes operate throughout the week to serve the disabled, elderly, and nursing home residents often forgotten by society. Its independent fleet of 34 buses is recognized nationwide for serving the Phoenix metro area.
From my observations, megachurches training members to live with a 24/7 missional focus are coming out at the forefront of the holistic Gospel that Jesus taught. We’ll continue to see them excel in plugging their members into niches where they can develop lasting relationships and change the world.
Derwin Gray: "Jesus wants to advance God's Kingdom through our lives."