Engaging the Whole Person “in the Community”

By Paul Wilkinson

The mission of Brentwood Baptist Church is to engage the whole person with the whole gospel of Jesus Christ anywhere, anytime with anybody. What are some possibilities for “engaging the whole person” in our LIFE Groups?

We must internally engage the whole person. We have group members who live as chaotic lives as we do. They carry the same guilt and shame from poor decisions, broken promises, and sporadic failures as the rest of us. On the other end of the spectrum, we have people who are incredibly, dangerously comfortable with the status quo. Life is good for them and they are perceiving, undiscerningly, material fruits as God’s favor. And we ourselves, as leaders, are perpetually moving back and forth across this spectrum.

As Mike Glenn says (my paraphrase): we’re either coming out of a storm or about to go in one. We leaders have the advantage because we are steeped in Scripture as we prepare to teach the Bible each week. Are our group members diving as deep as we are; are they diving into the Bible at all? We are perpetually praying about our groups, that we lead them to rich springs of faith and that they are quickened by the Spirit; are they praying like that? We spend time alone thinking through the content of the text in solitude with the Spirit; are they having Sabbath like that?

The Holy Spirit intercedes and compels us to become our whole selves that the Lord designed. We are remaining in tune with the Spirit through our prep work each week. We must help our group members to do the same: give them homework, let them struggle with theological tension, forever challenge them to be “in the Word” coupled with a commentary or the like. The first step in engaging their whole person is getting them in tune with the Holy Spirit: repentance leading to worship and obedience.

A second level of internal whole person engagement is that we are caring for one another materially. James asks, “If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,’ but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16) Do we personally know the material struggles of our group members? More strategically, do we have the substructure in place such that care groups know the material struggles and needs of our group members? If our LIFE Groups are primarily social space discipleship elevating community, mission, and practice through Bible and prayer, then how are we creating personal space discipleship elevating closeness, support, and challenge through deeper Bible, more personal prayer, and sharing/confession? Does your group have a set of care leaders that regularly follow up with assigned members to see how they are and in what ways the group can support them? If not, then strongly consider creating such a ministry.

Part of reaching people spiritually is caring for them physically. We must help them get in sync with the Holy Spirit so that they can respond to the Spirit’s conviction and prompting. We must create healthy communities that are welcoming and hospitable so that they can readily receive the lost and searching. We must organize the necessary substructures to care for people’s material struggles, coupled with the Brentwood Baptist Church benevolence team. As Allan Taylor is wont to say, if we want to reach people with the gospel, then it’s going to cost us time, money, and effort. May we be willing to count the cost.

How I STILL Think of You

By Paul Wilkinson

You may recognize this article from December 2016. I wanted to update it and reinforce that I still believe Adult Discipleship through Groups ministry is the most strategic ministry in the church. We must be the engine, producing disciples for all other ministries to utilize: preschool, children’s, missions, church plants, . . . . I pray that you adopt this mentality and calling.

Who knows what the Spirit will do with us when we allow our limited imaginations to get out of the way!!

In a book by Sunday School guru Allan Taylor titled Sunday School in HD, he makes this bold declaration, “At this point I want to make a big statement. The adult division of the Sunday school is the most strategic area of ministry in the church! I did not say that it was more important than these other ministries; I said it was more strategic.”  I wholeheartedly agree with Allan Taylor.

God has great plans and great work in store for the members of Brentwood Baptist Church. The preparation of our members to serve – on-campus, locally, and globally – occurs in large part through your LIFE groups. As I walk the halls of the church throughout the week and see mission trips on our CCTV’s and posters, I realize that those who are doing the missions trips are coming out of adult groups. When the Student Ministry, Children’s Ministry, and Preschool Ministry need volunteers, they seek them in the adult groups. The great music ministry provided by our talented choir and orchestra is comprised of many adult group members and adult group leaders. When we launch new campuses, like the Nolensville Campus, with more to come, adult groups are siphoned for launch team membership.

No doubt exists for me that Adult Groups Ministry is the most strategic ministry in the church. And that ministry falls at the feet of each one of you, LIFE Group leaders, and us, your Adult Discipleship team. Our work, together, provides the manpower to do all the wonderful evangelism and service God has planned for our people. (Ephesians 2:10) Your faithful Focus on the Word each week paints a biblical picture of who our God is and what our God demands. Your Engagement in your communities builds within your people a desire to be servants and to see people come to know Christ. Your Involvement in the life of your people through biblical community creates a space for their sanctification to mature as they begin to understand their calling in ministry. And your Love for your people, your prayers, your preparation, your visits, your phone calls, and everything else you do demonstrates to your people how much God loves them.

How do I think of you? I think of you as the engine and core of all the hopes I have for what Brentwood Baptist Church can be. Everything we feel called to do as a local fellowship is contingent upon reaping from the harvest that you have nurtured in the power of the Spirit through your groups. “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37) And you are the leaders that have been called to grow those workers, “For the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)

What an honor it is for us to serve you. Thank you for heeding your call to shepherd well the people of God. May we all rejuvenate over the holidays in order to lead our people well in 2018. In Christ, we love you.


Groups Pipeline

By Paul Wilkinson

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the image above from the principles in The Leadership Pipeline book by Charan, Drotter, and Noel. I want to plant this image in your mind so we might begin to think about our particular group members, the diversity among them, and how we need to address each type of member differently. The question is not “how do we directly produce new group leaders from someone only sitting in the pew for one hour each week”; rather, the question is “how do we move people through the pipeline from one identity to another?

More specifically, what microshifts do we need to incorporate to promote progression through the pipeline? What value shifts need to occur to get the lost and searching as part of a biblical community? To get the pew-only into a group? To get the leaders to reproduce?

Obviously, your role is not to do this all solo. Rather, your task is to form the environments, structure, and leaders necessary to continually move people through the pipeline. In future posts, I will explore some of the group best practices at each level that will help to continually mobilize people to become disciple makers among the lost and searching, utilizing groups as a discipleship vehicle.