When we launched The Journey seven years ago, our first official edict was that you had to live within 10 minutes of the church to attend. It wasn't that we didn't care about those who lived farther away, but we were committed to an "organic" approach to mission and discipleship. Living in close proximity to one another would permit less structured, more spontaneous relationships. As people connected in coffee shops and homes, and as they read their Bibles, we believed they would grow.
But there was another reason for using an unstructured approach—our community struggled with authority. Some might refer to the artistic, bohemian young adults in urban St. Louis as "hippies." They were suspicious of structured organizations, finding them too controlling. They preferred a relationally-focused model, and that's what we created.
But as The Journey grew we faced a significant challenge. Most of our people, including those in leadership roles, were not mature believers. Biblical illiteracy was high, and while most leaders were engaged in discipleship relationships, it was unclear whether they were forming disciples of Jesus Christ or simply replicating themselves.
It dawned on us that everything could not remain organic. A more intentional, structured approach to discipleship was necessary.
In my research I found that churches often lean in one of two directions. Some believe that people should be "self-feeders." The church's responsibility is to create impressive worship services with practical teaching, and maybe connect members into relational groups. From there, however, the people are expected to do the rest. Their spiritual growth is in their own ...