Story 36 - BigLife Ministries
Peter Dunn, European Director of BigLife and Discipleship Facilitator with the Yorkshire Baptist Association 21/09/2020.
In September 2020 I moved into a new role with Biglife, which is what some term a Disciple Making Movement (DMM). I had spent the previous ten years growing in a relationship with friends in Biglife. I was both impressed and challenged by what I saw of the Lord at work and lives being transformed. From a starting point of seeing this as an exciting movement in Asia, I came to be challenged increasingly that what I was seeing was not bound by culture, but rather rooted in the life and practice of Jesus and the early church. In the past I wonder if we have been too quick to leap to books and tradition rather than getting back to the Bible when we seek to discern a way forwards. A further danger is that our thinking is rooted in a Western Christendom mindset, whereas seeing an indigenous expression of church emerge with only the Bible in the hands is deeply challenging.
So, for the past year in my role as European Director for Biglife I have been seeking to work out these principles in our Western context, and for me to have integrity, it has to start with me living it out on my own personal context. For my wife and I this involved a relocation to Yorkshire, where I have as part of my role, a partnership with the Yorkshire Baptist Association, that like many has been in the context of numerical decline for some years. However, there are people with the conviction that the Lord still has new things to do in this context.
Starting on our street, my wife and I have sought to live out the Biglife that Jesus calls us to, sharing faith and seeking to make disciples who make disciples. Firstly, this involves us growing in our commitment to prayer, in actively seeking to share our own stories of faith and inviting people to what we term a Three Thirds group centred around the Bible, practical obedience, and loving accountability. We now have a small group of young people exploring faith in Jesus for the first time with an eager appetite to grow in faith. Secondly, we have started some groups with existing followers of Jesus to train and encourage them in making disciples. The aim is not to add to these groups, but rather to see them multiply and start new groups, and already we are encouraged to see this happening. Our emphasis is upon dispersion and multiplication rather than the more dominant model of attraction and addition that we find in the church today. We are not aiming to build a large gathering, but rather multiple small gatherings where relationships go deep, learning is primarily through dialogue around scripture and putting this into practice while we hold one another accountable. The small group is not an optional extra, but an essential part of discipleship.
It is interesting to see that what emerges is hugely diverse in its form. This is in a large part due to the focus on dispersion, rather than drawing people into any pre-existing sub-culture of church (see 1 Cor 9:20-23). So, for example, we are meeting with some friends from a Hindu background and how they both encounter Jesus and express faith is allowed to develop in a way that is appropriate to their culture. The teaching that we discover in passages such as Jesus sending out the 72 in Luke 10 emphasises seeking for the person of peace, not to bring him back to your place, but rather to sow seeds of faith where he lives and within their network of relationships. Expressing love in practical ways is a natural outworking of engaging with Scripture, and so we see practical help being given to those in need particularly at this challenging time of the Coronavirus pandemic.
More widely we are sharing some of the simple principles and tools that we continue to develop for our context. This challenges some of our existing models of church that become very focused on the professional, or expert. Our aim is to see all equipped to share faith and to disciple others, and then lovingly held accountable for this. Currently about fifteen churches within YBA are at various stages of joining us on the journey, as well as a number of others across the UK and into Europe.
I am aware the in a context of general decline many are looking for a silver bullet to turn around the trend, but what I am very aware is that the call to be a disciple who makes disciples who makes disciples is a costly journey to take (Luke 9:23). The journey for me is also underpinned by a deep reliance upon the work of the Spirit and a commitment to prayer. In essence it is simply about returning to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. My prayer is that people come to faith in Jesus, be discipled and make disciples.