The pastor appeared downcast as he listened to a mentor tell him about the staggering statistics of lostness in his community. Finally, he broke the silence: “What can we do? Our church is very small and we have no financial resources.” The mentor quickly sketched three shapes onto a napkin: a circle, a triangle and a square. As those three shapes were explained, hope returned to the pastor’s countenance and a sense of excitement arose in his heart.
These three shapes represent a simple, sustainable strategy for impacting lostness through disciple-making in communities. They are effective for any pastor and church. The necessary components for reaching any community are prayer, relationships and sharing the gospel (all of which are free of charge).
The three shapes strategy begins with a circle. Draw a circle around your church building that encompasses the number of people that is realistic to reach with God’s empowerment. A good rule of thumb could be to multiply the church’s attendance by ten. Once that circle is drawn, ask yourself: “What is it going to take to ensure that every man, woman and child in this circle has an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel?” However you answer that question, your church and its leaders must recognize their accountability before God to see to it that it happens.
By visualizing the daunting task of impacting overwhelming lostness through these three shapes, the mission ahead becomes realistic and attainable.
The triangle represents personal disciple-making. No church will have an effective disciple-making culture apart from the pastor and other leaders personally discipling others. The triangle demonstrates how one disciple enters into a disciple-making process with two others. This must begin with the pastor if it is to take root in the church at large. If the pastor devotes six months to discipling two others, equipping each of them to disciple two more over the following six months, and so on, the number of disciples and disciple-makers will begin to multiply exponentially after two or three cycles of reproduction.
The disciples who are shaped by this relational process are equipped to live on mission among their own neighbors. This is represented by a square. Inside the square, draw a tic-tac-toe board. In the center block, the disciple should write his or her own name. The other eight blocks represent his or her closest neighbors. In each of those blocks, the names of each neighbor should be written, along with some specific ways of praying for them and serving them. As these relationships are cultivated, doors open for gospel conversations that lead to disciple-making opportunities.
A practical strategy
By visualizing the daunting task of impacting overwhelming lostness through these three shapes, the mission ahead becomes realistic and attainable. Disciples made through the triangles begin to live on mission in the squares, and the circle fills up with people who have heard and responded to the good news of Jesus and are growing and multiplying.
Whatever the church’s size or resources, a “three shapes” approach provides a simple, sustainable strategy for disciple-making that could transform both the church and the community.