Last month I promised to explain the shifts I believe are necessary for congregations to experience revitalization in our current ministry environment. And make no mistake. Change must occur. We follow a myth when we assume that, if we just keep doing what we’ve always done, God will suddenly bless us.

Don’t misunderstand. We must continue in those things prescribed in scripture. No compromises here. In fact, many a congregation lacks God’s blessing because they have ignored, or at least grown lax, with the basic disciplines of ministry. But fruitful ministry today requires both a recommitment to biblical principles and a fresh approach to their practice.

Which brings me to the first necessary shift for revitalization, relational discipleship. If we want to see congregations transformed into a powerful force for the gospel, we must move beyond the programmatic approach to teaching so prevalent in Southern Baptist circles and engage people through transforming relationships.

Here’s what I mean. For years Southern Baptists developed Christians through the programs of Sunday School and Discipleship Training. Beyond these there were numerous classes and certificates one could complete in their ongoing ministry development. And for a season this worked. Members, committed to the church as well as the Lord, attended these, served within them, so that even small congregations maintained fully staffed, relatively complex organizations.

How’s that working now? I don’t know a church in our association close to having every ministry role in their organization suitably filled. Most are fortunate to have Sunday School. Why? Explanations abound.

But what if, rather than nag our people to fill the old structures, we simplified our ministries with a basic, biblical disciplemaking model. I still believe Sunday School has a place. It typically marks the difference in whether one is a part of the crowd or part of the family. But beyond Sunday School, what if we engaged people in simple, small groups, meeting any time, any place, reading God’s word, holding one another accountable in life and service? Sounds a lot like D Life. What might we see? Stand by for more on this topic. Until then, tell me what you think.