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3 Reasons Why the Number of Disciples Matters More Than the Number of Attendees

3 Reasons Why the Number of Disciples Matters More Than the Number of Attendees

A Shift in Focus at the Andover Huddle

What’s going on at Andover?

Seasoned huddle leaders DJ Miller and Penny Carda have teamed up this year, combining the Andover Middle and High school huddles. According to Miller, the reason for this is, “to maximize the recruitment, training, and deployment of student leaders.” Why such a focus on investing in student leaders? On making disciples?

Three reasons.

1. It was Jesus’ last instruction.

The last word Jesus gave before he ascended to heaven is known as The Great Commission, found in Matthew 28:18-20, Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’" This is the final dialogue Jesus had with his followers face-to-face on earth, providing them with the final plan of action. It wasn’t a suggestion. Jesus didn’t say, "Therefore, if you feel like it,” or “Therefore, if it’s convenient and fits into your schedule.” He said, “Go.” There is no plan B. Because all authority has been given to Him, He empowers us to go make disciples, or followers. As we go through this life, we are to declare the good news of the Gospel and teach others how to walk with Him so they, in turn, can do the same; so that the whole earth may know of the fullness, freedom, and joy found in Christ! This is our key purpose as believers. If we’re not growing as a disciple on an individual level and sharing that with others, then what are we doing?

2. The need for depth and authenticity is great. 

“Christian” seems more like a buzz word in our society today than a way of life. Many people today claim to be “Christians” but in actuality, have no idea what that really means or why they believe what they do (if they even truly believe it). There is a need to go beyond surface-level Christianity and actually get to know the person of Jesus Christ at a heart level. There is a need to dive into what being a follower of Christ actually means and what it looks like to become more like Him. Both Miller and Carda have seen the gravity of this need and have decided to shift the focus of the Andover huddle to disciple-making.

As Miller explains, “Several years ago I read the book “You Lost Me” which found that millions of the most involved church young adults (59%) are disconnecting from the church as they transition into adulthood/college. The author concluded, ‘The dropout problem is at its core, a faith development problem; to use religious language, it’s a disciple-making problem…not adequately preparing the next generation to follow Christ in a rapidly changing culture.’ At this time, the Lord laid on my heart a vision of FCA, the local church, coaches and parents in our community partnering together to make student-disciples who begin the life-long journey of knowing Jesus Christ and fulfilling the Great Commission beginning in middle and high school and then transitioning into college and beyond. This is timely in the sense that a March 2018 Barna research poll found that only 10% of Millennials surveyed ‘have heard of and remember the Great Commission.’”

Carda emphasizes the importance for these student leaders to be rooted in Christ, “Our goal is to give students direction and support as they seek to grow in their strength and stability as a Christian. Like an oak tree with an aggressive tap root, we want them to reach deep for the strength of the Lord and not be surface Christians who do not know their Bibles but just go with the good feeling that being part of a Christian group brings. Those feelings will not carry them through the temptations that are sure to assault them in college. They need truth, support, and accountability to stay the course and grow in their faith; given the culture of many colleges, the roots they have grown over the years in high school will be instrumental in keeping them grounded in their faith.”

3. The ripple effect of growth will spread through generations to come.

Miller is spot on when he says, “Making disciples is not an instantaneous “microwave” process but a long-term “slow bake” approach that is life-on-life ministry and builds deep roots in the Lord.” It takes time and intentionality, and oftentimes, doesn’t follow our preferred timeline in this world where instant gratification rules the day.

God is not ruled by any timetable. He is moving. Community is growing. Leaders are emerging. In Andover, they have been investing in students over the past several years and this past fall were able to launch the first student-led discipleship groups. In these weekly gatherings students lead fellow students. They pray together, walk through a lesson saturated in Scripture, and talk about what the Lord is speaking to them and how to implement that in their lives. Leaders are trained on the lessons the week before during leadership training and mentoring nights. Accountability and challenges (outreach, deeper reflection and processing, etc.) are a regular part of the groups.

Miller and Carda are seeing confidence rise in students as they begin to lead their peers. They’re seeing openness, hunger to learn and apply more of the Word, and even grace-based accountability. They’re seeing an eager excitement to invest in other students and to see Jesus transform lives. As Carda puts it, “They are living examples of the joy that comes from being a Christ follower. Many of the leaders are friends and the support they spontaneously give each other is such a testimony of the Holy Spirit working to transform them into fully devoted followers of Christ. I see the community of believers as a strong core that will surely grow as more small groups form.”

Huddle leaders and adults from the community invest in student leaders. Those student leaders pour into fellow students, raising up more leaders, who will then pour into more students. Disciples making disciples.

The ripples of discipleship are showing and spreading in Andover. The best evidence of this is seen in the lives of student leaders:

“I love how we can worship Jesus together in a school environment! And it reminds me that I am not alone in the world as a Christian. There are people at a public school who value the same things I do and want to glorify the Lord!” -Gracie, senior

“I feel that over this year my group has really pushed me to grow in my faith in ways that I didn’t think it would.” -Matthew, junior

“I hope we can just continue to impact people’s lives and show what a difference God makes in each other’s lives. When life has been difficult it [FCA] has helped get me through. If I can make a difference in someone else’s life and teach them about the Lord I know that I will have made the Lord happy.” -Max, sophomore

“Discipleship, to me, means a group of people who follow you as you collectively follow Christ, and together you all get to grow and encourage each other in your walk of faith.” -Madison, junior

When asked if the pursuit of discipleship will go beyond high school, “Yes, because only what is done for Christ will last. My experience in high school has made me not afraid to share the Gospel and I want others to know God.” -Nick, sophomore

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