At Mountainside we believe relational community is the vehicle for discipleship. There are drivers to be developed for the vehicle and there is a road to travel, but let me pause on just the vehicle. This isn’t just a positional statement, but it’s my personal testimony.
In middle school, I (Shannon) was first drawn to the community of youth at the church my mother took me too. I began to value that group of people before I valued Jesus. Then, my freshman year of high school, I was invited into a smaller group of students that had daily Bible readings (and a weekly memory verse) and came to share what their favorite day was. It was within that group and the moments alone with the Living Word, that I embraced Christ’s embrace of me and began to follow Jesus. During my junior and senior year it was a group I began at my high school—gathering other Christ-followers to encourage each other in Mr. Hamm’s social studies classroom. In my early twenties, it was the “20-Something” large gathering and smaller group of friends that kept me grounded as I traveled with a successful ministry group. It was during my first years of ministry as a student pastor that I (along with my wife and 25 volunteers) worked to build the same sort of community that changed my life in that same youth room. Eight different small groups of high school students (led by seniors and juniors) created community to reach community. Each place in ministry after that—Grand Island, Asheville, and now Boone, I (along with friends, family, and fellow leaders) have strived to build the same sort of authentic and transparent relationships that form a relational community that fosters discipleship.
You see, when we come together in a Christ-centered group, we learn each other’s stories. Then we see how the Gospel story applies to our stories, and we help each other walk the next step in following Jesus. Yes, there are specific strategies and formations within those relational communities to formalize discipleship, but the basis is a loving, honest, real group of people coming together and putting Jesus in the center of it. It is like some sort of changing agent. I’ve been a part of other community groups—Rotarians, sports teams, parent-teacher groups, book clubs, even some church groups that weren’t honest—but nothing touches or comes close to a transparent group with Jesus at the center. As a group we agree to put one hand in—connecting with each other and Jesus, while putting out the other hand—extending it to others who need this community just as much as those already in it! In doing all that, we build community to reach a community.
I love what God is doing among us at Mountainside, and the genuine love that is growing among us within our relational communities! Men’s group, women’s group, youth group, young adult small group, young marrieds with kids, married with teens and empty nests—all the variations coming together in groups or three’s or four’s—it is beautiful. We have a few who attend our small groups, but don’t attend on Sundays. We have a few who go to our small groups, but go to another church. When we are embracing Jesus and his mission, those sort of little things don’t really matter.
This last Monday, our house was full with 20 young adults celebrating four who had their birthdays in June. There was so much laughter! I wish you could have seen the couple of large circles of conversations going on among the more extroverted, and then the few side conversations happening between the more introverted. The two leaders of this group know the stories of each of these people. A discipleship group has formed among 3 young ladies. Similar things are happening within our other small groups. It gives me a lot of hope for the future of Mountainside.
Thank you to all those supporting the mission of Mountainside Community Church as we help people to come, find and follow Jesus!