In England during the late 1800s, there was a famous cricket player named Charles Studd. Charles was part of a morning Bible study and accountability group of six other men. God moved amongst these men in a powerful way, and it culminated when Hudson Taylor spoke at their college campus about all God was doing to reach the people of China.
Convicted and ignited, these seven men abandoned all to take the gospel to China. Prior to leaving, they toured several college campuses, sharing the gospel and God’s heart for the nations, and in a powerful movement, God ignited missionaries across the country. They were dubbed the Cambridge Seven, and their influence spread beyond England to the U.S., where it inspired Robert Wilder’s Student Volunteer Movement.
The Cambridge Seven began with a small group of men praying and sharing their lives together, and God used that group to spark a generational gospel journey that took the good news of Jesus Christ across the globe. There were no programs or grandiose initiatives, just the gospel taking root in a community in such a powerful way that it burst into a contagious movement.
The interesting part of this story is that it is not unique. This is how the church has historically existed and moved in the world. This is the normative flow of the gospel among the people of God. We see throughout the New Testament how the Holy Spirit landed on a people and the gospel transformed their lives and then flowed out of their community to the world around them. At my church, we call this gospel-centered multiplication.
The Great Commission in Matthew 28 tells us that the mission of God pushes forward through the people of God. We might sometimes believe the lie that the mission of God is about us, and if we aren’t careful, we will be lulled into a self-absorbed view of Christianity where the gospel of Christ terminates with us. This isn’t the full picture of biblical discipleship. A community where the gospel doesn’t flow out is stagnant and ineffective. Accountability, care, and a sense of belonging are crucial to sanctification, but where that focus doesn’t turn beyond the walls of our homes and office cubicles, it creates a vacuum of life rather than a source of life.
The mission of God is about His glory, which He achieves through redeeming and reconciling an unworthy people to Himself. You and I faithfully live out the mission of God by being messengers of reconciliation (disciple makers) to the world around us (2 Cor. 5:16).
For this reason, the leadership team at my church decided to move our missions department into our small groups, placing a new emphasis on mission in community life. This move means that our groups will be responsible for driving all the aspects of gospel-centered multiplication—community outreach, evangelism, trips, and missionary care.
The church was never meant to be a stagnant pool but, instead, a flowing river of gospel movement, disciples who make disciples who make disciples. All of us who today claim faith in Jesus Christ are a part of this flow. God used someone to save a man in Wichita Falls, Texas, who then shared the gospel with my brother, who then came home to Dallas and shared it with me.
We may easily fall into the trap of thinking mission is an option rather than a necessity, but community apart from mission is like a car without an engine. By incorporating missions directly into community, our hope is to see the gospel flow in and out of our small groups, in order to better shepherd our people toward faithfulness in making disciples. The driving motivation behind everything is to see our church, like the Cambridge Seven, catch fire for the mission of God in making disciples here and abroad to the glory of God.
Trevor Joy is the Spiritual Formation Pastor of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. A proud Texas A&M Aggie, Joy consults with numerous churches in the areas of community and discipleship. Trevor and his wife Rachel are blessed with one daughter and two sons.