First Principles – “Making a Difference in Little Rock” ~ Dee Brown
While at a Bible study in our home with friends and neighbors in our community, I noticed a new participant to the group. He sat there quietly taking in the discussion. I wondered what he thought. He was hearing us describe our previous weeks lesson on the Gospel and this week’s initial discussion on Baptism and the obedience of following Jesus in the walk with Him; a first act of obedience that leads a Christ follower to a life of obedience. This was his first exposure to First Principles of establishing someone in their faith.
After our meeting was over I asked the new attendee what he thought and he responded, “Wow, as each person shared, I picked up on several different backgrounds and church denominations, but this study was so focused on the Bible, and kept pulling us back to the Scripture, that is just cut right through all of that.
I’ve watched as the First Principles series takes believers through a process of exploring the Gospel and its implications for our lives, understanding the church as God’s vehicle to accomplish His mission and how that mission calls us to be a ‘family of families’ that lets our good works and openness bring people to Him. Ultimately it explores our heart motivations so that we are aligned with His heart and mission in all aspects of our lives. The First Principles is transformational, and the process allows us to identify leaders who can lead others in the same transformation. This is multiplication at work in our church! ~Dave Kella
Those are the kinds of stories I have heard over my journey of the past three years into discipleship with Arkansas Antioch Initiative of the Nehemiah Network; a network of churches who are giving leadership to pastors as well as lay leaders who want to leverage making disciples for thousands of people.
This discipleship curriculum is centered around the Socratic method. The Socratic Method is a way of community based learning in questions. These Socratic discussions focus on a facilitator engaging a group in discussion not lecturing from the front. Socratic discussions over Scripture hundreds of scholarly articles, and writing articles that apply to any cultural setting at any time lead us to evaluate what we believe in light of what is normative in Scripture. The First Principles study engages the group around scripture, conversational learning, and our writing moves beyond simply fill in the blank studies to help us reshape our lives.
“I have never been a part of anything like this; Biblical community as it should be, with simple, practical steps that lead to reshaping our lives to follow Jesus.”Evan Kenyon
Because of my successful engagement with the First Principles study, I began to explore the leadership cohorts. These as well utilize the socratic method and confirmed the excellence of the product. We have seen this process work with our Espanol campus and many other contexts. You can see an example in the quote below:
“I have seen Jesus Christ transform many lives as I have trained leaders in over five (5) countries using First Principles. This is a huge success for the Kingdom.”Daniel Bran
The process really works. Spending this much time together around the Scripture and the discussions with multiple church leaders really affects change in our lives. I am excited because I have seen so many instances where people are responding to this strategy.
Another key differentiator in this process is for everyone in the church, all people, from new to the faith all the way to full time ministers of the Gospel. Yes, the leadership development system of the Antioch Initiative can span that large of an experience group. It is important for leadership development to be happening at these different levels of influence. Lay people must be involved at a higher level of commitment that we may have originally thought if we want to move the needle and make a real difference in our city.
“My approach to discipleship has been very focused on small groups of men. The biblical approach to spiritual family and community is profound. I tried to look up references in Scripture to household and family and I couldn’t believe how saturated scripture is with that concept. Establishing churches within a household paradigm marries church, discipleship, leadership development and missions. Learning and experiencing this has been refreshing, exciting and encouraging.”Michael Kitchens
Establishing churches within a household paradigm marries church, discipleship, leadership development and missions. Learning and experiencing this has been refreshing, exciting and encouraging
Kevin Kelly, Senior Pastor of Second Baptist Church Little Rock just finished a pilot of First Principles at his church that was another success story. Eight-five people signed up and seventy-nine finished the course. They are now looking at how to integrate First Principles of establishing people in their faith into their church.
I dream of a time that is just beginning here in Little Rock where there is a grass roots movement of discipleship, that is biblical and church-centered. A movement in and around Little Rock that mobilizes the laity across denominations and cultures. One that encourages people to start new small groups and uses First Principles to establish people in their faith and allow people to see their potential in Gods kingdom.
I hope to see more groups like this that are multi-church where we are learning biblically-based and church-centered approach that strengthens our churches and builds unity of a city-wide movement for Jesus. May God continue to bless this movement for His Kingdom and grant us wisdom in the days ahead.
Dee Brown is a lay leader at South City Church in Little Rock, AR, and participant in the Arkansas Antioch Initiative Leadership Cohort.