We’ve talked a lot about Church Online and the potential power that it has to be a strategic force for the church. Today’s church online has many obstacles to overcome. Arguably, in today’s culture, so does the church.
The church has an opportunity to create a new ministry model tapping into some biblical truths. After all, there’s nothing new under the sun, right? The issues of today’s Church Online, and largely the Church overall, were written a couple thousand years ago in the Bible. Create Disciples.
How do we do this today? Enter Austin Ridge’s Discipleship Pastor, Jeff Moore, as we explore Austin Ridge’s strategy for disciple-making. With Women’s Ministry, Men’s Ministry, Life Groups, Classes… Austin Ridge has a lot going on all the time, but how does disciple-making stand out among the other things? Join us as we dive into the Strategy of Discipleship.
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ON THE SHOW
- Episode 19: Church Anywhere, Jared Kirkwood, & Discipleship
- Disciple Making Chapters 1 & 2 by Austin Ridge
- No Silver Bullets by Daniel Im
- Why One on One Discipleship Is Not The Best Strategy by Replicate Ministries
- Equip Roundtables by Austin Ridge
HELP ANOTHER CHURCH. LEAVE A REVIEW.
Jeff Reed: 00:00 Hey there. Welcome to The Church Digital Podcast. My name is Jeff and I'm glad you've decided to join us for Episode 20. This is Episode 20 and we are excited about it and we've got a great episode for you. We're going out to Austin Ridge Bible Church in Austin, Texas. Now, disclaimer, I used to work for Austin Ridge. I was their Communications Director and I loved my time at that church and even from afar now seeing what that church is doing and how they're growing people is awesome. And so I love seeing it from a distance, but we wanted to have a detailed conversation with their Discipleship Pastor and actually one of their worship leaders, his name is Jeff Moore. Now if the first thing that jumped into your head is songs like good old Ranger and Tonto, Laurel and Hardy, Batman and Robin, and Snoopy and Charlie, I got to disappoint you, it's not that Geoff Moore.
Jeff Reed: 00:49 I know I'm disappointed as well. I've always wanted that friendship and that relationship because you know, we all need friends like you. But at the end of the day, it's a different Jeff Moore. If you've got no idea what I'm talking about, about Geoff Moore and Laurel and Hardy, Google it, Geoff Moore, 1990s, CCM, Christian Contemporary Music, and prepare to be enlightened and/or disappointed. But we want to talk about discipleship in context of church online and even the church. Now, Austin Ridge Bible Church doesn't have a strong church online. They do broadcast their services on Facebook each week but when it comes to creating biblical community, when it comes to discipleship, when it comes to fostering those online relationships, honestly, they really just haven't gone in that direction. Not saying that's good, not saying that's bad. It's just the direction the church has chosen. And so as a result of that, I don't necessarily want to have this conversation with Jeff talking about how to do church online discipleship, but even just as a general rule, how to do discipleship in your church.
Jeff Reed: 01:58 And so that may be two different things, but one needs to be grounded in the other. What I do know about Austin Ridge is they are a very, like many of you, they are very busy, event-driven church. They do lots of things with Women's Ministry, with Men's Ministry, for parenting, for Life Groups. There's always something going on. As a Communications Director, I can tell you there is always something going on in the life of Austin Ridge, but they've managed to make D Groups. They've managed to make discipleship groups. They managed to make discipleship stand out in context of those things. And even now we're pushing towards a larger church wide campaign, driving people towards a deeper discipleship understanding. So how does that tension work in the midst of everything else? What's the strategy that funnels people towards discipleship? We may not have all the answers, but you know, what I do know and love about Austin Ridge is they're willing to experiment and try it out.
Jeff Reed: 02:56 And so we've had conversations about discipleship recently, Episode 19, we talked to Jared Kirkwood from Mariners Church and also over the Rooted material, which is a 9- 10 week study on creating a disciple. Austin Ridge took a different approach, where they actually wrote personally within the church a 350 page book that's tied to the mission and vision of their church. By the way, if you want a copy of that, we've got a couple chapters of it available online. Check out the show notes where you can download and see some of what that material looks like. So Austin Ridge spent some intentionality, why? What did that look like? Jeff More, what lessons did you learn from this process? It's questions like this and more that I really want to unpack here as I bring to the table, Rey DeArmas, cohost and of course, Online pastor at Christ Fellowship Miami, bring Jeff Moore, Discipleship Pastor from Austin Ridge Bible Church and myself, Jeff Reed, The Church Digital, in a conversation focusing on the strategies of discipleship groups. Hey everybody, here you go.
Jeff Moore: 04:00 I'm the odd duck. It's funny, the first week that JD and I, in fact the the first meeting, I think JD and I had one on one, I don't remember what we were talking about, but he said something to the effect of, "you're the first worship leader I've ever actually understood what you're talking about."
Rey DeArmas: 04:15 Yeah, I could see that.
Jeff Reed: 04:16 This is true.
Rey DeArmas: 04:17 Better theological perspective or just in general, like what are we saying here?
Jeff Reed: 04:24 No, it was, you know, it was, how do I say this? The lack of diva-ness, I mean in the grand scheme of things like he was very grounded.
Rey DeArmas: 04:34 You mean Jeff didn't go for the Gravitas voice where he starts speaking really airy and in weird pauses?
Jeff Moore: 04:40 I don't know how to do that.
Jeff Reed: 04:42 Well, I mean they told me for weeks, "Hey, we're interviewing Jeff Moore to come in and lead worship."
Rey DeArmas: 04:50 So you thought about Geoff Moore and the Distance or what were you thinking?
Jeff Reed: 04:53 Dude, I was totally excited for me, some home run or a friend like you, and then this bearded bald guy shows up. And I'm like, it's amazing what Photoshop can do and wait, no, that's not you. Dang it.
Rey DeArmas: 05:07 Awe man.
Jeff Reed: 05:07 I even had like albums ready to get autographed, but no, no such luck. Instead it was like a theologically grounded guy coming into lead worship. It was just, it was such a disappointing. No I'm kidding.
Rey DeArmas: 05:20 Good God, CCM has failed us again.
Jeff Reed: 05:22 So does that still happen Jeff? I mean seriously.
Jeff Moore: 05:31 I'm trying to remember what it was, but it was literally like somebody having lunch with me and they were kind of in their own mind, convinced that I was that guy and like time had got the best of me.
Rey DeArmas: 05:42 Jeff, in all honesty and I don't mean this in any bad way or form, it's just such a niche genre. Did you know who Geoff Moore and the Distance were before folks started calling you that or like what happened?
Jeff Moore: 05:54 I'll be 47 September. So I definitely knew who Geoff Moore was. So I traveled, toured, did that whole thing for about six years. I actually went under my middle name, Jeff Wade, because that was like 95 to 2000 and that's when Geoff Moore and the Distance were in their heyday. That's when he was covering with Steven Curtis and all that stuff. So we actually did a couple of camps together, where I was the worship leader, and he was the concert artist they brought in. His real name is Geoff Fenwick. Yeah. Geoff Moore is not his real name. And I actually asked him, I was like, "dude, of all the names you could choose from Geoff Moore was the sexiest thing for CCM radio, you can come up with." You know.
Rey DeArmas: 06:31 Pretty much. Identity theft.
Jeff Reed: 06:37 Nobody ever thinks about like the people who were born with those names, right? Their like, Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, Geoff Moore will be great. Geoff Moore. That's awesome.
Jeff Moore: 06:45 Nice guy.
Jeff Reed: 06:50 How does Austin Ridge define discipleship?
Jeff Moore: 06:52 Discipleship is, and I kind of borrowed this from a guy name, Daniel Im. Have you read his book, No Silver Bullets? Fantastic, if you haven't read it yet. He defines it as, you know, it's that lifelong trajectory, direction towards Jesus is what a disciple is. Somebody who's on that journey. So when we're making disciples, we're helping people make that next step in that journey. So it's not something that you arrive at, that's why we like to refer to it as disciple making instead of discipleship. Cause discipleship seems to just because it's a term that we're so familiar with, it's something that you've done, or something that you do, something you complete versus disciple-making is just that ongoing progress where you're bringing others with you as you are moving towards Christ.
Jeff Reed: 07:36 That's awesome. So for you and I like this idea of the longterm. It's interesting the switch between like a discipleship and disciple-making, contextually the word discipleship's lost a lot of its value in that you probably get 10 people in a room together and ask them what discipleship is. You'll get 15 answers back just to the varying levels of that. But it's very clear in context of disciple making. Now a lot of people, and we had episode 19, the last episode, we had Jared Kirkwood on, and he's with the Rooted material, which is out of Mariners Church. I don't know if you're familiar with that. It's a really a great content. Yeah, I really enjoyed digging into that. But you know, he defined discipleship and there's many different ways and I agree with that, but it was disciples are people who make disciples. And so there's like a repetitive process for that. A disciple is someone that's capable of making other disciples, with Austin Ridge, what does that look like?
Jeff Moore: 08:40 I think the reality is that everybody is making disciples whether they realize it or not. So if you're going to be doing it anyway, you might as well do it well. So we've created that curriculum, to help people. You know what I mean? To help people start, because what we find is I think people, whether they, I don't think most people want to be disobedient on purpose. So I think if scripture tells us that we're to go make disciples. You know, teaching them all I command you, baptize them in the name of, so on and so forth. I think most people once they realize that they want to do it now, whether or not they have the courage to step out just personality wise, whether it's insecurity, whatever it is, they want to be obedient. So if we can help them be obedient by giving them kind of a toolkit that they can work with, that at least will help some people get started in that process.
Jeff Moore: 09:30 So we created that curriculum or a handbook is kind of what we call it instead of curriculum cause that's got a connotation to it, obviously. But what we encourage them to do, hey, you take three to five other people through this handbook over the next 9-12 months and when you're done, they will have been equipped to do what you just did with them. So there is no pressure for you to be great at it. You were one among equals, right? You know, you're all trying to pursue, move towards Jesus. You're not supposed to be an expert teacher, an expert anything. You're supposed to be a disciple. You're supposed to be someone who loves Jesus, wants to see other people love Jesus and understand Jesus, and then live for Jesus. So if you can do that, if you're willing to risk doing that, here's a toolkit.
Jeff Moore: 10:15 Now the next time you take somebody through this, you know, shape it a little bit, you know what I mean? So if they haven't done it before, like here's some guardrails and then each subsequent time, kind of make it your own. Over time, this is just one tool among many that you have. So that's one way to do it. I think, you know, through the teaching on Sunday morning, I think is a way we do it. I think one of the things we're doing now, we started this whole equip, category of things around here. They're, you've seen the roundtable videos online. So we have this equip department now where we're offering 2-week classes on knowing Jesus, on how to study the Bible, and how to share your faith. Rolling out some other class environments on science, on apologetics, on some other aspects of studying God's word, things like that.
Jeff Moore: 11:03 So we're trying to provide some things that are very unstructured with some tools to use in the un-obstruction environment, but more decentralized that'd be like a D-group. These classes obviously more centralized, master teacher oriented. So we're trying to stay away from saying, you know, one is better than the other, but here are various options to take advantage of as you grow as a disciple and make other disciples. So that was a really long answer to like a one sentence question, but it's kind of somewhere in all that is kind of what we're doing right now.
Jeff Reed: 11:36 Sure. Well, and the one thing I know just even from, from working at Austin Ridge is you guys, you have a lot of, let's call them discipleship options, you have a lot of grow options, let me use your language available with that. So you've got the Men's Ministry, you've got Women's Ministry, you've got Small Groups. Discipleship was kind of an out shoot of that. What is the relationship as, cause what I see now from the outside is discipleship has seemed to have gotten more, I'm using the word structured, not as, has gotten more value in importance maybe over the past several years. So like how is that tension of, okay, do I need to be in a Men's Ministry and discipleship or discipleship? How does somebody who is in your church, how do they navigate that to find the right place?
Jeff Moore: 12:34 One of the things that we're learning right now is honestly how to do that. So the D-Groups ministry, which is what I'm overseeing with this handbook and everything, we're really just going public with that for the first time. IE - Lead Pastor, Brad, talking about it, things like that. We've had, you know, 50 plus groups going with that without people really even knowing about it. So it was kind of like let's prepare for whatever might happen once it really goes public. So with that, now we've got kind of four buckets, We've got D-Groups, we got Life Groups, we got Men's and Women's discipleship, disciple-making, equipping, all those things kind of run through all those environments. What makes each distinctive is obviously men's and women's are very gender specific, but they're going to be more kind of step one for a lot of people. It's going to be something that's kind of given to you. You're kind of going to feed your own soul and build some relationships kind of in that order. Life Groups will be more build relationships, feed your own soul, right? And then in the D-Groups, we're giving you the tools to train up others so they can train up others. So they kind of all have the same things, but just in different orders of priority.
Rey DeArmas: 13:49 I know it's difficult to gauge, but are folks who are looking at D-Groups, are they looking at that as, hey, I'm being trained to be sent out? Or are they looking at it from the sense of, Hey, let me kind of engorge as a Christian and let me gain more knowledge and that kind of thing?
Jeff Moore: 14:04 It's messaged over and over and over again that you're being equipped to equip now what they hear and how they process that over 9-12 months. Obviously a lot of people are just going to do what they want to with it and one more Bible study is what it's going to turn into for them. And that next step may not be equipping other people. So we kind of have to just trust the Spirit is at work in that over the really long process and not that 12 month process that we would like to grade in our database. You know, one thing we have seen is a lot of people, and we do this on purpose, even with the people that have been in it so far is this is something that you can do alongside what you're already doing. Like this shouldn't pull you out of serving, being in a community you're already in, like for you to be discipled to make disciples is going to make you better at what you're already doing. So don't stop doing that. You maybe have to take it on the chin a little bit and do a little more the next 9- 12 months but this will make you better, more effective, more grounded, more able to do the things that you're already doing.
Rey DeArmas: 15:09 Do you guys promote that to the church at large? Or is this for like folks that like, you're eyeballing and you're like, this is the right kind of person that we're looking at for this?
Jeff Moore: 15:17 Up until now, it's been more the eyeballing, and really like me working through our men's and women's leaders to find the right people. One, not only to lead but to actually be in the groups, like who are the best candidates for this kind of thing? Starting though, I guess this next month it'll be promoted alongside all our other environments. So we'll see if that waters it down and makes it better or worse, if it makes it harder or easier, I just don't know right now. Even with 50ish groups across three campuses, you know, you can see that out of that, probably half of those are really like at the point of the spear that we want them to be. The rest of them we're kind of still trying to bring them back, you know? So if you triple that to 150, you're probably still seeing about a third that are very on point and focusing and you having to constantly bring those others back. The worst thing that is going to happen is somebody's going to be equipped with some basic theological understanding, you know, basic tools of how to study the Bible on their own, and some basic hopefully outlooks of how to better live for Christ. If that's the worst that happens.
Rey DeArmas: 16:24 No, it's not a terrible thing.
Jeff Moore: 16:25 Acceptable lost.
Rey DeArmas: 16:28 Is it tough to resist the temptation to take a new believer through this? Cause obviously they're like the most excited about their faith, they're the most like on fire.
Jeff Moore: 16:36 I think a new believer is a perfect candidate for this. I think a non-believer, I think that's one step too few. And of course a lot of people, their naturally bent towards evangelism. Like, Oh, I'd love to take my unsaved neighbor through this. I'm like, if they're willing to sign up for this commitment, man, God speed. But there's no way they're gonna finish the thing because it's just going to be so much unfamiliar territory for them. But I think a new believer that is unformed spiritually, you know, their still in that spiritual formation process, I think that's perfect. Because what you find is, the people that honestly have the hardest time staying on track with something like whole D-Group experience is somebody who's been through, you know, 15 different women's studies or men's studies or life group studies and their natural gravitational pools back to what they've already done. So you've got to constantly retrain them of, you know, this is different, this is good. Use what you've learned, but don't try to make this that.
Rey DeArmas: 17:27 Right. See that's the challenge that I've seen, is, so for instance, my dad is a teacher at Bible Study Fellowship. I'm sure they've got some of that where you're at. And so, you know, I would almost rather send a new believer from our church to undergo something like that where it's like, no, you're going to be in the Word and you're going to be accountable for like what you're learning there and yeah, there's going to be some homework, but there's going to be a lot of challenge. And as opposed to, hey, let's fix you into a group where it's going to be, and this isn't to demean anything cause I run my small group based off of video-based curriculum or anything like that where it's going to be more consumption as opposed to more challenge, and it's going to help the believer over the longer haul of their life. You know, like we're equipping them to go do the things that Jesus called them to do and not just to absorb content.
Jeff Moore: 18:13 Right. Yeah. The biggest, I'll say one of the biggest tweaks we've made to this handbook is taking a lot of questions at the end of the chapter out of it. And the goal of the group time when they meet each week is that each person in the group is supposed to bring observations and questions they have to the table. So week one, the job of each person in the group is to bring themselves to it, you know, versus, "Okay. Question one is x." Well that's what every group does. We have plenty of environments that go through question one is x, but you know, hey Steve, what are you thinking about? Like, what did this draw out of you? What didn't you understand? You know, just those kinds of things to where it's more, it's more heartfelt and now the call for the leader then is to really be light on their feet. You know, they've gotta be able to kind of go to their left alot so to speak in that, but you know, to really let the group drive the conversation so that they learn how to articulate not only what they're learning, but what they don't understand, cause that's as big a part of being a disciple is anything, is being able to just honestly say, I don't know. I don't understand this. Can you help me? You know? And so if we can equip people to just be more comfortable doing that, that's a huge win, I think.
Jeff Reed: 19:20 As a Communications Director, when I was at Austin Ridge, I struggled with this D-Group mentality because it was, and I'm going to confess right here, I've had a brain shift and I understand it probably better than I did when I was there. But what I struggled with is actually the same things that I see a lot of other churches struggle with is, okay, so this is another thing. Do we want somebody to be in a D-Group and a Men's or small group? Like is this another thing that we want of them a week? Or if I had to choose between a men's, women's small group or a D-Group, like why would I choose or what is the option that I should choose there? When you talk with people who have that tension, who feel that, like what's your response to something like that?
Jeff Moore: 20:13 Biggest thing I try to do is really spell out what each environment offers kinda like I was saying awhile ago, and then just give them the freedom to choose what they want to do. I mean, at the end of the day it's up to them to own their faith. We actually got an event coming up, end of August, Own Your Faith, it's an equip event. We'll have hundreds of people there and at the end of the night, their assignment before the night's over is to spell out the next 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, what are your steps that you're going to take in your faith? Whether that's, and we've kind of created a tool for them to assess where they are, like where their weakest point is right now based on our core values. Is that something that you really want to see change in the next 12 months?
Jeff Moore: 20:56 Okay, well the next 3 months, here are your options. 6 months, here are your options. 12 months. Now pick one. There's grace. There's plenty of freedom there. You know, this is a long road mindset that we're trying to take here. You know, you're not going to fix yourself in the next 12 months, but what's something you can grow in, you know, you're still human, but you're still in the image of God and you're filled with Christ Spirit and in Christ you are being sanctified, all these things. So what is that sanctification process? How can we come alongside you as a church in the next 3 months, 6 months, 12 months? But you got to do it. We can't do it for you. Trying to take step back to answer your question is, you know, if a men's group does that for you, best, man, get after it.
Jeff Moore: 21:38 Now, get after it. You know, but if it's a D-group or a Life Group or if it's a, you know, maybe you're in all these things already and you're not serving anywhere, you don't know how to show your faith. You know what, take this two week class on how to share your faith and a conversation study. Do that. That's huge. Cause if your serving and in a men's group, but you're still scared to share your faith, you've got to call a time out here and let's talk about that. You know what I mean? So it's not a, it isn't a priority necessarily. It's like, it's all these things. And that's what makes it fun, I think. And the more we can, help people understand what we offer them, why we offer it to them, and that there's freedom for them to choose among those things and then just get after it. We hope that more and more people will take us up on that.
Jeff Reed: 22:25 Okay. So let me ask this because what you've got is a 350 page book for 9-12 months. Like that's a huge commitment. A lot of the other curriculums that I've looked at, you know, we last week or recently we talked with Rooted and Rooted's like a 10 week thing. I've got experience with Timothy Initiative, David Nelm's. Roughly, I think it's a 16 week, but we would chop it in half and do it in eight weeks. That's a huge commitment timewise of 9-12 months. I'm guessing there was intentionality on making it that long. Why did you choose to be a little more aggressive on the time to stretch it out that big?
Jeff Moore: 23:10 Sure. Well, I mean you could almost break it up into four studies, you know, cause we built it around our model of a disciple, which is a lifelong learner and follower of Jesus who knows who God is at section one, know's what Christ has done in section two, knows who they are in Christ section three and then knows how to live for Christ section four. So if you look at it that way, it kind of is four 10 weeks, you know, series kind of thing. But you know, we tried to build it to where, we kind of took the approach of. When I saw we, this was a large group of people going back about four years when all this started. So I didn't do this single handily by any stretch. I have some fingerprints on it, but me, TJ Morelli, a few other guys on staff started working on this concept about four years ago and basically just decided, okay, what are some theological tenants that we want a disciple who comes out of Austin Ridge to know, you know. We want to be able to as best as we can understand, you know, what the trinity is, what God's character attributes are, how God's revealed himself, you know, those types of things.
Jeff Moore: 24:13 But then connect that back to real life. You know, why do these things matter? Where do they matter? When do they matter and how do I articulate this stuff? Moving on from that, you know, what Christ has done, really understanding sin, really understanding faith, really understanding these things that we kind of take for granted. But really being able to articulate this stuff and find it in scripture and be able to walk through passages on their own for that. You know, who we are in Christ, the fact that we are forgiven, the fact that we are just, you know, we are justified, sanctified, we will be glorified. Those types of things. Where does that show up in scripture? How do I study that for myself? And then based on all that, you know, if you go through all this stuff and you don't have a desire to live differently for Jesus, then you should start over.
Jeff Moore: 24:55 So assuming that once you get through those three sections, you just have something that you feel like you've got to do now. Okay, let's end with how we live for Christ. And then looking that, you know, that actually starts with abiding, that looks at the example he gave us, that moves on into the great commission and unpacking that in many different ways, that sort of thing. So we decided instead of kind of, and even doing that, I mean, you're still skimming the surface of a lot of that stuff, you're not doing a deep dive on the trinity in a week, you know what I mean? You might be going further then they've typically gone, but I had a seminary prof tell me, it's like, well, since we can't spend six months on this, the next 20 minutes will be fine. You know?
Jeff Moore: 25:34 So again, I had to take that approach. Like you can't cover any of this stuff exhaustively but you can hopefully do it enough to at least give some language, give some terms, give some connected tissue from teaching to being able to find it in the word for yourself, to being able to teach somebody else how to find it in the word, and then teach somebody else, that sort of thing. You know, and all along the way, also developing spiritual disciplines. So daily time in prayer, specifically for lost people you regularly encounter, looking for opportunities to have spiritual conversations with, praying for a specific missionary or country and then praying for workers for the harvest. So what we call the missional big three here. You know, so when you talk, so that's when you start looking at trying to develop habits and spiritual disciplines.
Jeff Moore: 26:19 That takes longer than 10 weeks, right? So then the job of the leader is you start every group meeting with, okay guys, you've been in the word daily for yourselves, what are you learning? What did you see? Have you been praying the missional big three? Okay and before we go any further, let's do that together. Who are we praying for? You know, who have you had spiritual conversations with, etc., etc. So that's why we decided to make the all that as much as we could structure it happen for somebody over 9-12 months. And you've got some groups that want to spend four weeks on the trinity. I discourage them from doing that but grown adults are going to do what grown adults are going to do. If they want to do that, that's fine, but you're going to be in this thing for like two years. That's a long time. And, so another thing we did too, I mean, JD, I'm talking a long time, I'm sorry, but, you know, Brand's led these groups for 20 years and his typically go 12-15 months. And so that they kind of gave us freedom to not try to do a 10-12 week study. It's like that Brad does a discipleship group for 12-15 months, let's write something that they can do in 9-12 months, kind of batteries included.
Jeff Reed: 27:24 Did you ever consider like not writing your own or was the vision towards, man, we want to so tightly integrate this into our strategy, we just, we need to do it ourselves?
Jeff Moore: 27:36 That's why we did that. Yeah. We wanted it to sound like us, feel like us. If somebody goes through partnership, and hears this thing, you know about what a disciple is at Austin Ridge and they go through our disciple-making materials that it all lines up. Cause we looked at like Greg's stuff, whatever that was called. We looked at some stuff that Watermark had, we looked at stuff that the Village had. This is all great stuff, but we'd have to tweak it so much to feel like us, let's just start from scratch. And it really was a neat experience. Cause at the end of the day, man, you probably saw the credits page at the end of that, Jeff. But there's, you know, 20 different writers that staff and volunteers, there's eight different editors, staff and volunteers. So it really is a collective effort that, you know, right now it's great, you know, three to five years from now we'll probably go, well, that was a dumb idea and we'll be on to something else because this is a church and we learn and grow and that sort of thing. So we're not telling people this is the Bible if anything, but you know, it's anything but that, you know, this is just a tool to come alongside God's word and come alongside the Spirit at work in you and to come alongside the community that you need to be in, but as you're in community, in God's word as the Spirit works in you, this is a tool to use in this season.
Jeff Reed: 28:45 Well, you know, and I love, the thing that I've always loved about Austin Ridge is their ability to do these astronomical, these huge projects without even like blinking an eye. Just, okay, this is what we need to see infrastructure. Like, I'm even just thinking back, I don't even know if you guys do it anymore, but Time with God, there was this like daily devotional that was essentially volunteer produced, I think there was like one person who was an editor who was like part time staff who put it together, but essentially it was volunteer and staff written for years, like that that went on. Do you guys still do that? I'm just curious.
Jeff Moore: 29:22 We actually just pulled the plug on that back in the spring.
Jeff Reed: 29:25 Yeah. And just, I mean, but what I loved about it was, yeah, hey, let's do this. And maybe it wasn't the best place to pour the resources into, but I love the church's vision towards, Hey, this is a great idea, that is a resource list, let's create it. You know, I look at the book that you guys have created, it's 350 pages. Like that's no small feat even with 20 writers and putting that together, keeping everybody singular focused on this and generating that and getting it done. And this is what I think I saw somewhere, this is like version three.
Jeff Moore: 29:59 Yeah, that's what I was going to say. We didn't start off with a 350 page book in mind. What it started off as is more of a typical, that's a bad word, but you know what I mean? More of a traditional kind of small group thing where here's the topic, here's some passages. What do you see? What does it mean? What do I do? Kind of stuff. And there were just like five or six days of that for each topic. So the idea was somebody will do this in 15-20 minutes a day in addition to their normal quiettime. Problem is, you're assuming a lot of the leader, that they're actually gonna get to the right place with nothing but a little explanatory note and some verses, you know that, that's a lot to ask. So we fleshed it out a little bit more and we fleshed it out one more time and that's how we got through where we are now. So really if you look through most of the weeks now there's about four to six headings. So we still kind of kept those same basic headings from that original version. We just added a little more meat in there so that it kind of walks somebody through. It doesn't give them all the answers, but it kind of walks them towards the answer.
Jeff Reed: 31:02 I'm not a numbers guy and we talk a lot about how I don't like numbers, but this is just the numbers you've told me. You've got 50 groups, three to five people. So bad math, 150 to 250 people going through this. When you look at discipleship and you're rolling out new campaign, where Fall 2019 you're going to be pushing discipleship instead of a, hey, let's pull some people aside. Maybe this is more like beta underground, but you're making discipleship more of a public presence out in front of the people, getting them on board. When you look at discipleship, is it, hey, we're just going to see where this thing goes. Do you internally have goals or things that you want to drive to and say, okay, the goal is to get this many people in discipleship as you've talked about discipleship growth in your church. Like how do you guys treat that?
Jeff Moore: 31:51 Yeah, I mean the kind of the soft goal is, I think it's reasonable to look for a 100-150 groups this next year and out of that, you know, a third to a half of those will probably finish really well. A lot of them kind of leaving the tracks a little bit, we'll have to get them back on, but it kind of a one of those things of, you know, we won't really know if this is successful till we get down the road 3-5 years because if we don't see groups multiplying, if we don't see groups ending in 9-12 months, and then, you know, at least one of the four to six people, two of the four to six people going on to lead others, whether it's in a D-Group or some sort of format, then in my opinion, we haven't been successful at least with the stated goal of disciples making disciples.
Jeff Moore: 32:39 But it's really, you know, kind of asking two to three, four years if it's working or not because it's just going to take time, you know? I mean, that's the unfortunate answer. You know, at the same time, it's only the Holy Spirit can change a heart. Only the Holy Spirit can really guide us into truth. You know, the Holy Spirit does what he's going to do, which I believe he will. Then the next step is, will people be obedient to what the Spirit's doing in their heart? We can't control that.
Jeff Reed: 33:10 I've talked with churches and actually, you know what, Long Hollow. Ray, I'm blanking on the guy's named.
Rey DeArmas: 33:17 Robbie Gallaty.
Jeff Reed: 33:17 So I've listened to Robbie Gallaty's podcast on this and actually I credit him because he's the first guy that really put this on my radar. You know, there's a tension between like a one on one discipleship, and then a one to multiple, one to three, one to five. I think you guys are 3-5. You said? Robby actually leans towards in his podcast and we'll actually link it in the show notes. He leans towards a one to three model. I just was wondering what life lessons have you learned as you've been developing this? Why have you landed on that three to five range? Have you experienced anything one way or the other?
Jeff Moore: 33:56 Now I think a lot of that's personality driven. I mean, personally I'm more comfortable one-on-one. I'd rather just get, you know, roll up our sleeves with one other guy and just get after it. I think there's a place for that. I think there's a place for the kind of the four to six person group, that's more. I think you get the accountability piece is different in each. I think just that formation piece is different in each. I don't know that we, like right now I can think of three groups that are one-on-one, that, you know, a particular individual wanted to lead just one other guy because he had just made a great relationship. He's already discipled this guy and he's just wanting to use this tool. Great. There's no rules, no rules against that kind of thing.
Jeff Moore: 34:42 You know, it's almost the duplication ratio. You know, if you have four to six people go through it. If one or two of those, you know, go on to do it again, you're just getting more people through the system, practically speaking. I think that's honestly why it's just a basic number saying if we can get 300 people to go through it, maybe we get, you know, 75 to a hundred of them to take a next step. Versus if we get 50 people to go through it, we get 10 of them to take a next step.
Jeff Reed: 35:12 So you've mentioned a couple of times, cause I know discipleship and what I've seen from the outside. And by the way, what I've seen, I love, you mentioned Equip a couple times and what Equipped, why don't you define what Equip is in context of Austin Ridge? Let's park on that for a little bit.
Jeff Moore: 35:32 Yeah. So Joey Writer, who's our Life Groups & Equipping Pastor, he kind of threw this idea out, it's probably a couple of years ago now. And what it started off as was, kind of event based targeted to the things that we just don't cover in a Sunday morning. Typically, you know, the felt need oriented things. You know, we're not going to do six weeks on marriage, money and finances, like a lot of churches. Well those are good, it's just not us but we need an environment to do that. We realized that certain ministries like our care ministry, was doing these great marriage classes or marriage events or parenting events, things like that and they'd have 60 people show up. That's great. Unless you're a church of 4,000 people and 60 people is a drop in the bucket of what would have come had they known about it.
Jeff Moore: 36:18 And so, Joey kind of created this engine to come alongside events like that. And it's like the first marriage event they did, they had like 300 people show up versus 60. So it's like, oh wow, this works. So we did marriage, we did parenting, we did Apologetics thing, we brought in Robbie's group. One of these guys from Houston came in did a couple of them. And each one of these, you know, we're having hundreds of people show up versus, you know, dozens. And so since that was working, now we're offering some classes. They again do the same thing. It offers environments for things that we don't either cover in messages or just don't have another environment to do it. So I mentioned earlier, we have the kind of the knowing Jesus, so just basic intro to Christianity, 101 kind of stuff.
Jeff Moore: 37:06 I'm leading a class on how to study the Bible and again, very intro oriented. We're going to have another one on how to share your faith. Those are gonna be Sunday mornings. We cap them at two weeks. So that's where those are. So now we have like the one or two, you know, big event, you know, Sunday night type things. We have the two weeks, Sunday morning classes we're gonna offer, starting in the fall, this Tuesday night, a longer format, like 4-6 week classes where, you know, somebody comes off like a Sunday morning parenting class, but they really need more. We're going to offer a six week that's more in depth. That's more kind of triage oriented for the families that really need that, you know, marriage, finances, faith and science, those kind of things. So starting this fall, we'll have kind of three pronged approach of events that are going to be a little more infrequent now because we have some class environments to do some of that.
Jeff Moore: 37:57 Events, the two week class, and the 4-6 week class. And again, they're not targeted to everybody. They're targeted at a subset by their very nature. But what we're finding is that subset is for a lot of those things is a lot larger than honestly we wish it was. We wish that many people's marriages did need that kind of help, but they just do and that sort of thing. So offering that, we hope that those become really feeder systems because people get either excited, they get, you know, some tools or they get some help and some healing and they want to step into, okay, well where can I give back? Well, you know, what, D-groups or life group leadership or men's or women's or those kinds of things. So we hope that all these things can kind of feed each other and ask me two or three years if they are or not and I'll tell you.
Rey DeArmas: 38:41 That's cool. I like that. Just cause you know, Jeff, every time I reflect back on the way that many of us were brought up, I feel like there's an aspect that the church is missing in the absence of Sunday school. And I feel like what you're doing there brings a lot of that back. Because you know, folks sometimes just need some time to sit in a classroom setting to kind of digest some of the things that we're talking about in a small group isn't always the best environment for that. Sometimes they just need that teacher kind of aspect to receive the kind of information that you're talking about. You know, some in many churches. Just think of that in terms of like we just got done talking in a past episode with somebody from Dave Ramsey with Ken Schaffer from Dave Ramsey organization, you know, and that's one aspect of that. But in marriage, in raising kids and so many different areas, I think folks need that kind of environment to just absorb information.
Jeff Moore: 39:24 Even that's going to run out at some point. Some people are going to need even more than that. But you think about if a four to six week intensive can't sufficiently meet the needs. A small group leader, lay leader with an hour and a half each week with, you know, a meal included, doesn't have time to dive into that, nor do they have the skill set. So it allows them to play to their strengths, which is relational. You know, it allows a D-Group to play to it's strengths, which is you know, Biblical, theological and relational. Men's, women's groups, those sorts of things. So as opposed to one or two environments having to be everything to everybody, hopefully we can just create more opportunities. Again, the challenge is not to let each of these things try to do everything cause that's the natural pool of everything. Well it's like, man, you know what if this marriage group just became a small group.
Jeff Moore: 40:07 It'd be all fixed. No, we already have those over here. They need to jump out of this, you know, felt need based saying into this more general community where their, you know, just going to be with people and not with a situation, you know, that sort of thing. So we're going to bump our heads into some stuff, but it's neat that we're in a season right now where we've got the freedom to kind of experiment with some of those things and see what works and then keep those things and kind of push off the stuff that doesn't work and then make those things that are working better.
Jeff Reed: 40:35 Yeah. I love how there's strategy that's intentionally in place for this. Working on your strengths. A small group, a Biblical community cannot be the catchall for this because you don't have the opportunity to dive in into a smaller, more deeper relationship. The Group leader may or may not be capable of that. Even getting into the nuances of a divorce recovery of a single parenting, of, you know, the issues that'll come up with there and having the separate classes to hone in on that. Looking at what Austin Ridge has developed and the intentionality towards this growth department, this area that now they're saying, here's this option of groups. Here's this option. If you're looking for something deeper, here's this issue. If you just need help, equipping or working through felt needs, like it's really starting to see, okay, there's a path here that people can work through.
Jeff Reed: 41:36 While on that path, you're not hindering the growth of that as well. The last thing, and it's one of the things that I love that we heard from Jared Kirkwood is you don't want your small group to be therapy session ,where you're continually stuck in a circle. We've all had these groups where they just continually move all around and they're stuck because of a certain person that's going through a certain issue. And those issues are important to get solved. But as a result of it, you don't always have the opportunity to take the entire group forward because of the issues that are stuck with the individual person. So setting up a model like this, they can dive into the felt need is so good. And so like that's such an awesome option. Now I want to totally ask you about the church online implications of that and how you're utilizing this, but I know you guys aren't there yet with Austin Ridge. I love you anyway. But what I do love that you're doing online with this is the idea of this podcast, that you've set up where you're, you know what, instead of me like talking about it, Jeff, just tell us a little bit about how you're using the round tables, the podcast, like what that looks like for your church.
Jeff Moore: 42:50 The round table. Well, okay, so Equip, they had a podcast already and it was creating follow up resources for the events. So they already had the podcast channel established. The round table thing was a second idea that, Nathan Jennings, actually one of the guys in our communications department, video guy kind of Jack of all trades came up with this. Like we need something where we can talk about the stuff that we don't talk about anywhere else. Like where there's behind the scenes stuff or addressing a particular issue or you know, theology 101 kind of stuff. He's like, would you guys be interested in doing that? And of course Joey Ryder and I were both like, well yeah, absolutely. So they got us working together on that and what we've done is create, I think we did 20 episodes kind of season one which is what too many episodes obviously, but kinda got on a roll.
Jeff Moore: 43:36 So we just kept going with it. But what we did, we did some theology, we did some, you know, kind of behind the scenes of how ministries function, why they do what they do, kind of what they're going for, talk to, you know, some different leaders from different campuses. Try to involve some lay leaders. It just kind of experiment with experimented with some different things and we're getting, you know, mixed, a mixture of view on like format so to speak. So for instance, we've learned that, we get far fewer views on online videos, social media, then we get podcast listens. Like we get, you know, 60 views we'll get 300 listens. Okay. We're going to put our energies more into making sure we talk about, or we talk about these things in such a way that just the audio make sense without having to watch the video.
Jeff Moore: 44:21 It's a little things like that that we're going to do for this next season. But yeah, I mean, it's been neat because it's given a great outlet for a lot of ministry leaders to talk about, you know, whether it's a particular issue that's important to them or a particular thing in their ministry that, you know, unless you're on staff, you're never gonna know some of this stuff. And so it's been kind of good to do some of that stuff. One byproduct of that is it created a kind of a collaborative energy between not only me and Joey, but then other staff as well. So like the first one we did was me and our missions guy, Don Ellsworth, talking about, you know, missions and disciple-making and, you know, are they two sides of the same coin, are they different coins, these things like that to have that conversation, you've got to have a conversation. And that's what most church staffs don't have the luxury or the opportunity to sit down and do for a long enough time to really start peeling back some layers. And so that's given us opportunity to do some of that, which is really leading to some neat conversations kinda in the hallway or around some other things. So it's been neat.
Jeff Reed: 45:26 That's cool. By the way, we're going to link to that podcast with what? With you and Don. I love Don. I love, I like you. I don't necessarily love you, but no, I love you. But the wrestling with that was cool. But the thing that I really like about this and audience is what I wanted to kind of focus on here is that the podcast gives your ministry leaders a voice in a realm that isn't necessarily utilized, let's say well. Now all sorts of people will listen to a sermon podcast, but transparently there's dozens of different places to listen to the same sermon, podcasts, everything from multiple services any given weekend at multiple campuses, there's probably a church online broadcast, there's probably a Facebook broadcast. There's probably something that's eventually uploaded on Youtube. And so like a lot of energy in the average church in America go into a, technologically savvy average church in America, goes towards launching that podcasts for the sermon.
Jeff Reed: 46:25 But what we're seeing here is you're utilizing the podcast as an opportunity to highlight ministry opportunities and other things are happening to the church to pull people in and creating it as a shareable content linking to it on Facebook and all of a sudden now, the people who are listening have ways to have shareable content that'll pull people into the ministry of your church, not just through Sunday services with that. And so you're trying to get somebody involved in a group, there is a podcast on parenting, which I know is one that I've heard recently. And so you've got somebody who's struggling with that and maybe it's a single mom that you want to share. You share that resource in an audio format that's a front door that gives a person sharing an opportunity to pull them into the church.
Jeff Reed: 47:14 That gives the church an opportunity to receive somebody into the ministry. And so, like, I love the idea of talking about the ministries and utilizing podcasts, you know, put the podcast on a blog post. All of a sudden now you've got an easily web-based, shareable format that's got podcast audio on it that can pull people from the outside into specific areas of your church's ministry. So like when I saw that Jeff, I've got to tell you and I got to, I think I did, I texted him immediately like this is incredible well done, but, definitely want to see more from that. Well, man, this has been a great podcast. Like I just, I'm excited about seeing what God's doing at Austin Ridge and even this shift of discipleship that even within the past, you know, so many years. I'm not saying it happened because I left, but conveniently I think I left and then there was this shift that happened but as a result we're seeing more of this and more intentionality with that. So man, this has been great. Rey, as we're landing the plane, any questions? Your thoughts here?
Rey DeArmas: 48:20 Yeah, I guess I just love that you guys are treating discipleship more like art than science. You know, it seems like you guys are really just taking a look at this and saying, you know, people have different pathways to get to discipleship and we're going to help them find their best path, but we're not going to tell them which path to take. We're going to help guide them along the way.
Jeff Reed: 48:38 In the grand scheme of creating a single path or creating multiple paths that will get people to the same destination I think the one thing that Austin Ridge does well is they figured out how to create multiple paths that funnel people, eventually to the same destination. And so that's been really exciting to see that development in recent years. Jeff, man, any closing thoughts as we're wrapping up?
Jeff Moore: 49:04 No, man. I'm excited about what you guys are doing. I'm curious to see where the church online platform, platforming all those things, kind of where it goes. You know, I'd love to have another conversation online or offline, you know, just about all that stuff because I'm sure that, you know, as we, you know, as we get into year two, year three, month three, who knows, with just this whole D-group idea, our disciple making efforts, there's going to be an itch for how else? And fill in the blank. So I'll just be curious to see where that goes. So I'm excited to be a part of this with you guys. So it's fun to still be in ministry together even though you're in Florida, I'm still in Austin,
Jeff Reed: 49:51 Man, I love it. And I've got to figure out a time when I'm flying back out to Austin to stop by. There was a business thing, I thought I was going to be out there all the time and you know, it just didn't work out, but, no, we're definitely, excited about what's happening at the Ridge. It's interesting and I'm going to put this bug in your ear for online. And, I'm going to say this, a lot of churches will look at Church Online as, "oh, this is somebody who's abandoning community." And so, I'm an isolationist. I don't want to be around people and church online is my opportunity to escape the world around me and just isolate myself and do church on a couch in my underwear.
Jeff Reed: 50:36 And while that may be an option, and once again, you can't force people down any one given direction. I challenge churches to look at it not as the abandonment of community, but potentially discipling someone to the place that they birth a new community and so it's kind of looking through it, maybe it's looking through rose colored stained glass glasses. I don't know if that's the rose colored stained glass glasses. That's the right thing. Yeah, it's a song somewhere about that. Or maybe it's just the reality of hey, this is what could be, this is the pipe dream down the road. But that's more of the challenge I think before us and we've blogged about it and talk about it but the challenge before the church is to do discipleship online because I mean you and I, Jeff, we're in two different time zones.
Jeff Reed: 51:26 Rey and I live in the same city, but I'll be honest, I see Rey once a month in the physical space. And so, you know, even in that context, it's learning how to utilize this not as a replacement of community, but as an opportunity to empower and to create new communities where our people are. That's the dream anyway, so, I would love to offline a conversation about that and, I'm sure we could probably make another podcast out of that too.
Jeff Moore: 51:58 I wrote down disciple making without pants is all I wrote down from everything you just said.
Rey DeArmas: 52:02 Nice.
Jeff Reed: 52:02 Somebody buy that Dotcom right now. Disciple making without pant.
Jeff Moore: 52:10 If you are sitting in your underwear, doing discipleship, I'm like, hey, that'll sell.
Jeff Reed: 52:16 I might buy that and redirect to Austin Ridge just for the joke. I think I will do that. Let's go ahead and do it in the show notes too that's how confident I am.
Rey DeArmas: 52:28 This has #metoo written all over it, bro. This is dangerous stuff we're trudging into.
Jeff Reed: 52:33 That's awesome. Man, that's why I miss Jeff Moore. Alright, so, hey for, Rey, for Jeff, hey, this has been Jeff Reed with The Church Digital. It's been a great podcast. Looking forward to what, hey, we've got elevation coming up next. I'll go and plug that. Next podcast, we've got, Elevation. We've got Danielle Hicks, who's the Pastor of Watch Parties. I thought that was, that was her title, right? It was watch parties. The only Pastor in America who's got parties in her job title. I've got to you, I'm a little envious of that, but we're gonna be talking about how Elevation uses Church Online to create, to cluster these people together to create discipleship, physical discipleship groups scattered across the country. So it's a great conversation, especially tied to Church Anywhere. So, Jeff, thank you. Rey, thank you. Audience, thank you very much. We'll catch you next time here at The Church Digital Podcast. You all have a good day.