Assimilation is defined on dictionary.com as “the process of adapting or adjusting to the culture of a group or nation, or the state of being so adapted.” That is too complicated. I prefer to think of it as identifying and connecting with Christ and the church. This issue is critical to the church–and even more so as the church moves toward post-COVID-19.
There are three audiences for this post: church leadership, disciplers, and the individual Christian. All three need to develop assimilation habits. While habits can be good or bad, here I want to focus on good habits to prevent forming bad habits.
Thom Rainer, when he was president of LifeWay Christian Resources, identified four essential areas of assimilation (check out Rainer’s Four Legs of Assimilation). Let’s think about simple good habits in his four areas. How would the church or a discipler help a new Christian (or a maturing Christian) to develop these good habits?
- Expectation. Provide conversation about about disciple and church member expectations: Bible study, prayer, spiritual disciplines, worship participation, giving, small group involvement, serving, etc. This could be a new member class but does not have to be that formal. Conversation about Jesus, the church, and a Christian worldview is a good habit to form early in a disciple’s life.
- Involvement. How can the individual best contribute to building up the body of Christ? How can he/she use spiritual gifts, passion, abilities, personality, and experiences for the church and Kingdom? Is it possible that conversation and serving together in possible areas could develop good habits here?
- Relationships. For many, involvement in Sunday School or a small group helps the disciple to develop relationships. In my experience, that number should be a minimum of 5-6 friends he/she can call on in time of need. What if a discipler asks about friends and introduces him/her to people (asking those people to invest in him/her)?
- Small groups. The best small groups are relational Bible studies. They raise expectations for living out God’s Word obediently and challenge one another to serve Christ, each other, the church, and the world. Conversation and invitation to the discipler’s group (or another one) would be a simple, natural way to step toward a good habit here.
Do you see how these simple assimilation habits can help new and maturing believers identify and connect with Christ and the church? In the absence of a formal discipling strategy, one simple option could be for the small group leader or Sunday School teacher to ensure the members in his/her care move toward good assimilation habits. This can be done conversationally, one at a time over the course of the year. It can be done by first addressing those who seem to be struggling the most. Ideally, the group leader would enlist people in the group to help with this important work.
As we continue to move toward post-COVID-19, many will be disconnected. Many will need to develop new good habits. I want to challenge you to put together a plan and steps now. Be a disciple. Connect disciples. Make disciples!