Getting Missional in Muskegon
A missionally focused discipleship approach called 3DM is helping Fellowship Reformed Church in Muskegon, Michigan, recapture a vision for outreach.
The church started as a missionary Sunday school in the early 1900s, and that’s just the kind of outward focus it needs today.
“Before I arrived at Fellowship Church, there was a concern that our adult discipleship process wasn’t as effective as it could be, and that new people in particular were falling through the cracks of the discipleship process,” says lead pastor Mike Van Kampen. He began serving Fellowship in November 2013.
Van Kampen says there’s great potential for outreach in Muskegon. A recent demographic study showed that more than 80 percent of people in the community do not have a church home.“Church leaders felt that we needed a process that would not only help people become fully devoted followers of Jesus but would also lead them into missional living.”
With those unreached neighbors in mind, leaders at Fellowship chose to embrace the 3DM discipleship process; it was one of the few discipleship models that emphasized missional living. They began the 3DM process at their church early in 2013, when the church was without a called pastor. Van Kampen says he is particularly excited that the process was initiated by members because to-date the ministry has operated with minimal leadership from him. “It continues to be led by awesome volunteers!” he says.
“Our goal is that 3DM would be a culture-changer in our church family—that people will begin viewing their life with Jesus as something that takes place outside the walls of the church building and impacts their homes, schools, places of work, and social circles.
“3DM is based on a gathering called the huddle, which is a small group focused on practical biblical teaching leading to Christ-like living. The teaching is oriented toward missional living, so that the focus is less ‘Here’s what this can do for you’ and more ‘Here’s how you can impact your world.’’’
Fellowship’s first huddle is a group of five men. “I love both the focus on missional living and the multi-generational aspect of the huddles,” says Van Kampen. “All of these men are growing both in their relationship with Christ and with one another. They appreciate the interaction found in the huddles and the accountability that comes from those relationships.
“This fall, several of these men are beginning huddles of their own, and our goal is that this first huddle will create a ripple effect that eventually involves many people in our church family.
“Any RCA congregation could benefit from 3DM, but they have to realize it’s not just another Sunday school class or small group study guide. 3DM is more intentional and strategic, which is something that I love about 3DM. The intent from the beginning is to create mature followers of Jesus who then engage in missional living, and that’s sorely needed in our RCA churches.”
Van Kampen believes the missional living aspect of discipleship has been lacking in many church’s Christian growth strategies over the years.
“We’ve done an adequate job of offering classes and groups of various kinds for our adults, and these opportunities have been helpful in growing our biblical knowledge, understanding of Christian marriage and parenting, Christian finances, and much more. However, many study programs seem to emphasize Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels but miss the book of Acts, when Jesus’ followers were sent as apostles into the world as people on a mission.
“3DM completes the journey of development into kingdom-focused believers.”