In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus gives his followers the Great Commission: “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” If you are a follower of Christ, you are one of his disciples by definition. To be a disciple who makes disciples is the general call that all believers receive. So what does it look like to live out this calling in the context of your local church and community? What are the means through which we make disciples? Oasis Church in Meadville, PA has structured their whole approach to ministry around this call to discipleship, and they give us a glimpse into what this can practically look like through several of the ministries they have developed.
Philosophy of Ministry
Discipleship is at the heart of Oasis’ vision for their church. “Everything we do is simple and plain,” shared lead pastor Nate Alsdorf. “We don’t do programs because we want to create and leave space for people to disciple one another, including parents who disciple their kids. We want to do everything to equip parents to be the disciple-makers in their kids’ lives.” Nate compared this model to how Jesus and his disciples functioned, and he described how it is similar to a dartboard with increasingly smaller circles as it goes toward the middle.
The goal is to eventually be in the center where the smallest circle is. Because Oasis believes in corporate worship, Sunday mornings are when they have the largest gatherings at their church, the widest ring. Next, they have Oasis groups of 8-12 people who meet throughout the week. These groups are made up of families, couples, and singles. The purpose is to move people into smaller settings where they can have a rich sense of belonging and accountability. Oasis groups also provide space for digging deeper into the teaching from the week. Finally, the one-on-one relationships are the bullseye where people can personally know and be invested in what’s going on in each other’s hearts. Even evangelism and expansion have to begin with this intimate relationality. “Church multiplication has to start at a micro level. It starts with discipleship,” Nate emphasized. “We’ve seen people be freed from so many things when they step into this call to discipleship and are obedient to it. They gain a sense of purpose by seeing their significance in Christ come alive as they live out who they were created to be. It changes families, and that’s pretty cool to see.”
Radiant Church and 205˚ Fahrenheit
Radiant Church, a house church movement with its home base in a trailer coffee shop, is a new plant consisting of about thirty Oasis members and pastor Joel Trousdale. They began meeting last September, and they seek to model the description of the church in the book of Acts by loving their community and living on mission together.
While being similar to a traditional church service, there are a few elements that distinguish their form of worship. Radiant Church meets every Sunday morning to eat together, fellowship, worship, pray, and be taught. After the teaching, they break down into even smaller groups to process and digest what they learned. Instead of running various programs throughout the week, they function a lot like a family that simply lives life together by doing things with each other like supporting their kids’ activities, sharing meals, and caring for one another in the day-to-day moments. If the bullseye of discipleship is having purposeful one-on-one relationships that allow for genuine love, accountability, and growth, then a house church presents a wonderful context for being one step closer to this goal and going deeper faster. They hope to expand this format to other homes in the Meadville area so that these opportunities for tight-knit community continue to spread.
Their coffee shop, 205˚ Fahrenheit, is also an integral part of being involved in the community. Joel currently runs this coffee shop out of a trailer, but they are in the process of buying a house and transitioning to that location. Several people from both the church and the community volunteer here. Consistent with their focus on discipleship, this ministry is rooted in genuine relationships. “Loneliness is a pandemic. It’s rampant in today’s world. People are more connected, but they are lonelier than ever,” Nate commented. “The coffee shop is a place where people can come and be known.” Many love going there not just because of the coffee but also because it is a place where people remember them. “You’ll be talking with the regulars and you can just see tears well up in their eyes when you ask about their job or their family because it shows that someone really cares about them. The trailer serves as the front door to relationships that can ultimately point people to Christ.” While existing as a place of connection within the community, 205˚ Fahrenheit also provides unique opportunities in conversations to extend invitations to the house church where people can continue experiencing life-giving fellowship.
Mission Machining LLC
Another member at Oasis, Brian Piatt, is carrying out this same vision through a different outlet. Two years ago, he started a company called Mission Machining LLC. As someone who has a passion for machining and experience working for aerospace companies, Brian stepped out on his own to begin implementing change in this industry. While adhering to high professional and ethical standards, his company seeks to empower customers and the surrounding community to achieve excellence, while efficiently delivering innovative products. In line with Oasis’ mission, Brian also has a big heart for people and for discipleship. Through conversations with co-workers and through his own observations, he became aware of specific needs in his community and envisioned a way he could use his God-given gifts and passions to meet these needs.
When explaining how this ministry began, Brian described how he was driving one day and saw people who were aimlessly walking on the streets in the middle of the day. “They just looked so lost and like they had no purpose,” he said. “I really have a soft spot for the down-and-out.” Later, he was talking to some colleagues, and they expressed concerns about not being able to find skilled workers anymore. “There’s a huge skills gap,” Brian explained. “But you can’t have skills if you don’t have training. So really there isn’t a skills gap – there’s a training gap. Every time I see an ad for a position somewhere, it requires workers to have a minimum of five years of experience. And since people don’t do apprenticeships anymore, companies rely on them going to trade school, coming out with a lot of debt, and then getting a job.” This is not a feasible option for many people in his community, so he thought more about it and spent a lot of time praying about how to help resolve the issue. “As I prayed, it was on my heart that I could do something and be God’s vessel to help break the cycle.”
The Mission Machining academy developed as a result of this process, and the first group of students going through this program started at the beginning of February this year. As a non-profit ministry, this program offers twelve weeks of quality training to people who do not have the time or resources to pursue further education in a traditional way. There are people who feel stuck, barely making enough to make ends meet, and they do not have the ability to move on to doing something that is more fulfilling than their current job. Mission Machining offers the opportunity to take evening classes for free so that they can become a marketable worker in the machining industry. “We have the time and talent to be able to come alongside people and help them learn so that they can move on to something else. When they graduate from the program, they’ll be marketable to work at other local manufacturing companies and break the cycle of feeling stuck,” Brian explained.
By meeting this physical need in the community, doors are being opened for being able to meet spiritual needs as well. At Oasis, there are twelve foundational principles in their discipleship program. The academy aims to marry one principle with one of the twelve training sessions each week so that each principle works hand in hand with the curriculum training. With the goal of preventing alienation, they hope to incorporate these principles through general conversation during hands-on training and to plant seeds by talking about Christ through meaningful relationships.
What does the call to discipleship look like for you?
With their faithfulness to living out the Great Commission, congregants at Oasis are seeing big changes starting from the inside out. Their approach is simple and direct, and it exemplifies Jesus’ heart for his people. In what ways can you too fulfill Jesus’ command within the context of your local church and the specific needs in your community?
Mikayla is a writing intern for the PRM and a senior majoring in Psychology and Biblical and Religious Studies. She is from the Chicago area.