Archives For discipleship

Here are a few of my favorites from around the web this week.

Trevin Wax, 4 Things to Remember While in Seminary

Not too long ago, I enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate with a friend from seminary. He graduated not long after I did, and he was telling me about how involved he was in his local church. As we were reminiscing about our seminary days, he said something that stunned me:

“I regret seminary.”

Come again? I asked him to explain.

Jonathan Dodson, This is Who a Disciple is

A disciple of Jesus is someone who learns the gospel, relates in the gospel, and communicates the gospel. This definition of disciple shows us that the gospel both makes and matures disciples. We see this in Jesus’s ministry. Jesus proclaimed the same gospel to the crowds that he taught to the disciples. He did not have the twelve on a special, gospel-plus track to study advanced subject matter.

DiscipleUs, Disciples Fail

When I look back at the life of the twelve, I can say with certainty that they failed in may ways. One of them sold him, others abandoned him, and Peter denied him. Those weren’t their only failures, but it was their biggest.

The beauty of their failures was that Jesus wasn’t looking for perfection from them. They were not capable of pleasing Jesus in all things, let alone in most things, but what Jesus was willing to do was work with fragile vessels so that He Himself is glorified through their failures.


Jared Wilson, The Subtle Art of Sabotaging a Pastor

Dearest Grubnat, my poppet, my pigsnie,

The reports of your progress warm my blackened heart. When you were assigned to one of the Enemy’s ministers ten years ago, his infernal Majesty and I knew you’d have a rough go of it. The zeal of one new to the pastorate can be a daunting challenge to even the most cunning of our comrades, but we also believed that time breeds all wounds and that your task would become easier the longer your patient remained. You now prosper from that sweet spot of pastoral fatigue and assimilation. The shine of newness is gone. And up pop the cracks in the ministerial armor.

Finally! An espresso machine for my car!

This is a guest post by Nikki Eidson.  Nikki is a young adult living and working in Charleston, SC.  She’s seeking community.  You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and both of her blogs: Crazy Asian of Charleston or Faith Overflow.

image via Ardent Cries

When I began processing my experiences with my small groups, I had the idea of writing about the importance of community for young adults (since this is the age category I fall under). But I realized this:

No matter how young we are or how old we are, we need community. Period.

Sometimes we don’t “want” it. But it’s necessary. Here are 3 reasons why I believe community is important.

The necessity of community

1. Encouragement and Prayer

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.”(Hebrews 10:24-25a)

I remember my first “small group” encounter occurred in the midst of a horrible low point in my life.

I remember being scared.

I was vulnerable.

I didn’t want to be judged.

I, honestly, wanted to get through all my junk on my own.

…but had I not embraced the community, I would have missed out on experiencing friendship and encouragement

I would have missed out on understanding the meaning of unconditional love (…well, as close to “unconditional” as we can get).

I would have, ultimately, missed out on becoming the woman that God wanted me to become.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

As I grew in my faith, being part of a small group gave me an open forum to discuss my struggles with other believers – my FRIENDS – who I knew would be constantly praying for me. And although sometimes it’s awkward, asking for prayer is powerful and knowing that others are praying for you is immensely rewarding.

2. Fellowship

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)

Life is rough, sometimes.

And we need a safe, fun-loving environment to just have fun and let go.

Some of my favorite small group memories involve game nights, going out to eat together. Just BEING together. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we need each other in times of adversity.

Life is better lived with friends.

3. Discipleship

Another reason community is necessary for young adults is to further our discipleship with Christ – to constantly be growing.

This has especially been the core of my experience with small groups in my “new home” of Charleston. We gather together to encourage, fellowship, but most importantly to GROW as devoted followers of Christ. And to not only grow in our own personal relationships, but also to encourage each other’s growth.

We are constantly studying God’s word to push us to not only become more passionate FOLLOWERS of Christ, but to become LEADERS ready and willing to step up in building up other followers.

I know I was recently asked to pray about stepping up and leading small group one night. I was definitely challeneged (and still am since I haven’t officially stepped up to say “Yes”). But I realized that it’s easy to “sit back and enjoy the ride” when you simply go and don’t have to worry about leading.

But sometimes, we need encouragement from one another to step up and to be willing to lead. Being in a small group that challenges you to never settle in your relationship with Christ is important.

As a former “I like worshiping in a big service, but small groups ‘aren’t for me'” person, I can honestly say that stepping out of my comfort zone and being willing to live life with other people has made a huge difference in my faith and relationship with Christ.

Going to a large gathering on Sunday (or Saturday – whenever you attend “BIG” church) is important in worshiping with the body of Christ, but never discount the importance of gathering together in a smaller community. We were made to be relational and to have more personal relationships with other believers. You never know what God will reveal to you in those smaller gatherings that you would never be able to hear in the larger gatherings.

Are you involved in a small group?

What has challenged you most in that community?


…reveals what’s important to your heart.

Here are things I’m wrestling through:

  • Is our small groups system really creating disciples?
  • Is our small groups system a great picture of Gospel community?
  • What does it look like for our whole church to be moving in the same direction?
  • What’s next?
  • Am I leading in such a way that others are growing to love God and people more?
  • Is my ministry online truly helpful?  What needs to change so that it does more good?
  • Am I leading my family well?  How can I do a better job?
  • Is my son growing towards being a man of God?

These are the things keeping me up at night.

If you’re leading an organization…what is it that is causing you to sweat, go to work early, pray more, fast more, sleep less, and work harder?

If you don’t know what that is, maybe you should stay up at night and figure it out…

One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles… – Luke 6:12-13




Ben Reed —  March 15, 2011 — 4 Comments
This is a guest post by Greg Bowman (on Twitter & Facebook) lives in Elgin, Illinois, where he is on staff with West Ridge Community Church as the Pastor of Spiritual Formation. He is co-author of Coaching Life-Changing Small Group Leaders and co-founder of the Communitas Network.  This is a series of posts where small group experts share how group life has impacted them personally.  The entire series can be found HERE.


For more than 30 years I’ve been a fan, student, proponent, leader and practitioner of group life. Dozens of significant mile markers stand out in my journey, but none more than the first time I felt genuine love and the invitation to be vulnerable and open in community.

I was the group’s pastor, and our group life ministry was in its infancy. We were in the honeymoon phase where everything was wonderful. We couldn’t even spell the word conflict in our groups.

In the church a series of events had led to the dismissal of a much loved staff member. The rumor mill was working overtime and people were hurting. An emergency leadership meeting forced a hard call–I needed to miss our life group on Monday night in order to attend.

Unfortunately, yet predictably, the church-wide pain spilled into the group that night. The lesson topic for the night was set aside and the group spent the evening questioning the wisdom of the church’s. At least that was my take on what happened when my wife filled me in later.

I spent the following week preparing to rescue the group from the conflict at the next meeting. I had it a great discussion scripted out. But it didn’t quite go as I planned.

After the usual coffee and snacks we gathered in the living room. I opened brilliantly. “So I am aware of the discussion last week, and I’m glad for the openness and honesty we feel as a group. I’m just wondering how is everyone doing this week?” There. It’s out in the open.

What happened next is what blew me away. From across the room one of the group members looked me in the eye and said, “We’ve all been in conversation with each other this week, Greg. We’re all fine. We support the leadership and we understand the decision. But knowing what you have been through, our question is, how are you?”

I was completely caught off guard. It was a level of maturity and care beyond what I was expecting from the group. Instantly I broke. To be honest, in the three months of conflict I had been through no one had cared enough to ask me that question. And so we processed my pain as a group. And then they put me in the center, laid hands on me and prayed.

That moment marked me. I realized that I could no longer simply teach community, or lead community in the local church. From a leadership perspective that’s inauthentic. From a personal perspective it’s not how I want to do the rest of my life. I want and need to do my life connected deeply to people who are authentic with their struggles and successes and who are open to share life in the context of community.

What experiences have marked you deeply in community? Helped form your core values?


Michael McKinley wrote this on the 9Marks Blog:

So in our church, non-members are welcome to attend and participate in the public services of the church.  We are happy to have them in our Sunday morning gathering, our Sunday evening gathering, and our fellowship meals.

But we don’t let people attend small groups…until they are members.


This statement shocks me, and runs countercultural to what we, as a church are trying to accomplish.  We never want to exclude new folks from being a part of our small groups, because we believe that the best way to get connected, grow in your faith, and become a disciple of Christ is in the context of small groups.

If we were to exclude visitors from linking up with small groups, we would, in effect, be saying that we value church membership over discipleship.

I’m not ready to make a statement like that.

Discipleship doesn’t start when you become a church member.

But maybe I’m wrong.

What do you think?

Should visitors be excluded from small groups, until they become members?


Removing the competition

Ben Reed —  March 4, 2011 — 4 Comments

(graphic by Aaron Justin)

The bigger a church gets, the more the tendency creeps in for the church to offer more and more programs.

More nights of the week.

With more variety.

Seemingly meeting more needs.

But the more you offer, the more you show how little you believe in each one of them.  Allow me to explain.

If I believe that Justin Bieber-style music is the way that people truly experience God through song on Sunday mornings in our context (I don’t…but just hang with me), then I’m not going to let any other genre of music happen on stage.  I’m going to work my tail off to get more and more Bieber music in front of the congregation.  I’m going to have CDs ready for people as they leave.  I’m going to find musicians who are gifted pop artists.  I’m going to recruit volunteers who have an ear for the way creative pop music can/should sound.  And if I’m asked, “Can we start incorporating country music into our worship experience, because we used to do that at my last church, and I liked it…” I can easily say, “No.”  Not because there’s anything wrong with country music, but because in our context, Bieber is the most effective.

If we open up the door for country music as well, what we’re saying is that your spiritual growth isn’t that important.  We’re diluting the water with things less important.  Things less effective.  And what we’re communicating is that we don’t strive first and foremost to help you best understand the Gospel…we strive first and foremost to make you happy, and keep you from leaving.  Because if we believed that the Gospel was first and foremost, we would do that thing that most effectively helps you understand and apply it.

Adding more and more programs sounds great.  It sounds like you’re doing the right thing.

But instead of adding more, try honing in.  Figure out the most effective thing you’re doing to help create disciples on Sunday morning…and do that with excellence.  Figure out the most effective thing you’re doing to create disciples in small groups (whether that’s Sunday school, home groups, cell groups, or shallow small groups like THIS), and do that well.

The more programs you offer, the thinner you spread your volunteer base.

The more programs you offer, the weaker each becomes in the mind of your congregation.

The more programs you offer, the more your people are encouraged to do “church” stuff, instead of investing in their family and in their community.

So next time someone says, “Can we start doing __________ program,” you may just want to say no.

Have you ever said, “No” to a program idea?

Have you ever said, “Yes,” but wish you’d said, “No”?


Here is the 5th, and final, installment of my interview with Randall Neighbour (on Twitter HERE), as a follow-up to his book, The Naked Truth of Small Group Ministry: When it Won’t Work and What to Do About It.  You can see part 1 HERE, part 2 HERE, part 3 HERE, and part 4 HERE.

My final question for Randall: What is the best way to launch a small groups system?


Here’s part 4 of my interview with Randall (on Twitter HERE), as a follow-up to his book, The Naked Truth of Small Group Ministry: When it Won’t Work and What to Do About It.  You can see part 1 HERE and part 2 HERE and part 3 HERE.

My question for Randall: How do discipleship and mentoring play into small groups?


It’s all relative

Ben Reed —  February 8, 2010 — Leave a comment

I have lots of conversations with people from areas other than Tennessee (aka, God’s Country).

If they’re from further south, they think Tennessee weather is cold.

If they’re from the north, they laugh when we Tennesseans say, “It’s cold outside!”

A 50 degree day in the middle of July in Tennessee is freezing…in January, that same temperature would make for a beautiful day.

Cold…hot…it’s all relative, to a degree (pun intended).

One of the most important aspects of small group life at Grace Community Church is discipleship.  I often say to group leaders that making disciples is the #1 priority of their group.  Everything else falls under this.  If your group ends up bringing 50 new people in, meet 5 times/week, and blaze through 100 curriculums/month, but don’t help those in the group become more faithful disciples of Jesus, the group is a failure.

But I quickly follow that up with the fact that discipleship is relative.

Before you write me off as a post-modern, left-wing, “what’s right for you isn’t necessarily right for me,” spiritual person, hear me out…

A step of faith for me looks different for a step of faith for you.  It looks different for the guy who’s just checking out Christianity.  It looks different for the guy who’s grown up in Church but is far from God.  It looks even different for the student who’s been saved for 6 months and is working through different issues at school.  It looks even different for the wife whose husband is deploying (to see what we’re doing to help these women out, check this out HERE).

I’m not sure we can boil “discipleship” down to 4 easy steps.  It’s never easy…and it’s not going to be the same 4 steps for everybody.

Taking a step of faith, similar to your perception of “hot” and “cold,” is a matter of where you find yourself in life.

Has your small group helped you take steps of faith?