Tag: discipleship (page 2 of 2)

How do discipleship and mentoring play into small groups?

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

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?


You should not be in a small group if…

Here are a few reasons that you should never, under any circumstances, be in a small group:

You should not be in a small group if

…you cannot tolerate messiness. Doing life together with others is often messy, because you are doing life together with sinners (don’t forget that you’re a sinner, too!)!  Don’t always look for a neat bow to be tied at the end of each week of meeting together.  It’s just not going to happen.  Your story, and those in your group, is ongoing.

…you cannot tolerate a bit of chaos. Coordinating schedules, activities, emails, curriculum choices, food choices, etc. can be a big headache.  If you can’t put up with a little bit of chaos, please check out now.

…you show up expecting to receive, but not give. In a small group, you’ll be expected to participate in the discussion.  To reach out and build relationships.  You’ll be expected to, on occasion, host the group in your home…or pray for others…or lead an icebreaker…or lead the group discussion.  If you’re there just to soak it all in, small groups aren’t for you.

…you think that discipleship is limited to information transfer. It’s not!  Read more about my thoughts about discipleship HERE.

…people get on your nerves. It’s inevitable.  There will be “that guy” in your group.  If you just absolutely can’t stand to be around “that guy,” then you can count on God putting him (or her) in your small group (just so you know, I think that it actually works for your good when God puts people who are not like you in a small group together.  Conflict with others often reveals the sinful patterns in our own hearts.  James 4:1-6 speaks to this.

…you are comfortable with your life.  Small groups stretch you to love more, serve more, give more, and sacrifice more.  Small groups are not for the faint of heart.

…you don’t want your faith to grow. Being an active part of a small group will grow your faith.  The early church met in a gathering service and in homes (Acts 2:46).  I’m not saying that the fact that they met in homes is the sole reason that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved,” (Acts 2:47) but it was surely one piece that God was using then…and that, I believe, he continues to use now.

What can you add to this list?  Why would somebody not want to be in a small group?


Sunday School vs Small Groups


“Sunday School guys” and “small group guys” are often pitted against each other.  Here are some of the stereotypes:

Sunday schools help people to grow in Biblical knowledge…small groups don’t.

Small groups build healthy relationships…Sunday schools don’t really care about the relational aspect.

Small groups are relevant…Sunday school was relevant 50 years ago.

Sunday school really helps people go “deep” in their faith…small groups stay on the surface-level depth of Christianity.

Here are a few things I can confidently assert about the discipleship in the Christian life:

  • Discipleship is more than just information transfer.  The disciples spent time with Jesus.  They heard him preach…but that wasn’t Jesus’ only method of making disciples.  He spent significant amounts of time with them.
  • “Depth” doesn’t just mean a person can quote all 9 of John Piper’s sermons on TULIP, or completely and succinctly recite the Westminster Catechism.  Some of the deepest, most life-changing conversations I have had with others haven’t revolved around difficult, divisive theological issues.  Depth, in my opinion, is about things which matter both here and in eternity.  Not all of those things necessitate insider language. (see my post on the danger of insider language HERE)  Can we really say that the intricacies of the atonement are “deeper” than the challenge to truly love our neighbor?
  • However we communicate (via sermon, blog, twitter, Facebook, over a cup of coffee, a text message, an email, a letter, or an iPhone app), we need to portray the life-transforming nature of the Gospel (the nature and pervasiveness of sin, the hopelessness of the sinner, the person and life of Christ, and the hope of a coming resurrection) in a way that makes sense to both believers and non-believers alike.
  • The goal of Christianity is Christ-likeness. See Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Galatians 4:19, Ephesians 4:13, 22-24
  • This goal cannot be accomplished without the help of others.  Jesus, in John 13:34, said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  You cannot do that on your own!

I believe that the way that we, at Grace, do small groups is the best way that the above truths of discipleship are accomplished.  If, at some point, we cease to make disciples, I’m willing to throw out the system in favor of the mission.  Don’t believe me?  Read my post about that very thing HERE and HERE.

What do you think?  Is discipleship better accomplished in Sunday School or small groups?  Should we throw both of them out and start all over?

If you want to see small groups expert Rick Howerton and Sunday School guru David Francis talk this through, check out the video they put together HERE.

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