Returning to discipleship
Over time, the church has mistakenly watered down our understanding of what discipleship means. Even good intentions to streamline and program discipleship has left plenty of misconceptions along the way.
Pause for just a minute and think about all the different kinds of things Jesus’ own disciples experienced together. Being a disciple was far more involved that simply studying the scriptures. It involved action, serving together, learning, teaching, and so much more.
With this in mind, how does discipleship fit into a small group setting?
A small group should be more than just a Bible study. It is common to think of small groups in terms of what they are studying. Some even thrive on how deep into the Scriptures the study goes. Yes, study is very much an important part of the small group; but consider this…
All Scripture is inspired by God
and is useful to teach us what is true
and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.
It corrects us when we are wrong
and teaches us to do what is right.
God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)
Notice, in these verses God gives us four very clear and very important reasons we need to be studying His Word. But those are not the goals of studying Scripture – God Himself gives us the reason we need to study. Notice the last part of the verses above… it is so we are prepared and equipped to DO what He called us to do.
Don’t mistake study for growth.
We don’t measure human maturity by how much a person has eaten. Eating is important, but it is only a part of maturing. We don’t measure the quality of a dentist by how many dentistry books he/she has read, or the skill of an athlete by how many hours of sporting events they watch on TV. In the same way, we shouldn’t measure a person’s spiritual maturity by simply adding up how much Biblical knowledge they have collected. (Keep in mind that the Pharisees likely knew more about Scripture than Jesus’ followers.) Bible study supplements spiritual growth; it is not a substitute for it.
In order to continue growing, a follower of Jesus must be learning, adapting, developing, applying, and living out the truth found in God’s Word.
What does that practically look like?
Which of these two small groups would you say has a better grasp on discipleship?
A: A small group that has studied through the books of James, Romans, and all four Gospels, read discussed books like Crazy Love (Chan) and Desiring God (Piper), and watched video series by Matt Chandler and Kyle Idleman.
B: A small group that has studied through the book of James, and discuss practical ways to control your words at work and at home (James 3), finds ways to help others in the community (James 2), holds each other up, and prays together when their faith is tested (James 1 and 5).
All of the things group A studied are fantastic. But remember “…faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” James 2:17 (NLT)
Small groups should be encouraged to develop a passion for continually learning AND applying more of God’s Word. There should be a correlation between digging deeper in to God’s Word, and living it out through personal life change, action, and service.
What is your role as the Small Group Leader?
YOUR ROLE – Help the people in your group learn to follow Jesus by continually developing their knowledge of God’s Word in a way that calls for practical application and life change. Rather than plowing through study after study, look for specific ways to help them make the various Bible studies practical. Your regular small group gatherings can be a platform to serve together, pray together, help someone together, and practically apply more of what you are learning together.
Again, a healthy small group is continually learning to follow Jesus together in community with other believers. Community is vitally important – and it is the subject of the next post.
(A Healthy Small Group Engine: Discipleship 2/3)