Aubrey Malphurs says “Disciple making does not end with a person’s conversion, however. It’s an ongoing process that encourages the believer to follow Christ and become more like Him.” With this taken into account we need to ask ourselves a question. What is the most effective way to make disciples? Do we get as many people in one room, and immerse them in biblical knowledge and theological thought? This has its place, but new believers run the risk of getting lost in the shuffle in this environment. Dr. Dempsey, states “Christianity is more caught than taught, and to make progress in the disciple-making process, we need good examples good example of people who the Apostle Paul’s paradigm.” Coincidently the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”
To effectively do this in our churches we need to change the way we are doing things. The Sunday sermon is very important, but it is not the way in which disciples are built. There are some ministries in our churches that have turned into social clubs instead of ministry. It is time to rethink what we are doing, and align everything to the commandment of making disciples. According to Dr. Dempsey “The best context for cultivating this kind of environment is a small group within a local church. With the exception of the first three hundred years of the church, we have not done a good job of creating that structure.”
The small group allows for an intimate setting where the scriptures are taught. The people of the group grow together, encourage each other, and learn from each other. They hold each other accountable and check up on those members that they have not seen in a while. It is a different dynamic from the traditional way that the church has operated. From an evangelization standpoint it is less intimidating for the non-believer who may attend the group.
Dr. Putnam, states “Making disciples is the main reason why the church exists, so everything in a corporate body needs to be funnel people toward a relational small group in which discipleship can best happen.” It has been said many times, and it bears repeating. A small group is the primary means of making disciples who make disciples. There are three components to a successful small group and they are the following: Shepherding, teaching, and authenticity and accountability.
Throughout the scriptures we read of the Lord being a shepherd, and His followers as sheep. In a small group the leader attempts to create an environment where members are helping each other. We are people who deal with many stressors in our lives. In our small groups a member may be overwhelmed with something, or everything, that is going on in their lives. The leader will offer group prayer for this hurting member, and someone in the group may share an experience to help the member through. The member of the group is treated like a family member, and listening is key. In regard to this David Horton states, “Strong groups are led by those who build a strong sense of synergy, community, and solidarity.” Without this sense of community the shepherding process will not be effective. People will not share their experiences, or what is going on in their lives. At that point the whole disciple making process halts.
The second aspect of a small group it that of teaching. This is an environment where real teaching takes place. People are just not given a sermon and sent home. Teaching in the small group is also relational. The members are encouraged to ask questions, and the Bible is central for teaching. In short it is not just another Bible study. There is plenty of Bible study happening, but it goes deeper than that. When people think of a Bible study they think of one person doing most of the talking while everyone else sits back and listens.
In a small group the teacher is more of a facilitator. The leader helps the group participate in biblical discussions, ask questions, and share their own experiences. This is key for the leader to understand if the text is being understood. If it is not being understood then the goal of making disciples took a step backward. Always point back to Bible to show them where the answers are.
Lastly other keys to a small group are authenticity and accountability. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, states “Two are better than one because they have good return on their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls where there is not another to lift him up.” The KJV Biblical Commentary says about these verses, “A man alone who is about to be overcome by any onslaught may be kept from ruin through the helpful hand of his friend. Such companionship is of inestimable value and is certainly a profit to all those who possess it.” There are no free agents in Christianity. We are unable to go through this journey of faith alone. When we do the enemy sees us as lost sheep, and since we do not have the protection of the group, we will be easy prey for him. It is important for the leader to espouse empathy to the group, and let the group know that listening is best. It is human nature to want to fix another’s problems, but it is important to listen and share.
When struggles are brought up there is most likely someone in the group who has had a similar struggle. Leaders need to foster an environment of authentic sharing where hearts are being transformed. It is also an environment where accountability is fostered. How will the group help a member who is struggling with a particular sin? We cannot create disciples if there is a lingering sin that a person is dealing with. We need to help our members get over those.
In conclusion the small group is vital to the believer and the church. It is an environment where relationships are forged, lives are changed, disciples are made, and disciples are sent out. They are sent out to change the world with the Gospel of Christ. What else is there? The world around us is hurting, and morals are in decay. The small group exists to create disciples to be light to the world.
1 Corinthians 11:1 (New American Standard Version).
Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is…How to live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&h Publishing Group, 2013.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (New American Standard Bible).
Horton, David. The Portable Seminary. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2006.
King James Version Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2005.
Malphurs, Aubrey. Strategic Disciple Making. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2009.
Putnam, Jim, and Bobby Harrington with Robert Coleman. Discipleshift. Grand Rapids, MICHIGAN: Zondervan, 2013.
 Aubrey Malphurs, Strategic Disciple Making (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2009), 34.
 Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…How to live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&h Publishing Group, 2013), 276.
 1 Corinthians 11:1 (New American Standard Bible).
 Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…How to live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&h Publishing Group, 2013), 59.
 Jim Putnam and Bobby Harrington with Robert Coleman, Discipleshift (Grand Rapids, MICHIGAN: Zondervan, 2013), 184.
 David Horton, The Portable Seminary (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2006), 597.
 Jim Putnam and Bobby Harrington with Robert Coleman, Discipleshift (Grand Rapids, MICHIGAN: Zondervan, 2013), 190.
 Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (New American Standard Bible).
 King James Version Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2005), 742.
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