Discipleship

D1-6: A Discipleship Model

D1-6: A Discipleship Model

Joel Comiskey, the founding pastor of a cell-based church in Southern California, has the same stand by noting that Jesus wants us to become like him.

He pointed out that the Scripture tells us that we are called to be “conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8:29).

He discussed the next step in small group ministry by maturing the believers, moving them forward, and helping them depend on Jesus. In Comiskey’s book, Making Disciples in the 21 Century Church, he emphasized how small or cell groups are instrumental in helping God’s people become more like Jesus. He developed a paradigm that is practical in building disciples through small groups. He called this process of discipleship “D1-6.” 

D-1

The first step is that of a “D-1 disciple”, a person who participates in a cell group,uses gifts, and takes the equipping class for discipleship. In this step, an individual attends the service to hear God’s Word and worship with other believers. Next, in this process, an individual is baptized. They are taught to obey all the things that Christ has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). Finally, the essential components in the training process of a “D-1 disciple” include doctrinal teaching and holiness. It also included baptism, evangelism, and preparation to minister to others.  

D-2

The next step is that of a “D-2 disciple”, a person who lives out in practice what they learn and serves as part of the leadership team. Moreover, the disciple plays a significant role in the small group. Also prepares to launch and participate in a new group. 

D-3

Next is the “D-3 disciple”, a person who is the point leader of a group. In this step, a disciple gathers people together and leads a small group. Also, they have graduated from the training track provided by the church.

D-4

This is followed by a “D-4 disciple”, an already coaching or mentoring someone else. In this stage, a disciple has developed another disciple is also leading their cell group. Comiskey considered a “D-4 disciple” as a multiplication leader. 

Moreover, Comiskey’s discipleship paradigm does not stop with a “D-4 disciple”.

D-5

He further notes that some disciples will become staff of the church or the “D-5 disciples.” Also, others will even go and plant new churches, which he calls the “D-6 disciples”.

D-6 

This paradigm of discipleship is intended to help a believer through a clearly defined equipping process. In this light, the vision of the small group system is to help members take the next step and level up in their discipleship walk. The practical goal of Comiskey’s small group paradigm is to make mature disciples in taking the next step in ministry and ultimately grow more like Jesus.

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Free Prophecy for EveryoneDiscipleship Model

Discipleship

Five Ideas for Establishing Discipleship in Small Groups

Kate Allred presented these five ideas for how you can make sure discipleship occurs in the small group setting:

The first is to Identify and Build the Spiritual Gifts of Each Member

Since there is a more personal relationship among the group, it would be easier to identify each member’s unique gifts and talents and help them nurture these gifts. God does not randomly give spiritual gifts, and He has given us gifts to be used for His glory. Small groups can be an environment to identify and grow God-given abilities. 

The second is to Get Personal.

Small group members are encouraged to meet outside of group meetings, aside from studying the Word together and praying for one another. They can also be present in each other’s personal events such as attending children’s birthday parties and the like. Through these interpersonal relationships, members will develop the connection needed to encourage and challenge each other. This is why leaders are to encourage these kinds of personal meetings and events wherever and whenever possible.  

The third is to Focus Outward.

Many leaders tend to concentrate only on the inward aspects of their small groups. However, a certain amount of outward focus is also needed for the group. Leaders must observe a balance between forming tight bonds within the small group and participating as followers of Jesus to the larger community. Allred recommends that small groups consider adopting a community or create a group service project that will keep some outward focus as they continue building stronger relationships. 

Fourth on Allred’s list is to Hold Each Other Accountable.

Accountability is one of the most important aspects of discipleship. To hold oneself and the other members of the small group accountable should not have to be uncomfortable. Accountability must be initiated and kept within the group through a pleasant and loving approach. Small group leaders can encourage members to grow as disciples as they gently hold them accountable and help them overcome their challenges. 

Lastly, Choose Curriculum Carefully.

The curriculum that the small groups are using should be tailored to the members’ level of faith and knowledge. The material should be easy to grasp band challenging because it requires intense discussion to fully understand and apply it in our daily lives. Discipleship is a process of growth as much as it is a state of being, but this growth cannot happen without challenging and pushing oneself. 

Allred further emphasized that discipleship is one of the most important factors in the success of small groups. A group focused on discipleship will form meaningful relationships. They can grow together in Christ to become a positive force in the church and community.

 

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Free Prophecy for Everyone

Discipleship

Small Groups

When Small Groups Worked

Small-group-oriented churches are continually successful. Studies on organizations reveal that small and intimate groups like the 12 disciples of Jesus are better.  Numerous modern organizations adhere to these principles to gain flexibility, adaptability, dedication, and mutual trust that small groups foster.  

Alcoholics Anonymous, for instance, uses small groups to promote accountability. Harvard Business School divides its 900-person class into multiple sections of around 90 students. This group is further divided into study groups of six students.  

Military organizations also comprehended that soldiers could not be fully dedicated to the entire army.  They are assigned to specific and smaller units. In the same way, they can be devoted to small units; fraternities and sororities also gain dedication from their members by personalizing the college experience.

The house church movement has been successful worldwide because it relies on closely-knit groups that foster peer pressure, accountability, and trust.  

Jesus demonstrated this to his first disciples when he gave them a clear vision and mission – to be workers of the Lord in advancing his kingdom.  

When the Largeness Gets in the Way

Pastor Paul Yonggi Cho, a Protestant pastor in South Korea, explains that the groups that become too large for meeting places and the purpose they intended to fulfill should be divided. The group will have a successful division if the members are familiarized with their leadership.

They can also focus on the purpose of the division is emphasized.  Jesus demonstrated this to his first disciples when he gave them a clear vision and mission – to be workers of the Lord in advancing his kingdom.  

In her article, “5 Ideas for Creating Discipleship in Your Small Group”, Katie Allred notes that a small group should be about discipleship. This setting is what Jesus demonstrated to create disciples, which can still be at work in the present time. Allred points out that many small group leaders do not know how to break out from the existing church framework and create a dynamic spirit of discipleship among their groups. With this, Allred provides five ideas that can help leaders significantly make discipleship among their small groups.  You’ll see that in the next post.

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Small Groups

Small is Big (Part 2)

Small is Big (Part 2)

The personal and flexible nature of the discipleship method modeled by Jesus Christ is so compelling. Jesus delivered brilliant messages among crowds, but he also gathered around him a core group of believers. He demonstrated how necessary it is to grow and sustain the message he delivered. Nevertheless, he maintained its impact and the intimacy within his disciples.

During his earthly ministry, Jesus initiated small groups of people. He sent them to reach out to others and establish their groups.  

And Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and heal.

After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by to, into every town and place where he was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

The scripture is clear to tell us that the 12 disciples and the other 72 who were sent by twos were very successful in advancing the ministry of Jesus. This is why small groups or cellular organizations are similarly essential to communicate messages and build support. When an organization or movement is growing, it is crucial not to choose size over substance.  

Instead, it is better to find ways that create smaller, individualized communities that can nurture themselves and the larger group. Everyone in the cell or small group is encouraged to be involved. When their units become large, they break them into smaller units that can better foster relationships, accountability, and trust.

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Small is Big

Involvement of Small Group Members

Why Is Small the New Big? 

One way to keep discipleship simple is by looking at small discipleship groups as one significant, impactful movement. Jesus closely mentored 12 men, who later became world changers. Twelve is a small number, but the impact it created in advancing God’s kingdom is significant.  

Malcolm Gladwell notes that churches, like any sizeable voluntary organization, are not spared from internal contradiction. To attract newcomers, the church must have minimal barriers to allow entry. They must be unintimidating, friendly, and culturally adaptive. To retain their members, they need to have one identity different from where they came from. They need to give their members a sense of community. However, having a community or a sense of a new identity and exclusivity is an inevitable casualty of growth. 

 If the barriers to entry become too low and the relationship among members becomes weak, then a church becomes more vulnerable as it grows bigger. This has been a common problem with growing organizations. At first, people are moved by a message, but it will not be enough to keep them.  

They need to be part of a community that accounts for them to apply the message in their lives. As an organization increases, the people within can become less connected, and their dedication to the cause and the group decreases. The movement grows in number but becomes less effective.  

To Grow or Not to Grow

To cope with these growing pains, Gladwell mentions that one solution is not to grow. Historically, churches have sacrificed size for the community. But there is also another approach: creating a church of many networks of small discipleship cells or groups that is exclusive and tightly knit for six to seven members, who regularly meet during the week to fellowship, worship, and pray with one another.  

When megachurches became the instrument of the evangelical movement and started to adopt the cellular model, they found out that the small group was an extraordinary vehicle of commitment, for it was personal, flexible, cost-efficient, and convenient. Moreover, every member was able to find a small group that matched their interests.

In the next post, we’ll talk more about how Jesus modeled “small is big.”

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Small

What Does Discipleship “Look” Like?

Our immediate concern should not know how to build a disciple but to first have a clear picture of how disciple looks like, do, or are. As we consider the question about what a disciple is.

The answers we could have in mind are about becoming like Jesus, obeying everything in Scripture, becoming completely committed to a lifetime of growth, devotion, and learning.  

Once we are sure of what a disciple is, we can now proceed into questions like these:

  • What should be the absolute basic knowledge required for someone to become a good follower of Jesus?
  • What would be the essential characteristics (passion, heart, desire, commitments) of those same people?

Growing as a disciple requires movement. As people come to our churches and enter into a discipleship pathway, we desire them to grow more and more like Jesus.  

Delivery System for the Discipleship Model

There are three ways to approach discipleship. Three ways to comprehensively approach discipleship can either be through  the following:

  1. Program Driven Church
  2. Missional Group Church
  3. Discipleship Modeling Church.  

Program Driven Church

A Program Driven Church is a close-knit church with a congregation who loves to spend time together, i.e., playgroups, coffee groups, Saturday breakfasts, hockey day, etc.

In this delivery system, the church assures that everyone who walks through their doors has a place and feels welcomed.  

Missional Group Church

Secondly, the Missional Group Church prioritizes time with those who do not know Christ.

Missional Church members are eager to know their neighbors to invite these people into their homes and church and join their small group.

This church is very externally driven and is passionate about sharing Jesus with the people around them.  

Discipleship Modeling Church

Finally, the Discipleship Modeling Church refers to the church that focuses on the growth and development of each member of their church.

This mission is integrated through Sunday services, fellowships, mentoring, and even online discipleship programs.

The discipleship leaders in a Discipleship Modeling Church are intentional in establishing and empowering future discipleship leaders.

They spend time developing relationships and modeling leadership. In the same vein, they have a clear path for the discipleship journey and have created a culture where church members are excited to grow in their relationship with Christ.

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The DNA of the Small Groups

The DNA of the Small Groups:

Instead of asking for new small group strategies that are working well, a discipleship pastor or leader should first determine the DNA of the small groups in their church.

Rather than going for effective discipleship curriculums, a pastor or any leader must be first grounded. Pastors must align themselves to God’s calling for their church’s small groups.  

Small group leaders take shortcuts to successful small groups, and they copy and apply another church’s model for discipleship. The problem with this is that they do not take into account their own church’s unique fundamentals.

Every church is different, and this is okay. We should celebrate this difference since other churches can do different things to reach different people.

The discipleship system of simplicity is firmly grounded with the basics and the fundamentals of discipleship.

Sometimes, even the most basic question, “What is a Disciple?” becomes a complicated question to answer. It’s about creating a simple, duplicable discipleship pathway for the church community. 

In whatever language we have, discipleship remains the core designated task for the church, as we call it the Great Commission.  

And Jesus came and said to them,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

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The DNA of the Small Groups

Back to Basics Part 2

In the last post, you read about going back to basics and being straightforward in your discipleship system, and keeping accurate to the model Jesus exhibited. What are other tips we can follow?

The fourth principle of Fuhs is, “Don’t blend the genders.” There will be concerns about the individual lives of the group members that they will not be comfortable sharing or confessing in the presence of the opposite sex. Lastly, “Content Matters.” Fuhs noted that while all scripture is God-breathed, not all scripture will have equal weight in transforming lives and multiplying disciples. What we teach in our small groups is what they will teach in their small groups.

There are countless principles that we can memorize and apply in our discipleship groups. There are also numerous discipleship models and frameworks that we can copy and utilize. However, just like how Jesus and the first disciples did it before, we need not complicate things. Problems arise when we get too strategic that we go beyond and forget the basics. 

Senior Pastor of New Life Bible Church Oklahoma, Alan Danielson, shared in an article, “The right way to do small groups,” the lessons he learned from years of small group consulting. He emphasized that some discipleship models do work but are not effective for others. Danielson noticed that some discipleship pastors and leaders are more focused on the process while overlooking their small group’s fundamentals.  

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Back to Basics Part 2

Back to Basics

Back to Basics: 

Like any relationship, discipleship is flexible and continually evolving.  We should be looking after effective models of genuine discipleship.

With all the rising and falling discipleship movements and the changes in churches brought by the waves of time, we should not forget the essentials. The heart of discipleship which was is, and will always be Jesus. The most effective discipleship model in the 21st Century is the way Jesus modeled it to his first disciples.  

The System of Simplicity 

There will always be hardships that come along with discipleship. The first disciples of Jesus did not have an easy life as they took on the great commission of making disciples of all nations. They were uneducated, ordinary citizens who were once fishermen and tax collectors, to name a few.

They were not schooled in any theological college or seminary, but they thrived on being the best followers of Jesus, who once left their fishing nets to become fishers of men.

Their mission was not easy and more complex than what we face in the 21st Century. However, we can learn from their system of simplicity that enables discipleship to thrive from their generation to the present. 

Growth takes time

According to Bob Fuhs, small discipleship groups can be made simple. There are discipleship principles in small groups that we can apply. First, we need to know and remember that “Growth takes place over time.” Since growth takes time, small group structure needs to respect that with their members. Small groups should create an environment where people can grow without being rushed or forced to mature.  

Jesus chose the people he’d minister to

The second principle of Fuhs is that “Jesus practiced selection.” In the Gospels, we can see that Jesus selected or handpicked only 12 men to work closely with him and trained them in ministry. Jesus did not run after people. There are times that he secluded himself from large crowds.

When Jesus offered the words of eternal life, many of his followers turned their backs and no longer walked with him.  

So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and we have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Jesus answered them, Did I not choose you, the twelve? …”

Small group structure and leadership development system

The third principle of Fuhs is that “Your small group structure is your leadership development structure. Jesus never commanded us to go and lead Bible studies. His command was to make disciples.”

Further, he notes that the Bible is our textbook and guide, but our small groups’ overall purpose is not to get to know the Bible better.

In the same light, the goal of our small groups is to build leaders, to build disciples, more specifically — to build multiplying disciples.  

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We Need a Community

In a study on discipleship conducted by Thad Harvey, one of his significant findings revealed that the church has lost the meaning of being a disciple of Jesus Christ because it has lost the practice of having Jesus as the teacher. Moreover, the church has the opportunity to respond to the changing world, which is first to rediscover the Lordship of Jesus. In discovering Jesus again, we need to know him as a personal teacher, not just a teacher, but ‘the teacher.’ If Jesus is not the teacher, then we cannot be his disciples. Anyone can be a disciple of whoever their teacher is.  

Best Done in a Prophetic Community

The approach to rediscovering the Lordship of Jesus and encountering the Bible is best made within a prophetic community. Individual reading of the Bible and intimate communion with the Holy Spirit are essential. However, the disciples need not keep their relationship with Jesus Christ isolated. This is why Harvey pointed us back to how Christians are to be a part of the body of Christ, which compels living in a community with other disciples of Jesus. It is not enough for people to attend church.

They must get connected to fellow believers. The community can nurture and train them to reach out to others. In a prophetic community, we take the ultimate prophetic word we have, the Bible. We declare it over our lives and the future as a group of believers.

Let’s refocus on building and maintaining relationships, first and foremost with Jesus, then to other disciples of Jesus, especially those who do not know Jesus yet.

Discipleship must always be relational, Biblical, Holy Spirit-driven, lived day by day, and should be passed on to others.   

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Christ: The Center of the Community

Who is the superstar in your church community?

 Christian Week Columnist, Jeff K. Clarke, wrote that to be a disciple of Jesus is to center one’s life in Jesus within a community.

Further, Clarke points out that following Jesus is not about applying principles to the external circumstances of life, but about immersing ourselves in Jesus’ life and message until his life and notice begins to engage itself in each of us, flowing out from us into the world around us.

Only through this can we honestly say that Jesus is the heart of discipleship. 

Clarke noted that discipleship should not be limited to any church-based program. Restricting discipleship to a program is to misunderstand what following Jesus is fundamental.

Discipleship programs can serve a purpose in a church setting. Still, discipleship must also extend past the framework of any program, For those involved, they may eventually define discipleship as exclusive only within the program boundaries.

He further notes that we should be more cautious over the church programs that turn into exclusive clubs, limiting membership and leaving strangers out.  

Christians should not form discipleship groups based on who we share interests with while closing the doors to those different from us.

The very essence of discipleship is diversity. Any program that endangers this diversity needs to be carefully analyzed and restructured accordingly.

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Personal & Relational

A Personal Invite

Discipleship must first and foremost begin with an acceptance to a personal invitation to a life with Jesus. It is this simple. One cannot say he is a disciple of Jesus without having an intimate relationship with him. Discipleship must have an element of life on life. People are nurtured in relationships, not in the transference of knowledge or any content. Moreover, Stevenson enumerated vital principles that influence effective discipleship in the 21st Century.  

Aside from being relational, discipleship must also be biblical, applicable, accountable, and reproducible. The word of God should remain to be the central basis for making disciples. There is no better way to follow Jesus than to read about who he was, how he thought, and what he did. Discipleship must bring impact to others. If not, then it is merely a religious practice. Discipleship also holds the followers of Christ accountable to a life of faith in their daily lives. Lastly, genuine discipleship can only happen when disciples make disciples. It’s a multiplication process.

Movement across generations

In the article “Twenty-first Century Discipleship: A Biblical Theology for Changing Times,” written by Dr. Michael J. Wilkins, he described the changing waves of discipleship across different eras. Like the ocean waves, he noted that the waves of church movements that impact us today are usually generated by far away and long ago.

And, to ride them effectively, we need to know as much as possible about the forces that have brought them about and how they impact us today. Moreover, Dr. Wilkins noted that discipleship is not a recent or unique phenomenon. More than 2,000 years ago,  Jesus Christ entered human history and called out to men and women, “Follow Me!”  

Just like what Phil Stevenson has emphasized, Dr. Wilkins considers discipleship as one that originates with a gracious call from Jesus to enter into an intimate relationship with Him. It begins with intentional evangelism that challenges people to count the cost of accepting Jesus’ call to life in the kingdom of God. Across forces and times, discipleship is simply living in this world with Jesus Christ. It’s about conforming to his image through the Holy Spirit’s power. Moreover, it would help if you allowed yourself to be nurtured by a community of believers. You also need to fulfill your purpose to make disciples.

Moreover, Dr. Wilkins considers other essentials of discipleship in the present Century aside from being generated by Jesus. The Holy Spirit initiated and empowered people for discipleship. God’s Word continually guides. They are also nurtured in communities of faith. Christians must carry it out by sojourning in our everyday, watching world.

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