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

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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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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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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Why Your Church Needs a Small Group Ministry?

Reasons for Establishing a Small Group Ministry

In his article, “10 Reasons Why Your Church Should Have Small Groups”, Daniel Threlfall identifies the importance of small groups. First on his list is that small groups foster close relationships and basic community. A small group atmosphere is good for establishing friendships since individuals tend to talk more in small groups.  

The second is that small groups provide a comfortable environment to welcome nonbelievers to the Christian faith.

A natural and understandable fear common among us is fear in forming relationships, especially if it involves sharing our faith and beliefs with other people.

However, inviting someone to a small group meeting provides a way to involve a nonbeliever in the church. A nonbeliever is more likely to ask questions, get answers, and form relationships with a small group of believers. Thus, small groups can be a powerful missional tool, allowing for the greater spread of the gospel among nonbelievers in the community.  

Third, small groups provide a good way to care for the needs of people within the church.

When a small group member is struggling, it is much easier for the other group members to notice. They can already provide assistance. The structure of a small group is essentially a community of friends of the same faith. As a result, friends are meant to help one another, especially if they are friends in Christ.  

Fourth, small groups allow Christians to live out their faith instead of becoming churchgoers and mere Gospel listeners.

Since members discuss the Sunday preaching, talk about their personal and spiritual battles, and/or pray for one another during meetings, small groups provide a setting for Christians to live out their faith.  

Fifth on Threlfall’s list is that small groups provide focused prayer for one another.

Threlfall noted that in a small group meeting, each of the present people took a few minutes to tell others about their particular challenges or concerns. Then, as soon as one is finished, the person next to him will take some time to pray for him. Small groups are a great place for prayer meetings.  

Sixth, small groups offer a comfortable atmosphere for openness.

One admirable thing about small groups is that members often meet in the comfort of their homes, where people can open up, listen, learn, and grow. Threlfall pointed out that this is the same with the first disciples of Jesus who are meeting in houses or being part of a household.  

Seventh, small groups allow for mutual edification among believers.

Believers tend to depend upon the leaders for spiritual food and nourishment easily. However, the Scripture states otherwise, for God also gives spiritual gifts to all believers, not just to the preachers and leaders. The whole church benefits from it.

Every Christian should minister to other Christians with their gifts, and this happens most naturally, effectively, and purposefully within small groups.   

Eight, small groups encourage better learning.

Listening to a Sunday preaching is a great way to learn the Word, but it is easy to become detached from the message, making us passive listeners. This is not the case within a small group. As a few people gather together, every individual is expected to be involved and to participate. Active involvement is an effective way to learn better.  

Ninth, small groups are a source of encouragement and accountability.

It is easy to go in and out of the church and not be noticed. This is common with megachurches, but it also happens in an average-sized church of 100 or 150 attendees.

People come for each Sunday service but do not get themselves involved. These individuals need accountability in their lives, encouragement in their walk with God, and/or help in some way in which small groups can provide.  

Lastly, small groups cultivate leadership within the church.

Someone is necessary to lead a small group meeting or at least facilitate the discussion. Thus, there is a need for leaders other than the pastor. Small groups provide opportunities for leadership development among members within the church.

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Characteristics of Small Group for Discipleship

Empower Members to Be Leaders

Small group leaders should teach members how to cultivate their relationship with the Lord. They must seek His counsel first before approaching their small group leader. If the members are to do something against the Bible, then the leader can say something and correct it based on the word of God. Still, if the area in which the leader wants to speak up on is extrabiblical, then he should give his members the freedom to seek the Lord regarding their convictions.  

As a congregation, we need to be mindful about setting a culture that cultivates Biblical leadership. Ultimately, we need to provide a structure that small group leaders could follow. The system for small groups needs to have the same biblical standards. The church community must be on the same page when it comes to the essential doctrines of the faith. These are foundations for discipleship. Doing so allows this ministry can provide better support to their leaders.

Leaders, empower your small group members to become future leaders. The heart of discipleship is duplication. You want to see more leaders rise. There is something terribly wrong when leaders do not want to see members step up. Perhaps they want to remain the only leaders in the group.

What are Small Groups? 

There are many misconceptions about Small Groups. Even though people socialize in small or cell groups, it is never intended to be just a social gathering. It is not a home meeting, even if the group meets in their homes. It is not intended for charity, although the members can do outreach and charitable acts. A small group is also not another church program neither a separate church service, but there can be singing, praying, and delivering of message within the group. 

Pastor Paul Yonggi Cho of Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea, the largest Protestant church globally, characterized small groups as a basic part of the church and not just another church program. Small groups have a limited size, usually not more than 15 individuals or families of the same background. It has a definite goal, set by the church pastors and ministers. Moreover, it has definite leaders who are trained for discipleship. 

Homogeneity

Homogeneity, meaning likeness or being similar in kind, is considered one successful characteristic for small groups. Pastor Yonggi Cho believes that churches will grow if they minister to similar groups of people.  Over time, they found that small groups based upon homogeneity were more successful than small groups based primarily on their geographical locations. They have discovered that individuals grouped based on geographical considerations alone are like bringing people together with very little in common. Thus, it takes more time and energy to develop a feeling of oneness among its members, and achieving the main purpose of small groups, which is reaching the lost and caring for the sheep, is not that effective.

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Teach Them to Follow Jesus – Not You!

Imparting Christ-Like Leadership

We must teach our potential leaders about the true nature of leadership – the kind of leadership that Jesus exhibited. Whereas some congregations consider church leadership as synonymous with lordship, we know that Biblical leadership is, in fact, servant leadership. We must show our small group members that we do not adhere to the special treatment, entitlement, and commanding authority that some church leaders enjoy utilizing. Instead, we will impart to them that the key characteristic needed to lead others is not the ability to command or wield fear; rather, it is the ability to maintain humility, love, and grace even in a position that seemingly functions in power.

The truth is, there can be a dark side to small group leadership in the sense that the position can sometimes lead the leaders to exercise an unreasonable amount of control over the lives of the small group members – even when this should not be so. In this scenario, the leader will try to manipulate the members into doing only whatever he approves they do.  

Do Not Manipulate Your Small Group Members

For instance, we have heard of cases wherein the small group leader refuses to acknowledge the romantic interest of someone in the group because the leader does not approve of this person or because the leader wants someone else for the member. We need to remember that this is not a decision that the small group leader can make for the member. Furthermore, the small group members do not need their leader’s approval when they actually do want to date someone.  

Respect Boundaries

Sadly, this is not a unique situation and has been repeatedly seen in congregations around the world. In fact, many Christians left particular churches because they experienced manipulation within their small groups.  They also faced disapproval when they refused to concede. Since entrusted sensitive and personal information within the community, they had to grapple with the fear of this information being turned against them and used as a control tool. We need to establish with our potential leaders that as much as they can speak into the lives of their members, there are also boundaries that they cannot cross.  

If the small group members ask for counsel, it is then that the leader will speak truthfully and graciously. However, if the advice is unsolicited, the leader must remember that he has the liberty to speak into all areas of his members’ lives. The leader can only have as much access as the members would allow. And when he does give advice, he should not issue directives. The leader has no right to tell them what they can and cannot do – even if they ask.  

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Willingness and Availability

Willingness and availability are basic factors we must have to operate this gift. With these attitudes, Francis stressed on the following:

Believers must have the strong desire to release and to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Believers must be sensitive to God’s movement and prompting. Believers must recognize when the Holy Spirit is speaking about a certain person or matter. Believers must understand the right timing in order to make known of specific information. Believers must pray and practice ministering these words of knowledge in an edifying manner.

Believers must be willing and prepared to accept teaching, correction, and even rebuke from those God placed authority over us, to oversee our ministry. Believers must take responsibility for the effects of the words of knowledge that they have delivered or spoken. Thus, they must make sure these promptings are from God.

According to Francis, knowledge is the answer to ignorance. Paul noted on the significance of being informed. It is the same premise for this gift. In order to test that the promptings are from God, we need to make sure the words of knowledge we are speaking are aligned with God’s Word. The Holy Spirit will not prompt you to speak lies or to cause people to sin. The Holy Spirit will move you to speak words that are against the Word of God. You can test this by studying and meditating on the Word of God, as well as by seeking God.

There are different ways that a person with this gift can develop it. We are responsible for our gifts. It is our responsibility to make it grow, with the intention to use it for God’s greater glory. One of the tips involves observing other people who flow in the gift of the words of knowledge. Be an objective observant and learn from their positive and negative points. Emulate the good, and try to improve the bad with your personal growth.

We also need to have the right attitude towards such a gift. Sometimes, our attitude is, God’s sovereignty will move us to use the gift while we do nothing. While it is true that we are nothing with God’s power and without his grace, God does not overpower us and force us to move beyond our will.

God gave us free will. God is a gentle God who will not violate our will. In order for our gifts to flow, we must be willing and available to the Holy Spirit. Thus, as we receive a word of knowledge, we must make it known and we must declare that it is from the Holy Spirit.

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Power of Prophecy:Your mentor is a terror to evil work

“For rulers are not a terror to good work, but to evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same. For he is the minister of God to thee for good…” (Romans . 13: 3-4)

Every ruler is a minister of God. We serve so that we can do away with evil. We serve to become a terror to evil. We serve to reward good and to punish evil. However, we do not determine what is evil and what is good. Our service will highlight that within itself. Many times you will find that when you serve there will be people who will hate you for no reason at all. This comes with the package of ministry. If you are not willing to accept the package, then get out of ministry. Ministry requires that you go more than the extra mile, beyond the call of duty, and beyond the realm in which you currently operate.

“…But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” (Romans 13:4). 

It is the minister’s responsibility to execute wrath upon those who do evil, to execute wrath upon those things which are out of order, and to execute wrath against those things that are not operating according to Divine law. The minister is called to execute the wrath of God. You have to be willing to execute the wrath of God and to minister judgments. How do you minister judgments? By having a standard.

Ministry demands order and adherence to protocol. You must begin to make adjustments and rethink your reasons for being in ministry. You must move in the direction of accountability because you have responsibility for those who are under you. You have the responsibility before God for those upon whom you lay hands.

If you are not in tune with your emotions it will manifest in your life and in your experience. It will manifest in your home. It will manifest in the environment in which you live. If there is no structure in your home or if there no structure in your closet, then there will be no structure in your life. If there is no structure in the way you place your shoes, there is no structure in your walk. If there is no order in your money and your money is facing different directions in your wallet, then there will be no order in your finances.

In the Amplified Bible Romans 13:1 reads, “Let every person be loyally subject to the governing civil authorities. For there is no power or no authority except from God by his permission, his sanction. And those that exist do so by God’s appointment.” There is a cross-reference in Proverbs 8:15, “By me kings reign and rulers do decree justice.”

There can be no king who reigns or no ruler who can decree justice unless God has ordained it to be so. The Amplified says in Romans 13:2,“Therefore he who resists and sets himself up against the authority resists what God has appointed and arranged in divine order…” When you are not in authority you are cutting the grain of the universal order. Oftentimes, you may not understand the judgments that the leader makes. However, it is not for you to understand. It is for you to remain under the covering of authority. The greater your submission to your leader, the greater your authority. You will not be able to demonstrate prophetically if you are not in divine order.

Ask Yourself these Question

  1.  Do you have a mentor?
  2.  What ministry are you participating in?
  3.  What is the primary reason why you serve?
  4.  Do you have a standard?
  5.  What are your reasons for being in ministry?
  6. Are there adjustments that you need to apply?

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