Principles in Kingdom Building

Rev. Michael A. Milton of Faith for Living ministry in North Carolina compared the impact of the minor things we do in God’s Kingdom to the Parable of the Mustard Seed teaching of Jesus Christ. Rev. Milton wrote two principles on kingdom growth.

1st Principle: The Kingdom of God is Invisible to the Physical Eye

The first principle is, The Kingdom of God is often imperceptible by sight but staggering in cosmic potential. He quoted the testimony of Benjamin Franklin saying, “Church planting is just one evangelist on fire with a vision of the kingdom of God that has come into his own life, and, now, into this community. Others come to see this marvel, and some of them begin to catch on fire, too. Thus, the Church spreads.” Rev. Milton emphasized that there is no secret to the revival of a church or a denomination. It is only by seeing with eyes of faith the truth of the kingdom of God that the invisible is filled with power.  

2nd Principle: The Kingdom of God has Transforming Power

The second principle is, The Kingdom of God is often insignificant in influence but abounding in transforming power. Rev. Milton pointed out that there is not much about the mustard seed, thus making it negligible. But, as we ask the birds of the air that make their nests in that tree, it will no longer be insignificant. No ministry or small group activity is unimportant, for things are often upside down in the Kingdom of God. We should not look at the impact of the Church in the same way we look upon a business. Those who are most important may not be the significant ones. There are some mustard seeds that we cannot see, but they are already at work.

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Challenge in Discipleship

Personal and Private

One major problem revealed by this research is that millions of Christians believe that discipleship is only a personal thing with only personal and private implications. This can be attributed to what the Christians experience in their churches. There is minimal emphasis on the communal and relational nature of spiritual growth. Only one-third of Christian adults report that their church recommends meeting with a spiritual mentor. Half of their churches publically endorse studying the Bible with a group, and half recommend studying the Bible independently. 

One of the compelling findings of the study is that developmental relationships are more common in large or megachurches. Seventy-eight percent or 8 out of 10 church leaders of 500+ member churches report being currently discipled by someone else. This study further reveals how church pastors and leaders approach discipleship. When asked about the most eective single method of discipleship, 52% of church leaders prefer small groups and 29% for discipleship by pairs. Therefore, small groups are the disciple-making approach favored by most of today’s church leaders. 

Structure vs. Heart

Pastors and leaders agreed that the most critical elements of discipleship are the matters of the heart and not of the structure. Aside from prayer and quiet time with God, the pastors believe that spiritual disciplines are also essential to discipleship, such as “personal commitment to grow in Christlikeness,” “attending a local church,” and “a deep love for God.” According to pastors, having “a comprehensive discipleship curriculum” is by far the least essential element of eective discipleship. Only 44% of pastors considered the curriculum as crucial.  

Furthermore, when asked how church pastors and leaders will improve their discipleship programs, most say they would “develop a more clearly articulated plan or approach to discipleship.” Church leaders and congregants need better methods of discipleship approach and evaluating the effectiveness of their discipleship eorts.

 

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A Survey on How Church Members Discipleship

As Christians bring the message of the Gospel to the world, eective approaches to discipleship become more critical. A research study by Barna Group revealed that church leaders exemplar discipleship ministries among US Christian adults. Moreover, the researchers also surveyed Christian educators to determine the current state of discipleship in the US.  

Survey on Discipleship Amongst Church Members

In a random sample of Christians, practicing and non-practicing, the best way to describe their process of growing spiritually is by “becoming more Christ-like” (43%), followed by “spiritual growth” (31%), and “spiritual journey” (28%). The term “discipleship” only ranked fourth on the list and was only selected by fewer than one in five Christians (18%). Moreover, among those who did not choose the term “discipleship,” only one-quarter consider discipleship still relevant to their Christian experience. This implies that while spiritual growth is significant, the language and terminology surrounding discipleship change.  

In terms of the effectiveness of discipleship, Christian adults still believe their churches are doing well. About 52 percent of those who attended church in the past six months believe their church is doing a good job helping people grow spiritually.” On the other hand,  40 percent said, “it probably does so.”

About two-thirds of Christians (67%) attending church, who have considered spiritual growth as necessary, claim that their church places “a lot” of emphasis on spiritual growth. Conversely, 27 percent say their church only gives “some” focus.  

Only one (1) percent believes that today’s churches are doing very well in reaching out to new and young believers. A majority of 6 out of 10 (60%) feel that the churches are not discipling too well. Pastors give their church higher marks than churches overall, but only a few believe that churches excel in discipleship.  

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Learning To Grow Small Things Grow in 2022

Learning To Grow Small Things Grow in 2022:

Discipleship Themes

how to Grow Small Things

There are several key discipleship themes from the work of Jesus and through his disciples that we can learn from. The first is that Jesus intentionally identified his key persons. He had 12 close disciples and had an intimate relationship with them. Jesus did not remove any one of them nor look for better ones. Jesus knew each one of these men, who in turn devoted their lives to him. These were his people, for better or worse, Judas Iscariot included. Jesus is rarely found without his friends. Jesus and the 12 are always together on ministry trips. He was also invited to family gatherings, religious events, and holiday parties of his friends.  

When the Messiah ate and drank with the people, probably his favorite way of fellowship. He ate with everyone, like the Pharisees, tax collectors, prostitutes, children, and even with many people, but he always included his closest 12 followers with his meals. Jesus lived on a mission with the people. His mission was to be with the disciples and form a missional relationship through them.  

As Jesus roamed around to teach and to heal, he was in communion with others and enabling them to do likewise. Reaching out to the community should not only be an option in the work of discipleship. Linneman concluded that small groups are influential if it is patterned with the life and ministry of Christ that is positioned towards life-giving experience and the life-changing power of God.

 

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Impact of Small Groups to the Church

The Current Use of Small Group 

In a research survey conducted by Ed Stetzer and Eric Geiger among churchgoers in the United States and Canada. Results revealed that almost 8 out of 10 or 79 percent of those surveyed agreed that small groups are significant in their church. Two-thirds said that their church regularly starts new small groups. It also revealed a widespread agreement but not overall engagement.  

Stetzer notes that small group members comprise only 50 percent of the Sunday morning attendance. Statistically, this is low.  The people who are genuinely involved in the church genuinely involved must also be plugged into the small community. Further, he mentioned that in reality, 70 percent is not an unreachable goal for churches that correctly give importance to small groups. There are even traditional churches with 94 percent involvement in small groups. We can consider this number high but doable. 

Community involvement is vital because relationships within the church body are essential. As we preach the gospel to one another in a tight-knit community. Spiritual growth changes us from the individual level to the church as a whole. This change allows the church to direct an outward focus and encourage gospel transformation to the communities outside the church’s walls.  

There is something uniquely powerful with intimate gatherings, whether in a living room, a classroom, or a dining table, that allows people to think and act differently than with the whole of the church gathering for corporate worship. Within small groups, much of the theology taught in pulpits begins to be fleshed out in conversations and actions.  

Church on a mission

Stetzer emphasized that for a church to be on a mission, it should be taught from the pulpit, and leaders must equip the members to wrestle with it in their small groups. It may not be easy, but it is fruitful. Community matters are enough to be prioritized and need to be part of the church’s focus.  

There is nothing more important ministry in the life of our church than our small groups. Therefore, Stetzer concludes that whatever the plans or programs the church has for small groups, it should always keep in mind why small groups are good and take advantage of the good they can bring into the church.

Author, Jeremy Linneman, pointed out that there must be a definite goal of small-group ministry. It can be fellowship, friendship, Bible literacy, missional engagement, and neighborhood services. With his more than a decade of leading and overseeing small groups in different contexts, Linneman relates that he is convinced that the single, unifying goal of community ministries should be no other than discipleship.  

Focus on Christ’s Commission

Since Jesus commissioned us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19), our highest goal for the small groups is not just fellowship or increase. It must be increasing our knowledge of Jesus. It must also be staying in church. Our goal must be to become mature disciples, who are men and women full of the life of Christ. To develop a paradigm for discipleship, start from where true discipleship begins — the earthly life and ministry of Jesus. 

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! 

1 Samuel 7.1-17

What does the Bible say?

Although God did not institute the gathering at Mizpah, it arose from the Israelites’ desire and recognition that God would deliver them from the Philistines even without a physical king to lead them into battles. Samuel himself resided at Rama, with frequent visits to the various stations that required him to attend to offer judgments.

The manifestations at Mizpah turned what seemed to be a doomed ceremony into a triumphant revelation of God’s will to protect the Israelites. God was watching the progress of the tradition right from heaven, the prayer, the confessions, fasting, and the offering made at the altar at Mizpah.

 There are many celebrations around the world. The United Nations has a roster that schedules every other important day annually, even though various national jurisdictions have ceremonial days declared accordingly.

There are also other globally recognized days that though emanating from Christianity, have unfurled into generic ceremonies. One of them is Christmas day. In the hearts of Christians, it’s a commemoration of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. To pagans, it’s a day to make merry as they await the eve of the New Year. It’s a ceremonial moment to recollect and welcome salvation into our hearts in memory of the nativity of Jesus. Most accomplished Christians take time at church and spike that with an act of charity and Merry Christmas.

Celebrating Christ

In the hearts of Christians, it’s a commemoration of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

When Christ was alive with us, he, too, underscored the place of ceremonies. Mary seemed to have the understanding that Jesus could work miracles. However, Christ appeared to disagree with Mary’s timing. By then, Christ had kept a low profile by just being known as the son of a carpenter, Joseph.

Nevertheless, when he changed the water into wine, the mystery remained with Mary herself since even the master of the ceremony could not discern why the best wine was being served while it was too late into the ceremony. 

According to the guidance that God gave Moses, the Israelites were to live in love with one another, observing the annual ceremonies.

He’d installed among them. In the spirit of being one another’s keeper, the Israelites were to spare some little harvests and leave them deliberately in the fields for strangers and those with no means to fend for themselves.

In the spirit of being one another’s keeper, the Israelites were to spare some little harvests and leave them deliberately in the fields for strangers and those with no means to fend for themselves.

What do we see in the world?

Besides the ordinary festivities, God requested a dedication of all firstborns. That’s why Christ was brought over into the synagogue with a presentation of turtle doves. So above everything, Christ’s spirit to embrace and entrench the Law of Moses is evident right into the festivities in the life of Christ. 

One among the days set aside for God is the Sabbath, to which the Pharisees and the Scribes picked offense with Christ for healing a lame person. A deeper understanding of the nature of the conflict arose from the selfishness of the Pharisees and the Scribes.

We should invoke the presence of God in the many ceremonies that find a way into our lives. In its entirety, finding space for God and giving Him the necessary precedence is not the most challenging thing. We are calling God before and after a journey is as simple as saying a prayer, whether audible or in the silence of the heart.

Even though things may happen in very noisy surroundings, that’s not deterrence enough. God can hear the voice of the heart in terms of requests, praises, and reverence to Him. 

In the busyness of this season, LET’S FIND SPACE TO CELEBRATE JESUS.

Demystifying ceremonies and being able to re-create them into simple tasks is the very essence of Christian living. The very simple prayers are what make a fundamental difference. Let’s make things simple. One doesn’t have to pray for hours continuously.

No. Say a five minutes prayer before heading out for the day. Thank God for the cup of tea and toast before taking it for lunch and dinner. When done repeatedly, we can shed off the ceremonial bits and become part of daily habits that build in you the passion for praying as believers. Merry Christmas to all! 

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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 and 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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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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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 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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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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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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