Discipleship in Small Groups
Jesus set the goal for small groups in the Great Commission – discipleship.
God has a vision for every living thing. “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen.1:28). Everything God has created has an inherent ability to do those two things – to be fruitful (which it does when it grows to maturity) and to multiply. Once the first stage is reached the second stage can be attained.
The first stage has a limit. Every form of organic growth will eventually reach its growth potential. For example, a tree doesn’t keep getting bigger; neither does a cat, nor do you and I. When each life form reaches its limit in terms of growth it can already can take part in the next process of multiplication. There came a time when I stopped growing. But around that time I was able to multiply. Every form of life contains within itself seeds for reproduction, in order to bring forth “after it’s kind”.
*The full fruit of an apple tree is not just an apple; it is to provide seed for other apple trees.
*The full fruit of a newborn baby is not just to grow to maturity, but eventually to reproduce other human beings.
*The true fruit of a Christian is not just spiritual maturity, but to lead others to Christ and to make disciples of them (Heb.5:11-14).
*The true fruit of a small group is not just the spiritual growth of those who attend, but that out of it other groups would emerge.
*The full fruit of a leader is not just followers, but leaders for the next generation. Success without a successor is failure.
*The true fruit of a church is not just the numerical and spiritual growth of that church, but other churches planted out from it.
Reproduction through multiplication is a vital God-given principle of sustaining and expanding every form of life. If every piece of fruit were eaten without taking out some seeds for future planting there would soon be no more fruit to eat. If every human being had the attitude that they would live only for themselves and not procreate, humanity would be wiped out in just a generation. If only the growth principle were observed all of life would soon cease.
How vital is this principle to
discipleship in small groups
- first grow and then multiply. First produce, and then reproduce. If we do not understand this principle we will never fulfil our new creation purpose. On the other hand if we grasp the concept of multiplication our growth will explode.
Many church leaders are focused on growth but know little about the multiplication principle. One of the biggest church growth surveys ever conducted made the following startling discoveries:
*Smaller churches have bigger annual growth rate than larger churches. As a church gets bigger its growth rate gets smaller. Churches become less effective evangelistically when they grow too big. They focus on their bigness and the need to be sustained with big, multi-million dollar building projects, etc.
*Smaller churches are healthier – more people find their ministry and use their gifts; more people are integrated into a small group; more people attend and participate, etc.
*In fact, of all the things that served as negative characteristics in church life largeness of size is the third largest negative factor; on a par with liberalism and traditionalism. Smaller churches show higher quality, stronger growth and are more involved in multiplication.
Nobody understood this better than Jesus. His goal was to make disciples rather than build a mega church. Why? Because He had a strategy which not only included growth, but also multiplication.
Jesus was committed to
the discipleship process.
He preached to multitudes, but only a few were His disciples. Jesus spent a night in prayer before He appointed the twelve (Lk.6:12 & 13. If He was going to invest all His time of earthly ministry into just a few men, He wanted to be sure He picked the right ones!)
In His High-priestly prayer in John 17, He said He had finished the work the Father had given Him to do (v.4). What work was He referring to? It couldn’t have been His work on the cross because He had not yet gone there. He was referring to the twelve. He mentions them 40 times in this chapter. They were His work. They were His priority.
He focused on quality before quantity, knowing that the former would produce the latter. Whilst He ministered to the masses He often withdrew from them and chose to be with His disciples. He was not just looking for people to sign up, but people to train up. He had a plan. He had a strategy. The way the world was to be reached was not by mass evangelism but by discipleship. He would pour His life into just twelve men. These would then each make disciples, who would make
A story is told that when Jesus returned to heaven an angel asked Him, “Lord, what plan do you have for the evangelization of the world?” Jesus replied, I have left a handful of disciples and these will make disciples, who will do the same until the whole world is reached.” “But what if they don’t?” asked the angel. Jesus looked startled that such a question should be asked, and replied, “But they have to. I have no other plan.”
Eventually you and I will die, but if we make disciples we can ensure that our work will live on. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. ‘Yes’, says the Spirit, ‘that they may cease from their labours, and their works follow them” (Rev.14:13). “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (Jn.12:24&25).
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