Simply placing ourselves in a small group does not automatically make us disciples. Indeed, sociology can never supplant the work of the Spirit when it comes to discipleship. The structure simply creates the context for growth to occur—in this case, for personal spiritual training, coaching, support, and multiplication to take place.
Our part, as disciples, is to show up, be consistent, and open our hearts to the Spirit of God living inside of us. God’s part is to work within us and guide the process. In all contexts, discipleship is guided by God as we align ourselves with his will.
As we seek to follow Jesus, we need friends to help us resist the world. Sharing life with others in a small group develops a depth and closeness that builds over time as we navigate the joys and sorrows of life together.
Within a place where we experience closeness and support, we also need a healthy dose of challenge! Following Jesus is not always easy or comfortable, and there are times when each of us needs to be called to account for our words or deeds. While a small group may not be the best place to address highly sensitive issues, a lot of situations can be confessed and dealt with constructively in the Personal Context.
Maybe you’re discussing a particular topic from the Bible and being honest about where you personally are struggling to trust and follow Jesus. In a kind and loving way, your small group can help you process what Jesus is saying to you and what you are going to do in response. Here are the sorts of questions you might ask:
- Are you seeing your circumstances clearly and accurately?
- Are you being too hard, or too soft, on yourself?
- Why have you been responding in less than ideal ways up to now?
- How can others around you help you gain a true perspective on yourself and this situation?
- How can you plan to live differently in the week ahead?
- What practical disciplines or next steps can you implement to give yourself the best chance of success?
- Who can help you follow through on your commitment?
- What will you do if you stumble along the way and mess up again?
- How will we as a group know whether you have truly changed?
These are not meant to be legalistic rules to follow but rather are thoughtful questions to open up healthy and profitable dialogue within the environment of a safe and supportive small group.
To receive this type of challenge is a gift, and to bring it into the life of another is a tremendous privilege. It is through honest sharing and loving accountability that we grow in our walk with Jesus, and in this way small groups truly bring impetus to our journey of discipleship.
— by Bobby Harrington and Alex Absalom, adapted from their new book Discipleship that Fits: The Five Kinds of Relationships God Uses to Help Us Grow.
How to Use This Book
Discipleship isn’t one-size-fits-all. It occurs in five distinct relational contexts, and this book will show you how to develop disciples in each one. “A fresh and needed perspective,” writes Dr. Kennon Vaughan, pastor and founder of Downline Ministries. “Bobby and Alex make discipleship more understandable and tangible for every Christian, in every kind of church.”
Discipleship that Fits
The Five Kinds of Relationships God Uses to Help Us Grow