Have you, like me, ever been frustrated by your small group meetings? At my age I’ve learned not to commit long-term until I’ve tried a group out.
In some cases what was meant to be a great place for God’s people to connect and grow had no plan to make that happen. Others were more about chit-chat than biblical community. In others I found no one who seemed particularly interested in stretching and growing as followers of Jesus.
I was looking for spiritual growth, which is synonymous with discipleship.
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he instructed his followers: “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” (Matthew 28:26-18).
Jesus’s training of the twelve provided a blueprint for them to teach and train the next generation of believers. What was involved? A small group, a teacher, seeking knowledge, growing in skills, learning to love in order to become more like Jesus.
Discipleship isn’t just skills. It’s not just knowledge. It’s a lifestyle following the Master and living out what we see in him as we learn about his character and implement his commands. It’s growing in grace as we live out our faith, based on relationships. Disciples grow in relationship with God and the community with whom they are learning and growing.
That means a group focused on discipleship is invested in relationships, knowledge of God and his purposes, and life application.
Thus three essentials are needed for any small group to fulfill its discipleship purpose: Scripture, prayer, and spiritual friendships.
It’s impossible to grow as a disciple without being in God’s Word, the source of all spiritual truth. It should be the basis of group meetings. It’s there that we meet God and learn about his person, character and actions. Knowing him through Christ is the foundation for living as a disciple, so personal study followed by conversation in our groups lights the path for disciples.
Prayer builds our relationship with God, and group prayer allows us to thank and praise him while also laying out our needs with one mind and heart in faith before him. When we do that, we learn from each other about prayer and sense the work and presence of God within that shared experience.
Finally, all is done in the context of spiritual friendship. What defines a spiritual friendship? Rather than being based on common interests, it’s a relationship focused on our common Savior and thedesire to help one another grow by learning and applying the Scriptures together.
Scripture, prayer, and spiritual friendship—how is your group doing in these three areas?