Disciple Making Through Groups, Asking the Hardest Question of All


Okay… I’m going out on a limb today. And, I’d imagine some who read this post will want to saw the limb off with me still on it. But, I do believe we, the groups world, need to start a discussion concerning what it means to make disciples. Here goes…

The goal of a group ministry is to make mature disciples who can then make disciples. So many of us in the group space will start a consultation or training experience by asking those in the room, “What is our goal?” The answer remains consistent, “to make disciples.” The next question we have to ask is, “Is what we’re expecting of our group members going to transform them into mature disciples of Jesus Christ?”

Being the stereotypical/perfect group member doesn’t necessarily mean someone is becoming a mature disciple of Jesus Christ. My description of the stereotypical/perfect group member would be someone who seldom misses a group meeting, someone who engages in the conversational Bible study and adds substantially to the conversation, someone who is on mission when the group is involved in a mission endeavor, someone who is only conflictual when necessary and always reaches out to resolve conflict, and someone who does their part to meet the spiritual, emotional, and material needs of other group members.

These people are a gift to any group and any group leader. But, are they becoming spiritually mature followers of Jesus Christ capable of discipling someone else? (2 Timothy 2:2) While we know the goal of spiritual growth is heart transformation, not behavior modification, if a believer isn’t practicing at least four spiritual disciplines consistently we know that person will never become a mature follower of Jesus Christ.

The Navigators, a ministry I worked for for three years, concluded wisely that there are four primary disciplines that are necessity if a person is going to grow in maturity. They include time in the Word (daily, personal Bible study as well as studying Scripture with others), Fellowship (having substantial, biblical relationships with other believers where accountability and grace are norm), Prayer (spending time in personal and meaningful conversation with God daily and praying with others), Witnessing (sharing the Gospel verbally with those who are not yet followers of Jesus Christ).

I think it’s important for every groups pastor to ask themselves this question, “Are these four expectations ingrained in the fiber of my groups ministry?” That is, “Do I lead my group leaders to be engaged in these four disciplines and do they expect them of their group members and model them for their group members?”

You may have a celebrated groups ministry full of stereoptypical/perfect group members, but are they becoming spiritually mature followers of Jesus Christ who will someday be capable of discipling someone else?



  1. Bingo. This means a total recalibration of what we call “success” and a gut-check of typical excuses. Is my group producing disciples who can reproduce themselves in new disciples? Curtis Sergeant says “not all disciples are worth reproducing” so let’s start there. Our primary metric should then become “are they reproducing?” This goes beyond what is normally accepted as “mere evangelism” to a process that enables one disciple to reproduce another. No more “but that’s not my gift” or, “that’s not what this group is for.” Stay out on the limb, Rick.

  2. The premise of the four daily disciplines may be flawed and part of the problem. We don’t have clear processes for sanctification like Dallas Willard asserts. Once people do the four habits you outlined and don’t change then they give up or pretend. I really like James Bryan Smith’s triangle of transformation. I think the values of: right beliefs (narratives), community, disciplines with empowering of Holy Spirit should drive highly individualized practices that produce a clear goal which is fruit of the Spirit, NOT just activities of doing the 4 practices.

    I also believe that we place too much emphasis on the 2 hour group meeting and not enough emphasis on time spent outside the meeting — the biblical value of hospitality. Cannot make disciples just spending 2 hours together a week. We are fooling ourselves if we think 2 hours a week in a meeting will make a disciple.

  3. Rick, I’m taking this blog to my Leaders group tonight. We want to be more aggressive with how we disciple and make disciples.

    Something that is out of our control l, I’ve noticed, is the active involvement of that individual. We can setup venues and line up calendar dates to do outreaches etc, but some won’t show up. I think the problem lies heavily on prayer from the leaders over the group.

    Jesus, across the Gospels, separated himself to a solitary location to be with the Father. You will see that before and after those solitary moments of prayer He did miraculous things such as healings and many “followed”.

    Prayer from the leaders must be a back bone to activate the 4 principles in making disciples and we will see the Holy Spirit moving in lives thus inspiring them to follow Jesus.

    Love the topic brother! God bless you and your career.

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