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?