Trend… “to show a tendency.” This is how the Miriam Webster online dictionary defines the word, “trend.” The groups world is definitely showing a tendency right now.
I’m often asked what is, even requested to do conferences on, the latest trend in small group ministry. I really enjoy bringing this info to the forefront but, to be honest, I’m not a big fan of trendiness when it comes to church life. All too often being “trendy” leads to a perversion of biblical church and/or judgment of those churches that don’t jump on every bandwagon driving by. Nonetheless, it seems every generation of church leaders finds it a necessity to embrace a new way of thinking, discover a new hero, and dance in the direction that that leader is taking their church. Sometimes the trend is theological sometimes the trend is ideological, but most often the trend is methodological.
The present trend isn’t a trend after all, it’s a biblical obligation with astoundingly important eternal outcomes. What’s even more amazing is that this time the trend doesn’t seem to be spearheaded by anyone but the Holy Spirit. Around the country, church leaders are coming to the same conclusion at about the same time concerning what shift they need to make in the current era.
What is the latest trend? Disciple making is the latest trend. I know what you’re thinking… “Disciple making isn’t a trend, disciple making is what the small group world has been about since its inception.” If that’s what you’re thinking, allow me to revisit my statement. Disciple making that makes mature disciples that make mature disciples is the latest trend.
Two trends ago the groups world focused primarily on creating community. Terms like authenticity, vulnerability, intimacy, etc… were the buzz words of the groups world. A successful gathering would include the telling of someone’s story which led to that group member in tears followed by words of encouragement from others in the room. While we’re hesitant to admit it, in many groups, the telling of our own stories was as important as the telling of Jesus’ story. And, while community is definitely a part of disciple making, it’s most certainly possible to create a close-knit community without making mature disciples.
The last trend that saturated the groups movement was “missional groups.” In fact, many churches began to use the term Missional Community when describing a group. The missional movement had at its core the longing for groups to be on mission by doing social ministry together and being responsible for the needs of and evangelization of those in the community where the group met. Not only that, group members were to be on mission to evangelize personally in the everyday settings where they found themselves including, the neighborhood, the workplace, etc… And, while being missional is a part of a disciple’s life and is the responsibility of every group, a person can be missional without ever becoming a mature disciple of Jesus Christ.
The present trend, disciple making, is changing the small group conversation. Many who are moving in this direction are coming to the following conclusions. These conclusions may or may not be correct, but these are the things I’m hearing in conversation with church leaders around the country.
- The group can be no more than four people, the disciple maker and three others.
- Some spiritual disciplines must be lived out on a consistent basis. In most instances those spiritual disciplines are, reading Scripture daily, memorization of Scripture, prayer, living in biblical community (a group), meeting weekly with the larger church body to hear the preaching or teaching of God’s Word, and verbally sharing the gospel with others with the goal of them becoming a Christ follower.
- Every person that experiences spiritual growth must be willing to make significant sacrifices for Jesus.
- Those who will experience spiritual growth accept the fact that their responsibility is to bring glory to God. My personal conclusion is that church attenders have chosen one of two ideas concerning their spiritual journey, 1) the responsibility of the church is make me and my family happy or, 2) the responsibility of a disciple of Jesus Christ is bring glory to God. In my opinion, at the point a church attender embraces the second option, they’re ready to be discipled.
- Disciple making is relational, not just informational. That is, a discipler is a model for, gives counsel to, expects much of, and directs the journey of the person they’re discipling. They’re not just their teacher, the disciple maker is the disciplee’s mentor.
- Disciple making is generational. When a person has been on the discipleship journey long enough and is ready to disciple someone else, they are expected and empowered to do that.
Disciple making is not a trend, it is the primary expectation of Jesus Himself for His church. And this time, I believe the church is being called into disciple making in preparation for what is already and what is to come, a secularized west in need of a generation of believers willing to live for and, if necessary, die for the cause of Christ.
Come join the movement!