God created us to want to be known and loved. He made us to be in relationship with Him and other people. We need people emotionally, physically, and spiritually to disciple us and help us grow into our walk with the Lord. A perfect example of this kind of community is a discipleship group.
What is a discipleship group? A discipleship group is a group of believers who meet together regularly to study God’s Word and live life together by eating with one another, serving one another, and carrying one another burdens.
To accomplish this level of deep community, you need to know how to do these four things:
If you’re wanting to lead a discipleship group, you’re probably wanting to engage a community similar to the early church of Acts. The believers there gathered together to worship corporately. They got to know each other in a personal place, their own homes, and best of all they ate together.
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God, and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.Acts 2:46-47 NIV
That’s right, bread is biblical. If you’re starting a discipleship group and offer a decent amount of carbs, I can guarantee you people will show up.
In all seriousness, however, Jesus meant for us to be in a community of safety, able to praise Him and bring our sincere hearts to the group. When starting a discipleship group, ask yourself how you can make it a safe place for everyone involved.
One way to ensure your discipleship group is a safe place, don’t solely preach at them or rattle off a list of why they should come to your discipleship group, love them as Jesus would, and begin to pray for them regularly.
Once you get your discipleship group up and running, you’ll also want to engage with a certain theme or purpose. Are you going over a book of the Bible? Are you dedicating an amount of time each meeting to praying for each other? Decide on where you’ll meet, when, and what you’ll be doing.
This goes without saying that God cares for these people more than anyone else ever could, and so when you start with prayer and ask God how to engage with these people,
God will give you wisdom and knowledge on how to be intentional in all that you do, even in the details of engaging.
As you get to know the people in your group, or maybe you have already known them, embrace them for who they are and where they are. Even though God has given us the gift of being leaders, that does not mean we can use our influence to judge them.
It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict people and God’s job alone to judge them. It is our job to love God with all of our hearts and then to love others as ourselves.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this, all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”John 13:34-35 ESV
If a member of your group is living in sin, pray, and ask God to give you wisdom. The Holy Spirit will be with you as you figure out how to approach this person in love and correction.
Because we can embrace people for who they are, we don’t have to pressure everyone to be on the same level in knowledge or spiritual maturity.
In our discipleship groups, it is our privilege to guide each member into a deeper relationship with Jesus and model that, not to force them to perform any certain way.
Once your group has gathered, it’s important to embrace one more thing: awkward silence.
It sounds weird, but when you first start meeting it will take a while for people to open up. The first inclination of the leader is to fill in the awkward silence with endless teaching and preaching.
To an extent, teaching is ok. Leaders are called to lead in biblical truth of course, but once you wait out the awkward silence, members will begin to speak out and open up to the group, which ultimately should be the real desire of the leader.
As leaders of discipleship groups, we should want people to feel heard and known, and to do this we cannot fill in every spare second with our words but should be letting the group speak for the majority of the meeting time.
Discipleship groups are for everyone involved, they are a community and a family, meant to be engaged and embraced.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into ChristEphesians 4:11-17 ESV
As you and your group grow in your relationships with God and each other, encourage one another in your spiritual gifts, build each other up in areas concerning this passage. The Body of Christ is a beautiful display of how much God loves relationship, so encourage one another in truth, love, and spiritual maturity.
As you get to know people deeply over an extended period of time, be sensitive also to the trials and temptations the individuals in your group will go through. Encourage them, serve them, carry their burdens, and rely on Jesus’ power and capability to love one another as He loves us.
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.Galatians 6:1-2 NIV
After each group, evaluate how you personally lead and how the time with your group went. Be honest. Is there anything you could’ve done differently or improved upon? Are there any members in your group that you want to spend extra time figuring out how to serve them best?
Whatever you come up with, know that the Holy Spirit is with you every step of the way. And don’t get discouraged if everything doesn’t work out the way you want it to the first time around, because God put this passion for discipleship in your for a reason, so you can trust Him with how to move forward.
As you ask God for guidance, also ask for help and feedback from the rest of your group as well.
Don’t back down from their constructive criticism, but instead honor the people in your group by hearing them out and considering their interests higher than your own.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.Philippians 2:3-4 NIV
The Importance of a Discipleship Group
Discipleship is a beautiful part of Christian living that God has given us. When we gather together to care for one another and to glorify God’s name, we are an expression of His goodness and love.
God loves us so deeply and He made us to be loved by Him and others, so we praise Him for giving us the ability to grow, learn, worship, and even eat together in discipleship groups.
As we engage, embrace, and encourage one another within our discipleship groups and evaluate our leading to become better, we are building up the Body of Christ, creating a safe community, and loving one another just as Jesus loves us.