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The Value of Discipleship in Groups

small group bible study

More books and conferences under the banner of disciple-making are available now than ever before. As a result, believers are contemplating the implications of the Great Commission for their lives. With a better understanding of discipleship come questions of how to replicate the process. One important facet is how many people should be discipled together. The size of your discipleship group should be considered before approaching potential group members.

I have found that the most effective discipleship groups, what we call D-Groups, are gender-exclusive. Men should meet with men, and women should meet with women. Some topics and personal problems should not be discussed in a mixed group. While it is wonderful for couples to study God’s Word and grow spiritually together, the crucial dynamic of a D-Group is compromised when couples are involved, particularly in the areas of transparency and accountability.

FIVE REASONS TO DISCIPLE IN GROUPS

While the Bible never prescribes a particular model for discipling others, Jesus invested in groups of varying sizes.[1] Larger groups learned from his teachings and miracles, while his closest followers benefited from personal discipleship and specific instruction. While one-on-one discipling is valid and has it purposes, I want you to consider five reasons to meet in a group of three to five instead of privately with one.

1. Avoid the Ping-Pong Match

First, a group of two can be like a ping-pong match: you, the leader, are responsible to keep the ball in play. “Mike, how was your day?” “Good,” responds Mike. The leader probes deeper by asking, “Any insights from your Scripture reading this week?” “I enjoyed it,” Mike briefly replies. The conversation progresses only as the mentor engages the mentee. The pressure to lead is lessened when others in the group join in on the spiritual journey.

2. One-on-One can be Challenging to Reproduce

Second, a one-on-one model can be challenging to reproduce because the person in whom you are investing has a tendency to look at you in the same manner that Timothy looked at the Apostle Paul. Mentees, after a year or two in a discipling relationship, have said to me, “I could never do with another person what you did with me.” Yet a group takes a journey together. It is worth noting that group members usually don’t feel ready to begin their own groups. Neither did the disciples. But Jesus left them with no choice. Remember, the discipling relationship is not complete until the mentee becomes a mentor, the player becomes a coach.

3. Group of Two Tends to Become a Counseling Session

Third, a group of two tends to become a counseling session, where you spend the majority of your time solving personal problems. Biblical wisdom for personal issues is certainly a part of the discipling relationship, but therapeutic advice every week must not define the group.

4. Jesus Discipled in Groups

Fourth, as mentioned earlier, Jesus utilized the group model. While he spent time investing in a group of twelve, he used teachable moments to shape three—Peter, James, and John—in a unique way. With the exception of Judas, all twelve faithfully followed the Lord, even to the point of death. But these three were the key leaders in the early years of the church.

Solomon, a financial genius and the Warren Buffett of his day, advocated the diversification of assets twenty-five hundred years before Wall Street existed (Eccl. 11:1-2). Wise people invest in a variety of stocks, bonds, and commodities. Jesus, too, believed in diversified investing and modeled it in his discipleship example. Joel Rosenberg and T.E. Koshy pose a thought-provoking question:

What if for three years Jesus had discipled only Judas? Despite his best efforts, Jesus would have wound up with no one to carry on his legacy and his message when he returned to the Father. Jesus didn’t invest in just one man. He invested in a group of men from a wide range of backgrounds, including fishermen, a tax collector, and a Zealot (a political revolutionary).[2]

Jesus poured himself into twelve men, and taught us the importance of the group in disciple-making. Yes, there are times when a one-on-one mentoring relationship is beneficial, but in the New Testament, particularly the Gospels, it is not the norm.

Paul, in similar fashion, used his missionary journeys to train others. He rarely if ever traveled alone, always including Barnabas, Silas, John Mark, Timothy, and others as gospel co-workers. When Paul charged Timothy in his final letter, he stated, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:1-2). Notice that Paul says, “Entrust to faithful men”—plural—“who will teach others.” Throughout his ministry, Paul modeled this practice.

5. Built-in Accountability

Finally, a group of three to five provides a built-in accountability system, as well as encouragement from others. In my first D-Group, two of the three men involved came prepared with a Bible-reading journal I had asked them to complete. But one, a skeptic of the system’s value, failed to make any entry. Prior to joining the D-Group, his excuse for not reading the Bible was, “It’s difficult to understand.” Using the other two men to motivate him, I countered, “Can you just try journaling for the next five days? Right now, you have no evidence to prove that it doesn’t work. By trying it, you will know if it works for you or not.” The next week, he arrived with a smile on his face, saying, “Let me share what I heard from God through his Word this week.” Watching the excitement of the others challenged him to contribute to the group, and to his own spiritual development.

What has been your experience in a discipleship group? Does size matter? If so, how?

About Robby Gallaty:

Robby Gallaty

Robby Gallaty (@Rgallaty) is the Senior Pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN and founder of Replicate Ministries. For more information on discipleship, you can visit replicateministries.org.

[1]The gospels record Jesus ministering in 5 group sizes: the crowd (multitudes), the committed (the 72 in Luke 10), the cell (the twelve disciples), the core (Peter, James, and John), and the close-up encounters (one-on-one). Making disciples cannot be restricted to a particular group meeting; however, a regular gathering time is practically necessary for accountability.

[2] Joel C. Rosenberg and T. E. Koshy, The Invested Life (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2012), 87-88.

*Article adapted from http://www.9marks.org/blog/why-disciple-groups – August 16, 2013

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Christ-Centered Expositional Commentary Series Coming in the Spring of 2013!

Dr. Danny Akin Commenting on a New Exciting Biblical Commentary Series

At the SBC in Phoenix last year, David Platt, Tony Merida and I sat down with the great folks at Broadman & Holman to dream and brainstorm about the possibility of an expositor’s preaching commentary that would be both expositional and Christ-centered. In other words we talked about how faithful, verse by verse, exposition of the whole Bible could properly point to Christ as Jesus Himself taught us in text like John 5:39, Luke 24:25-27 and Luke 24:44-47. Well, that vision has come to fruition.

In the spring 2013 the 1st of a 40-volume preacher’s commentary entitled “Christ-Centered Exposition” will be published. David Platt, Tony Merida and I have the great honor of serving as the editors of the project as well as authoring together the first volume. The initial volume will be “Exalting Jesus in the Pastoral Epistles.” David will produce 1 Timothy, Tony will write 2 Timothy and I will pen Titus. The goal is for the entire series to be complete in 10 years! We certainly need your prayers for that goal to be met!!!

By God’s grace we have enlisted an incredible array of contributors for the series. We thought you might be encouraged and excited by the list of authors who are currently assigned to help us in this significant project, so I have listed them below. It will be apparent that the authors are all committed evangelicals, the majority are Southern Baptists, and most are on the younger side when it comes to age. That was by intention. Further, the Southern Baptists contributors represent the healthy diversity of theological perspectives that exist within our convention of churches within the parameters of the BF&M 2000. And, 6 of the contributors are African-Americans which is a real plus in my judgment.

Now, we recognize in a project of this magnitude there may be some adjustments along the way, but as of today those are the men who will participate and the book(s) they have been assigned.

Our goals in all of this are several. Above all we want to exalt and honor King Jesus. Second, we want to model faithful, biblical exposition. In this context we are excited to show the appropriate differences that exist within in this preaching model. Third, we want a strong missional thread running throughout the series. Building Christ’s Church and extending the gospel to all the nations will be a consistent focus of this series. Finally, for all who preach and teach the Bible, it is our hope and prayer you will be helped in your own ministry of the Word. These are exciting days for the Church of the Lord Jesus. The faithful preaching of His Word, as always, is essential to the health and vibrancy of His Body. May our Lord by His grace and for His glory, use this series for the fame of His Name and the great good of His people.

                                      The Old Testament

Genesis  Volume I Russ Moore
Genesis Volume II Russ Moore
Exodus Tony Merida
Leviticus Allan Moseley
Numbers David Prince
Deuteronomy Al Mohler
Joshua Robert Smith
Judges / Ruth Eric Redmond / David Platt
1 & 2 Samuel J. D. Greear / Heath Thomas
1 & 2 Kings Tony Merida / Jim Hamilton
1 & 2 Chronicles Danny Akin / Adam Dooley
Ezra / Nehemiah Tony Merida  / Jim Hamilton
Esther Jimmy Scroggins
Job Tullian Tchvidjian
Psalms  Volume I Danny Akin / Josh Smith
Psalms Volume II David Platt/ Jim Shaddix
Psalms Volume III Danny Akin / Tony Merida/ Johnny Hunt
Proverbs Jon Akin / Danny Akin
Ecclesiastes Darrin Patrick
Song of Solomon Danny Akin
Isaiah Andy Davis
Jeremiah / Lamentations Steven Smith
Ezekiel Landon Dowden
Daniel Danny Akin
Hosea / Joel Kevin Smith
Amos / Obadiah Greg Heisler
Jonah / Micah Eric Redmond / Bill Curtis
Nahum / Habakkuk Ken Fentress
Zephaniah / Haggai Micah Fries
Zechariah / Malachi Stephen Rummage / Robby Gallaty

 

The New Testament

Matthew David Platt
Sermon on the Mount Tony Merida
Mark Danny Akin
Luke Thabiti Anyabwile
John Matt Carter
Acts David Platt / Jimmy Scroggins
Romans David Platt
1 Corinthians James Merritt / Danny Akin
2 Corinthians Eric Mason
Galatians Tony Merida / David Platt
Ephesians Tony Merida
Philippians Tony Merida
Colossians / Philemon Matt Chandler / Danny Akin
1&2 Thessalonians Mark Howell
1&2 Timothy / Titus Tony Merida / David Platt / Danny Akin
Hebrews Al Mohler
James David Platt / Francis Chan
1 Peter Mark Dever
2 Peter / Jude Mark Dever / Danny Akin
1st, 2nd, 3rd John Danny Akin
Revelation Danny Akin

About Danny Akin: Daniel L. Akin [follow on Twitter] is the president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in theology, preaching, and hermeneutics. Danny was previously the senior vice president for academic administration and dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author or editor of a number of books, including A Theology of the Church, God on Sex, and the volume dedicated to 1, 2, 3 John in the New American Commentary Series. He also contributed a chapter to The Great Commission Resurgence: Fulfilling God’s Mandate in Our Time. Danny is married to Charlotte, is the father of four boys, and is a proud grandfather of four. The Akins are members of Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Danny’s personal website can be found at DanielAkin.com. The article above is adapted from the June 12, 2012 edition of http://betweenthetimes.com/index.php/2012/06/12/excited-to-announce-the-launch-of-christ-centered-exposition-exalting-jesus-in-every-book-of-the-bible/

 

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