Make disciples. This is the mission of the church. We are to be followers of Jesus Christ who are seeking to make followers of Jesus Christ. Growing as a disciple of Jesus is called discipleship.
Discipleship does not happen by itself. It involves people intentionally pursuing discipleship. God is sovereign and he is essential to discipleship, but he has chosen to use his children to be disciple-makers. A church needs to clearly understand, articulate, and model what it means to live as a disciple of Jesus who in turn makes disciples of Jesus.
I encourage a strategy for discipleship that involves a commitment to a large gathering (Sunday worship), a small gathering (a relational small group), ministry or service, and living as a disciple every day in our normal environments. I am going to identify these four commitments under four “Gs”—Gather, Group, Give, and Go.
A disciple of Jesus commits to Jesus and his church. One way we express our commitment to Jesus and his church is by gathering together with the family of God for worship. This is the large gathering when the church as a whole comes together to worship. Worship includes prayer, singing, communion, baptism, and teaching or preaching. The early church was committed to meeting together at the temple (Acts 2:46) and the writer of Hebrews encouraged his audience to commit to meeting together (Hebrews 10:25).
Believers gather together to offer their thanks to God and to express their love and devotion to him. Believers gather to learn God’s Word and to encourage each other to show love and to practice good works (Hebrews 10:24-25). We encourage and challenge each other to be obedient, faithful, and fruitful in our discipleship. If we consistently fail to show up for worship with the church (or even for small group), then how can we truly love one another and encourage one another as the Scripture commands? While we must practice our devotion to Jesus individually we also should do so together with our spiritual family.
An important component of the worship gathering is the teaching of the Bible. The Bible is the curriculum of discipleship. In each Sunday morning gathering the Bible is taught with a focus on helping the hearers understand the truth of the text and how the truth impacts their life. The goal is to help disciples understand what God expects of them and to encourage obedience. Hearers should be challenged to not simply hear and know God’s truth, but to obey it (James 1:22).
A disciple of Jesus commits to gathering with other disciples of Jesus to worship the Triune God.
In addition to a large gathering, a small gathering is important in the life of a disciple. Small groups of approximately 8-12 people in relationship with each other provide a context for discipleship, which is the goal of all small groups. Discipleship is making and maturing disciples who in turn make and mature disciples.
All small groups should be focused on discipleship. Groups should pray together, read and discuss the Bible together, and encourage and challenge each other to obedience and faithfulness. Additionally, group members should show genuine concern for each other and commit to praying for each other outside the group. Group members can also share names of non-believers with each other so they can join together in praying for those in each other’s spheres of influence.
A key feature of small groups should be relationships for the purpose of discipleship. Small groups do not gather just to spend time with each other, but should be focused on leveraging relationships to encourage and challenge each other to growth in discipleship to Christ. Group members get to know each other, care for each other, pray for each other, and spend time together.
Grouping in small settings with other believers complements gathering together with the church as a whole for worship. A disciple of Jesus commits to a small group of disciples for mutual growth in discipleship to Jesus.
Disciples are givers. Disciples are willing to give their resources, time, energy, and talents to make disciples. The early believers were willing to give their resources for the good of the church (Acts 2:45; 4:34-35). We should give from our financial resources (2 Corinthians 9:7) and we should give from our spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10). Disciples of Jesus commit themselves to giving. We invest in the disciple-making mission of the church by giving financially to support the church. Whether our gift is ten-percent of our income or a different amount, we should be giving generously and sacrificially as an act of worship and devotion to God.
Serving within the life of the church is an important part of being a disciple. All believers have been gifted by God to serve (1 Peter 4:10; Ephesians 4:12). All disciples should be engaged in the work of ministry and making disciples. Giving of our time and energy to serve may happen in a ministry of the church that is highly visible or it may happen in some area that is behind the scenes. Whatever our specific area of service, all disciples are to be engaged and intentional in the mission of disciple-making.
Disciples of Jesus gather for worship, group for relational discipleship, and give of their finances and spiritual gifts to support the church’s mission of making disciples.
While Gathering, Grouping, and Giving are focused on community life, Going is focused on the everyday life of a disciple. A disciple’s life is necessarily connected with the lives of other disciples. We worship together, pray together, learn together, and serve together. We also depart from our gatherings and groupings and return to our homes, neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. In these everyday environments we commit to living for Jesus. We pursue God through spiritual disciplines such as Bible reading and prayer. We also join the mission of Jesus by praying for non-believers, being a friend to non-believers, and sharing the gospel with non-believers. Going means that we live as disciples of Jesus in our daily lives.
Disciples who commit to living as disciples every day and who are committed to spiritual disciplines, are prepared and empowered to gather, group, and give in the church. Disciples of Jesus gather for worship, group for relational discipleship, give of their finances and spiritual gifts, and go and live as disciples every day.