Discipleship Happens in Small Community. This is another “starting point” for me. For the longest time, I thought that to “go and make disciples” necessitated entering into a teacher/student relationship in which I was primarily educating my pupil (or being educated) about what it means to follow Jesus via a Bible study or a discipleship curriculum. While this is a way of fulfilling the Great Commission, I have recently realized that it’s not the only way that God makes us into His disciples. In fact, I have concluded that small community has been the driving force of discipleship in my life. How about for you?
Look no further than Jesus’ example to see this principle in action. Jesus had a relatively small group of followers, 12 disciples and 3 with whom He spent greater time. Much has been written about the reasons for this, and I will not discuss that here (Neil Cole and others in the Home/Organic/Simple church movement have had a lot of good discussion on this), but I have recognized, based on my experiences, that Jesus still makes disciples through small groups.
One such group I have attended for 12 years meets at a local hotel on Tuesday mornings. The structure of the meeting is informal. Mostly we are prayer-focused, but usually every week someone also shares what God has been teaching them. We eat together. We laugh together. We read Scripture together. We serve together. Visitors are welcome (and often present). We sometimes even annoy one another. There have been times I’ve wanted to stop coming and other times that I have, only to return. We have had people come to the group, find Jesus, learn from those there, and then go out to start similar groups. We have seen miracles. My theology has been challenged in this group and it’s been formulated there. Yes, Jesus has used this group to disciple.
While groups like the one I just described may vary in size and personality, most significantly a disciple-making group will be small enough to foster close relationships and every member’s participation. As we move forward, trusting God to use us to fulfill the Great Commission, I think we can expect to see God gather multiple small communities in our midst.