There are tons of theories out there on how to structure small groups, the ideal number of members, and what sorts of content the members should engage in. However, something that is often overlooked in these discussions is what it will take to reproduce in a healthy way. If the goal is to reproduce disciples, small groups, and ultimately churches, then what is it going to take to move 8 to 10 people from mere acquaintances to spiritual warriors on a mission together? What will it take for one group of warriors to become two groups?
There are at least four qualities that these small groups must possess if they are going to reproduce in a healthy way.
1. Healthy Small Groups Establish Trust
Trust must be established early on in the life of the group. Some churches throw random people together in a group. Others let groups form on their own. Others have a sort of speed dating type event to get people connected into groups. Some methods are more effective than others and this post isn’t about the pros and cons of each.
I recently ran across Downline Ministries that exists to “equip Christ followers to make disciples”. It looks like they’ve got training resources, books, and articles to help promote making and multiplying disciples. I haven’t really explored their content very deeply but it looks great.
Check out this video for a look at what Downline is all about:
What do you think?
The irony is that I recently wrote a post entitled Disciple Making vs. Downline: Practicing God’s Presence Or Pyramid Scheme. I wrote that post because I had been hearing some negative voices criticizing discipleship as some sort of multi-level marketing pyramid scheme. Those negative critiques spoke disparaging about discipleship as some sort of “downline”. Personally, I don’t care what you call it and if what I do to make disciples (in obedience to God’s will) looks like a pyramid scheme to critics, then so be it.
downline or disciples?
Is disciple making some sort of glorified multi-level pyramid scheme?
The argument I’ve heard recently is that those of us who emphasize making disciples as the mission of our lives more closely resemble sellers of Amway than ambassadors for Jesus.
The “product” (soap, meds, or Jesus) isn’t the point. It’s all about the process of recruiting more and more people into your pyramid (the people in your “downline” or the people you are “discipling”).
The critics actually make it sound like multiplication (and obedience?) are bad things.
To the critic, it seems that if we are sharing the Gospel, pleading with people to follow Jesus, baptizing and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded, and mobilizing them to do the same, we can’t possibly have time left over to actually enjoy God. Right?
I personally don’t know anyone who fits the caricature. Sure, there are always those who come across as fake or “salesy” when they present the Gospel and in some instances, the criticism might be valid.
For my part, however, I couldn’t disagree more with this critique of disciple making.
In fact, I would suggest that we will never fully enjoy God if we aren’t actively engaged in making and multiplying disciples.
Most American churches are doing lots of addition, subtraction and division. Few are doing multiplication.
+ It’s easy to settle for addition. At least it is positive growth. Addition is safe. Addition is comfortable. But addition is often the result of a lack of mission and vision. Church leaders get bogged down in caring for the urgent and the existing members are happy because the attention is all on them. Sometimes people move into the area and just naturally look for a church. Put out a sign and we can probably grow through addition.
– However, addition is just a step away from subtraction. People start to withdraw from the church when the church has no purpose. I bet more people leave the church out of boredom than from being asked to step up and pursue the Great Commission.
Every year (especially around Easter) I hear of another church doing something crazy to get people in the door of their building:
◊ One church gave away a car.
◊ One church surprised random attenders with a shopping spree.
◊ One church dropped Easter eggs on top of people’s heads from a helicopter.
Somehow I don’t think that Easter eggs or Oprah-like bribery is exactly what Jesus had in mind when He told us to make disciples of all nations. Jesus has given the church a specific mission and He has also given us the means to pursue that mission.
In order for the local church to bring glory to God and be obedient to Jesus’ commands we must use Jesus’ means to pursue Jesus’ mission.
The Spirit of God
Jesus told His disciples that He would send them the Holy Spirit as a Helper. Just before He ascends into heaven, Jesus says to His followers, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Because the Spirit of God indwells us, the local church has received supernatural power, spiritual gifts, encouragement, guidance, wisdom, comfort, and strength. These are all gifts that do not come from human abilities, innovation, or training (though by God’s grace He has given us those things too). In other words, anyone can have leadership skills or marketing skills but only the church has the Spirit of God dwelling among them and empowering them to pursue the mission.