Hanging Great Weight on Thin Wires
Can Small Groups Become Missional and Make Disciples?
by: Neil Cole
Pastor Brian Jones tells of the response he got from one “nationally recognized” pastor when Brian told him that he hadn’t figured out the whole small group thing yet. Brian said the pastor’s response was something like this:
“Well, Brian, that’s because they don’t work. Small groups are things that trick us into believing we’re serious about making disciples. The problem is 90 percent of small groups never produce one single disciple. Ever. They help Christians make shallow friendships, for sure. They’re great at helping Christians feel a tenuous connection to their local church, and they do a bang-up job of teaching Christians how to act like other Christians in the Evangelical Christian subculture. But when it comes to creating the kind of holistic disciples Jesus envisioned, the jury’s decision came back a long time ago – small groups just aren’t working.”
It is true that we have been trying to make disciples in small groups for a few decades now and are no closer to seeing the world transformed by missional agents than before we started this experiment.
Groups don’t make disciples; disciples make disciples. It is my contention that for far too long we have placed the burden of sanctification on group meetings that were never meant to transform a soul, but to give transformed souls a place to join and interact in a healthy manner.
Your church is only as good as her disciples. A hot band, dynamic preaching, state-of-the-art facilities and wonderful programs do not make a great church if the disciples are simply consumers and unengaged in the grand work of making disciples. But if the disciples in your church are empowered and engaged in mission, than your church is strong and healthy, even if you do not have laser lights or fog machines.
We have done things backwards for too long. We must reverse the order. We think that the solution to having good disciples is to make better churches, when in fact the way to have good churches is to make better disciples.
Correctly applying the activity and behaviors of discipleship in the correct grouping can make significant impact on the overall life of the church as well as her impact on society as a whole. The absence of key groupings robs the church of a needed interaction and participation in significant spiritual behaviors.