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What is a Discipleship Group?

God never called us to go to church or to a  building called a church. We are the Church, His Body and can meet in any building or outdoor venue weather permitting.(Ephesians 1:15-22 & Acts 2:42-46)

The early Church for the first hundred years met in homes.

In Ephesus, about A. D. 59: “...Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house” (1 Cor. 16:19).

In Rome, about A. D. 60: “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus...Likewise greet the church that is in their house…” (Rom. 16:3, 5). Two other greetings in Rom. 16, to brethren in Rome, suggest that the church was meeting in their houses also, in other parts of the large city of Rome: “Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them” (Rom. 16:14); “Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them” (Rom. 16:15).

In the area of Corinth, about A. D. 60: “Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, greets you…” (Rom. 16:23).In the area of Laodicea, about A. D. 64: “Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house” (Col. 4:15).

In Colossae, about A. D. 64: “...To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house” (Philemon 1-2).

Outstanding among these are Aquila and Priscilla. They first met Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:1-3). Later, they went with Paul to Ephesus, where they stayed, while Paul went on to Jerusalem (18:18-19). After Paul returned to Ephesus, we find the church meeting in their house at Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:19). Still later, Paul returns to Corinth and sends greetings to this Christian couple, who are now in Rome. Again, the church is meeting in their house (Rom. 16:3-5).

Priscilla and Aquila did not leave the church behind! “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). These two Christians were the church wherever they went. They taught others (Acts 18:24-26), and the church assembled for worship in their house.

A “church building” can be a helpful tool for a large group to learn and worship together. But the church multiplied rapidly in the first three centuries without church buildings! When persecution came, they scattered and established more churches! (See Acts 8:1-4.)

Even today, thousands of churches of Christ throughout the world meet in houses of Christians — five or six Christians here, thirty there, etc. And their numbers keep climbing! Like the first century Christians, they partake of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of each week, sing praises to God without musical instruments, give on the first day of the week, pray together, and listen to a message from God’s word (Acts 20:7; Col. 3:16; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; 14:15-16).

With the help of God and His written word, you can establish the church of Christ wherever you are. When sinners obey the gospel of Christ, wear the name of Christ — “Christian” (Acts 11:26; 1 Pet. 4:16) — and practice the doctrine of Christ, they are the church of Christ (see Rom. 16:16). He promised, “...I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18)!

WHAT HAPPENS IN A DISCIPLESHIP GROUP?

1. DISCIPLESHIP

Small groups provide opportunities for believers to learn from each other as they apply the gospel within the intimacy of relationships (Titus 2:1–8). “Who is Jesus?” (cf. Matt. 16:15) is critical to hear from the pulpit. But we also need friends to help us wrestle through that question face to face. We need people who are willing to get to know us so they can help us walk with Christ more faithfully (Acts 18:24–26).

2. STUDY

Some Christian groups meet to discuss and apply Scripture. Of course, there are pitfalls to group Bible study which the elders should work to prevent by providing good materials and capable, accountable group leaders. But by discussing and applying Scripture together, members can learn to understand not only the Bible, but also each other, so that each will know better how to love the other. The combination of a capable Bible teacher and eager learners, all exchanging ideas together, can be powerful.

3. CURIOSITY

When small group leaders cultivate an environment of openness and trust, group members are encouraged to ask questions they might not ask elsewhere. “I heard the pastor use the word ‘justification’ before. Now I just heard it again. What does it mean?”

4. ACCOUNTABILITY

When we think about church accountability, we are right to think about elders (Titus 1:5–9). But elders should first equip God’s people to work out their problems together. Every member should encourage and gently urge their brothers and sisters to better follow the Lord (Matt. 18:15–20; Gal. 6:1–2). But how can we exhort others to “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3) if we rarely witness them practice the faith outside of corporate worship?

5. SHEPHERDING

If small groups can help believers assist each other, they can also help elders shepherd their flocks with greater familiarity and empathy. Model-elder Paul “lived among” the believers at Asia (Acts 20:18) so that he knew how to proclaim what was helpful from house to house (v. 20). If parishioners feel that their elders do not know them well enough to help them through the tears and trials of life, small groups can help close the shepherding gap.

6. EVANGELISM

If we fervently believe in the power of the means of grace—that God works his grace through the official proclamation of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments—we should desire that the “uninformed” and “unbelievers” be present in corporate worship so that they too will worship God as they sense his presence (1 Cor. 14:22–27). But small group meetings can be an important stepping stone to church worship. Likewise, many  members might find it easier invite friends to a small group since it's small and not as intimidating as a regular church gathering.

7. HOSPITALITY

Many believers feel drawn to practice the biblical imperative of loving those to whom they have no natural bond (Heb. 13:2, Rom. 12:13, etc.), but they don’t always know how to begin. The very thought of hosting non-family members can intimidate. But as believers gather in homes for food and spiritual conversation, those present can witness hospitality blossoming from theory to practice.

8. COMMITMENT

Many churches have a number of guests or occasional visitors “orbiting” the church; they are considering landing but not sure if or how they can. Small groups can provide a way for those who are trying—or considering whether they would like to try—to break into the life of the church.

9. PRAYER

In the New Testament believers prayed together “with one accord” (Acts 4:24). Believers pray in private and in their family networks. In corporate worship, they pray heartily while the minister voices the words for the community. But in small groups, children and parents, neighbors and friends, elders and new converts help each other come to the throne of grace, articulating their praise and petitions in personalized words and accents. In such settings, we can learn to pray even as we appreciate the universal fatherhood of God among believers.

10. SOCIALIZING

Fellowship is not a spiritually-neutral activity. As we catch up with friends and make new ones, we practice our calling to understand and love each other. As we share and listen to stories, we learn how others are attempting to intersect the common life and the sacred life.

You Can Become a Group Leader!

Anyone who loves God and loves others is a super candidate for Discipleship Group leadership. It doesn’t matter if group leaders are married or single, younger or older, highly educated or illiterate. It also does not matter if they are male or female, rich or poor.

Whether you’re male or female, educated or uneducated, married or single, shy or outgoing, a teacher or an evangelist, you can grow your group. The anointing for multiplication doesn’t reside with just a few. The statistics reveal that gender, age, marital status, personality, and gifting have little to do with effectiveness as a small group leader.

50% OFF HSFS for anyone who regularly attends and participates in a Discipleship Group and is known by the DG leader.

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