Philosophy of Small Groups

Introduction

The church was founded and organized in small groups which formed the visible Body of Christ here on earth as a witness and light to the world. Believers met for worship in each others homes, and they lived in community, sharing each others burdens, and encouraging each other, building up the community through the spiritual gifts and loving one another, and “by this all people will know that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35, ESV) [1] Discipleship occurred in community. Each member submitting to each other in service and learning from one another. “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” (1 Corinthians 14:26). The church is small, outward looking, mission focused groups that live in loving community as examples of Christ on earth, and their purpose is to build up the Body through the use of spiritual gifts and to expand the Kingdom of God through making disciples of all nations.

Overview and Purpose Statement

This paper is about small groups, their purpose, and how discipleship occurs within that setting. The purpose of this text is to explain the philosophy of small groups within a ministry organization, to discuss the importance of this relational group in authentic disciple making, to explain how missional groups can help the Body of Christ move into the community and replicate. Finally, it explains this writer’s status in regards to living in community with other believers and being missional with that community.

Small Missional Groups

Small groups are “are the primary means of making disciples who make disciples.”[2] By adding missional to the name it sets a precedence and the stage for the focus of the group. Taking a missional approach keeps the group focused on Christ’s commission as well as His commandments. The Moravians were the most successful mission in the modern era. In twenty years they started more missions than protestants in 200 years. How do they accomplish this? “[T]he Moravians saw evangelization as essential and made it a common concern of their community.”[3] They sent small missional groups to settle in foreign areas, including very remote locations, whom would then live as witnesses for Christ.

The members are on mission and “where one member is, there is also the whole body, and where the body is, there is also the member.”[4] The small missional group is the church and is where ministry happens. The small missional group is the connecting point with the lost, it is where believers live with nonbelievers, and where the world sees the light of truth. Multiplication occurs when new small missional group leaders are developed by and through the gifts of the members of the missional group. New leaders are discipled in community and by the community. This is “a simple church model that naturally reaches people with the gospel, empowers them to grow, equips them to serve, and releases them to the mission of Christ.”[5]

Disciple Making

Discipleship is accomplished in community. Each member of the Body of Christ is given a spiritual gift that is to be used for the purpose of up-building the body. Each teaches and develops the other, and lives as an example through service to the rest.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

When Paul wrote this letter, His intent was not to create a list from greatest to least of the spiritual gifts. His purpose was to explain that each gift is to be used for the encouragement and building up of the body as a whole. The only reason a gift may be seen as more important than another is related to how much that gift builds up the body. “The Spirit produces visible effects for the profit of all, not for self-glorification.”[6] When the small missional group comes together for worship, they fellowship, one-with-another, through the breaking of bread, through teaching the Word and sharing revelation, as well as prophesying, and encouraging. Through these encounters each member is disciple by the others.

Outward Looking

Mission is mindset. For one to be on mission successfully, they must understand the mission and its purpose. This purpose is the intent of the one who sends on mission. Why does Christ want His followers on mission? What is the mission and purpose given? The Great Commission lays out the mission for all believers, that in going, they make disciples of all nations, baptize them and teach them the commands of Christ. For what purpose, though? The answer is found in the purpose of Christ, which is “He intended to save out of the world a people for himself and to build a church of the Spirit which would never perish.”[7] To understand what Christ intends is to understand calling, mission, and direction. If every member of the small missional group understands Christ’s commission and purpose then “you should never have to worry about how to spend your time or how to use your spiritual gifts or where to invest your money and resources.”[8]

Replication

The goal of discipleship is replication. Paul’s missionary methods were based in replication. He did not bring the Gospel to entire regions on his own, “Paul’s theory of evangelizing a province was not to preach in every place in it himself, but to establish centres [sic] of Christian life in two or three important places from which the knowledge might spread into the country around.”[9] Paul would replicate himself in those communities, not in every believer, but in those that were committed and filled with the Spirit. He preached to the community, and disciple a few in it, in order to raise up leaders capable of taking the message into other areas, and his model was very successful.

Community

This writer finds Jesus’s missionary methods to be the most sound in all of history. Jesus spoke to the masses, but focused on a few, drawing them near to Him. They shared life together and learned through personal teaching and from watching His example. Those few He poured His life into spread His message through the power of the promised Holy Spirit. The model of the early church is the model that this writer is called to live in and replicate. Through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, the missional team here is called to create a network of interconnected missional churches. The call is to pour into sons of Peace (Luke 10) and the community, and to raise up leaders that will carry the Gospel message into the rest of the province. The Holy Spirit wants to ignite a fire in every province of every country in Africa. This can only be accomplished by the obedience to the Holy Spirit and through relationship. The team will stay in villages as long as is needed.

Evangelism:Preaching

Figure One: Small Missional Group planting process through the use of a son of Peace. Chris Brennan

Conclusion

The church is small, outward looking, mission focused groups that live in loving community as examples of Christ on earth, and their purpose is to build up the Body through the use of spiritual gifts and to expand the Kingdom of God through making disciples of all nations. This is best accomplished through small missional groups that live in community and in contact with the lost. These missional groups seek to disciple others and organize them into similar groups that will again replicate throughout an entire province creating a network of missional small groups. Each group grows in community a through the gifts of the Spirit and maintains an outward look and goal of continuously accomplishing the commission of Christ to make disciples of all nations.

Bibliography

Allen, Roland. Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991.

Blackaby, Tom. The Commands of Christ: What It Really Means to Follow Jesus. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2012.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Discipleship. Edited by Martin Kuske, Ilse Tˆdt, Geffrey B. Kelly, and John D. Godsey. Translated by Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss. Vol. 4. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.

Coleman, Robert E. The Master Plan of Evangelism. Grand Rapids: Revell, 2006.

Earley, David and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is . . . How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Kindle version. Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2013.

Hesselgrave, David J. Planting Churches Cross-Culturally: North America and beyond. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000.

Putman, Jim. DiscipleShift – Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Exponential Series). Zondervan, 2013.

Thiselton, Anthony C. The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).

[2] Jim Putman, DiscipleShift – Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Exponential Series) (Zondervan, 2013), 184.

[3] David J. Hesselgrave, Planting Churches Cross-Culturally: North America and Beyond (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), NPN, Chapter 6.

[4] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), 234.

[5] David Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is . . . How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Kindle version, Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2013), location 4503.

[6] Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 936.

[7] Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism (Grand Rapids: Revell, 2006), 17.

[8] Tom Blackaby, The Commands of Christ: What It Really Means to Follow Jesus (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2012), 118.

[9] Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991), 12.

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