these PASSAGES we can extract three principles: sacrificial, relational
and transformational. We can begin to develop a definition that will
help de-mystify what a disciple looks like; once the fog is lifted, only
then can we begin to design an organic process for disciple-making.
Here is my definition for a person, who would follow Jesus:
A disciple is a person who has trusted Christ for salvation and has surrendered completely to Him. He or she is committed to practicing the spiritual disciplines in community and developing to their full potential for Christ and His mission.
From this point your church must develop effective, measurable practices that will produce “Dangerous Disciples” who will be in love with both the person and mission of Christ!
2. Article: What is Discipleship?
WHAT IS DISCIPLESHIP?
Great Commission/Great Commandment/New Commandment/Acts 1 and 2/ Eph. 4:11-16/ Col. 1:28
Characteristics of a disciple-making church:
1. Intentional- The Great Commandment. The New Commandment. Acts 2:42-47. These passages make it clear that the early church had a clear strategy. That strategy revolved around love (love for God, love for people and love for believers). This type of love has the ability to crush arguments, confuse enemies and convince skeptics. In the book of Revelation the church of Ephesus left its first love. God gave the church a very specific prescription: “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place–unless you repent.” A church that has lost its love for God won’t move forward with love for the lost. The gates of hades will not be pushed back. Instead the church will be afflicted with the paralysis of analysis. Maintenance becomes the goal while a movement is what is needed. When the church does not move forward it must move backward in retreat. The solution for reaching the world has always been simple. People transformed by the grace of God has always been God’s method. The church must become intentional to develop people who genuinely love God, love people and love believers. This is not a program. This is a pursuit. After all, love motivated God to send Jesus in the first place. Love is God’s plan for God’s people.
2. Individual- Ephesians 4:11-16. Colossians 1:28. The focus in this series of verses is for pastors to equip the saints to spiritual maturity and for the saints to do the works of service. We are saved to serve. In the Ephesians passage, the emphasis is on every person “being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causing the growth of the body.” The body of Christ will grow as each individual part does its unique specific function in the body. The converse is true as well… if each part of the body is not functioning properly then the body will not grow. Church growth is really a matter of growing and developing disciples. The body will grow in quantity as it intentionally develops each individual to reach their full potential in Christ- quality. Because as the church grows in quantity it is going to need quality disciples to lead the people in the church by example. Remember, “Christianity is more caught than taught.”
3. Missional- Matthew 28:18-20. This is perhaps the most difficult one to address because the church seems to be stuck in a maintenance mindset. Pastors are viewed as shepherds who feed and care for difficult sheep instead of generals preparing soldiers for battle. The Great Commission makes it clear that we are to make disciples “of all the nations.” Yet every year we seem to get further and further behind. Why would God give us a mandate that is impossible to accomplish? The answer is that He didn’t. It is possible to reach the world with the Gospel if we understand that the full development of every person is critical to reaching the world. As the person grows in Christ likeness and maturity we intentionally create opportunities for them to engage directly in the mission of the master. We cannot reach the world if we do not equip the saints to reach their full potential. Based upon these principles here is my definition of discipleship:
Discipleship is the process of guiding individual disciples to grow in spiritual maturity and to discover and use their gifts, talents and abilities in fulfillment of Christ’s mission.
3. Article: How to Pray for Your Small Group
How to Pray for Your Small Group
Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey
Here are 10 tips to increase the frequency and effectiveness of your supplications.
Many years ago, evangelist S. D. Gordon said, “The greatest thing anyone can do for God and man is to pray.” After 25 years of leading small groups and coaching small-group leaders, I have come to one clear conviction: prayer is the most important activity of a small-group leader. In fact, if a group leader could only do one thing to make his or her group more effective, that one thing would be to pray.
Prayer is a fascinating tool for the person with a heart to minister to others. It is one of the simplest things we can do. All we need to do is sit down and lift someone up to the attention of God. Yet most of us will admit that prayer is one of the hardest things to do for others. We get busy. We get distracted. We get discouraged, and we just don’t pray enough.
Highly effective small-group leaders view prayer as a nonnegotiable aid in their ministry to others. They use it often and well. They build it into their daily schedules and make it a high priority. They don’t just pray a little; they pray a lot.
Here are some tips to help you effectively pray for your small group.
1. Have a set time, and a set amount of time, for prayer. Those who don’t have a set time for prayer rarely take the time to pray. Great people of prayer speak of their appointments with God. Most agree that the “when” of the time is not as important as actually having a time. So set aside a time when you will meet with God daily. Make it your unbreakable appointment with God.
It’s also good to set a goal for the amount
of time you will spend in prayer. A beginner may start with 10 to 15
minutes and grow from there. An hour in prayer would be a great goal to
reach. If that seems like a lot, realize that the more we pray, the more
God will work. The small-group leaders making the greatest impact are
the leaders spending time in prayer.
2. Have a usual place for prayer. Our ability to focus and concentrate in prayer is enhanced by having a regular, private place for payer. Jesus spoke of this private place in Matthew 6:5–7. He promised that the God who sees in secret will reward us openly by answering our prayers. Find a place where you can privately and passionately pour your heart out to God.
children were little, we lived in a very small house. I found that the
best place for me to pray was the sidewalk of my neighborhood as I
walked for exercise every morning. Now I pray in my office or as I walk
on a nearby track in the mornings. I often go to a park and sit on a
picnic table and pray. Again, where you pray is not important, but it’s
vital to find a “place” to pray.
3. Have a plan for prayer. Many great prayer warriors speak of using the disciple’s prayer of Matthew 6:9–13 as a plan for prayer. They use it as an outline that includes worship (v. 9), petition (v. 10–11), and confession (v. 12). They cover these areas once or even several times when they pray.
use the acronym ACTS—Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and
Supplication—as their prayer plan. But the specifics of the plan do not
matter as much as having a plan in place.
4. Have a place for recording requests and answers. The weakest ink is better than the strongest memory. We do not want to forget someone’s requests or needs, but often we do. It is valuable to have a list or, even better, a small notebook in which to record prayer requests. Then you have them right in front of you as you pray. It also becomes a testimony of the many prayers God has answered. When I get discouraged, I often get out one of my past prayer notebooks and look at all the answered prayers.
5. Ask God to direct you to appropriate Scriptures. Sometimes we are not sure what we should be praying into a person’s life. When in doubt, Scripture is the best thing we can pray. Paul left some great examples of prayers he prayed for those under his care (Ephesians 1:17–19, 3:16–19; Philippians 1:9–11; Colossians 1:9–12; 1 Thessalonians 1:2–3). I have special verses God has directed me to pray regularly for my children, my wife, and my key leaders.
6. Season your intercession with thanksgiving for each member. It is easy to get frustrated with the people we are called to lead. They sometimes act like sheep, wandering off in all the wrong directions. The apostle Paul seemed to keep amazingly free from the frustrations of spiritual shepherding. I think one of the reasons for this was that he persistently thanked God for those sheep. Notice that Paul consistently begins his letters and prayers with words of gratitude to God for his people (Ephesians 1:16; Philippians 1:3–4; Colossians 1:3–4; 1 Thessalonians 1:2).
7. Mix fasting with prayer for greater effectiveness. Many prayer warriors have discovered a “secret” of prayer: fasting. Fasting is voluntary abstinence. It generally involves abstaining from food for a period of time in order to focus on God and give ourselves more wholly to prayer. Typically, fasting lasts for one complete 24-hour period—usually from sundown to sundown. The early church fasted two days every week, Wednesday and Friday. Pharisees fasted Tuesday and Thursday. Other biblical fasts ranged from 3 to 40 days. Both individual and corporate fasts are seen in the Scriptures.
I generally fast for about 20
hours before my small-group meets on Wednesday evenings. This means I
eat dinner on Tuesday evening and then don’t eat solid food until late
afternoon on Wednesday. When I fast, the group seems to flow better, and
I seem to do a more effective job as the leader.
8. Pray through all possible elements of the group meeting beforehand. It is better to pray before trouble comes. Think of all the possible elements of your small-group meeting and bathe them in prayer. From the attendance to the worship, from the prayers to the discussion of the Word, cover each section with prayer. This will give you peace and confidence that God will be able to do all he wants to do in your gathering.
9. Pray for your apprentice(s), and for the birth of future groups. A key here is to remember that your group cannot multiply unless you find and develop apprentices to lead future groups. Jesus told his disciples to pray for the Lord of the harvest to raise up laborers (Matthew 9:38). Good apprentices are harvest laborers in the highest sense. They help you reap and maintain your harvest, and will one day multiply it as they lead their own groups.
When leaders ask me where to find
apprentices, my answer is always the same: On your knees. God is the one
who can send you an apprentice. God is the one who can help you find
untapped potential in the people of your group. God is the one who can
guide you in bringing out the best in them. You just need to ask him.
10. Pray for God’s grace to help you. Don’t hesitate to pray about your prayer life! Ask God to help you build it into your schedule and your daily priorities. With prayer, all the other things you do will be better. Without it, all the other things you do won’t amount to much.
QUESTIONS FOR THE DISCUSSION
1. Which habits of the early church do you think are still consistently practiced in today’s church?
2. Is the priority of the church to engage the laity in ministry and witness? What do you consider the best way to do this?
3. What ministry and witness opportunity ideas have you found especially effective?
4. Where do you see most churches today on the bell curve of the Ephesus Tendency?
5. Based on the articles from Dr. Rod Dempsey and the information provided in this module, how would you define a true biblical disciple? What part does biblical multiplication play in becoming a disciple?