Pastoral Perspectives

Why be part of a Discipleship Group?

In True Way, our small groups are called “Discipleship Groups” (DGs). They used to be called “Care Groups” but in 2014, we changed the name to better emphasise the reason for our gathering, that is, to disciple one another, to establish the faith of the saints, which is now part of the church’s mission statement.

It may be good for me to clarify some of these terms which we use quite freely but may not know what they actually mean.

  • A disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ whose life is marked by obedience to God’s Word; there is a desire and commitment to grow to be like Christ. 
  • Discipleship is the process of growing in the likeness of Christ.
  • Disciple-making is about bringing people to Christ, helping them to grow in Christlikeness till their faith is established, and equipping them to reproduce this process in others.

The DG is therefore a platform where we hope that members will grow as disciples of Jesus as they commit themselves to meet regularly with each other. But how does that happen?

Paul told the Colossians (in chapter 3 of his letter) that their new life is summed up in one word – “Christ”. They have been united with him in his death and resurrection and his life is their life.

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

This new life in Christ is to be lived in community. Read on.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 

We will never be able to live out these exhortations if we are alone. All the “one another” principles can only be lived out in the presence of “one another”.

True Way is not a big church but you can come to church every Sunday for worship without interacting with anyone if you choose to do so. Even if you remain in the cozy corner for fellowship, relationships can still be superficial.

Although superficiality can plague a DG too, there is a greater chance for relationships within a DG to be close enough for the “one another” principles to be practised, e.g. we can practise humility by submitting to one another and looking first to each other’s interests.

Sometimes, to find a common time to meet, some people may have to adjust their schedules and that can cause inconvenience. If everyone insists on the day and time of their choice, the meeting is not going to happen.

Different people have different needs and in terms of bible study, they would have their preferred choice of topics. Again, the final decision may not sit well with everyone but can we have the attitude that as long as we are studying the Word of God, the Holy Spirit is powerful enough to use the same passage to speak into our hearts regardless what season of life we are in?

People go to DGs for all sorts of reasons – to make friends, to pursue romantic possibilities, to receive encouragement and counsel, to learn, etc.

While most of these might be perfectly legitimate, the primary reason for belonging to a small group is to give us an opportunity to grow as disciples of Jesus. If we have this holy ambition, then look to the interests of others first, love them as Christ has loved us, lay down our lives for them as Christ did for us.

We go to DG not primarily to have our needs met, but no doubt they will be met along the way. Paradoxically, the more we focus on loving others, and doing whatever we can for them, the more we are encouraged and the more we are being built up. Let us have this attitude, “It’s not about me; it’s about them. And it’s about them because of Christ.”

There is another reason why we need one another. The reason God calls us together in community is so that the Word of Christ can dwell richly in our midst and grow us as disciples. 

 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 

We do not only worship together, but we also teach each other the Word of God. The Word ministry can be led by the pastors who preach the Word faithfully Sunday after Sunday. There is, however, another aspect of the Word ministry which is the responsibility of all Christians.

We can call it the “one another edifying speech”. It takes place when we study the Word of God together and help one another as individuals to understand, remember and apply God’s Word to the complexity of our lives.

For this to effectively happen, we really need to prepare our bible study rather than come for DG with empty pages. Some DGLs tell me that as long as their members turn up, they are already very happy.

Your leader has the responsibility to feed you spiritually but you also have the responsibility to teach and admonish one another.

Different people have different capacities in terms of bible study preparation. However, if each can do his or her best, surely everyone will have something to offer to the others, and as in preparing for tutorials, the one who is the most prepared (and in this case, it will be the one leading the study) will benefit the most.

To be able to admonish one another, to speak the truth in love to one another, we have to work towards a more transparent and authentic environment where people are willing to let their guards down and share their struggles, and humble enough to listen without taking offense and being defensive.

17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

If we do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, we will surely grow to be like him, and when we give thanks to God the Father, we will surely be bringing him glory and honour. Know that we are not doing all these by our own strength, but that Christ is in us in the person of his Spirit to empower and enable us.

For those who are already in a DG, I hope that you will play your part in being a committed member so that it will not only benefit you, but your presence will also bring blessings to your fellow DG members.

For those who are not in any DG, please heed the call to join one. No doubt you will have to make some sacrifices, but if they are seen as part of denying self, taking up your cross and following Jesus, would you not step out in faith, knowing that as you do so, you will experience the all-sufficient grace of God, enabling you to do what you may think is impossible.