Category Archives: small groups

Discipleship isn’t a Program

Let’s face it. If discipleship was simply finding and following a program, the discipleship dilemma would have been solved long ago. Programs we have. Effective disciplemaking? Not so much.

I appreciate the role of programs in discipleship. They provide needed resources and helpful direction. They can point us down the right path and keep us from theological ditches. But discipleship takes more than a program. Authentic, life changing discipleship needs relationships.

Jesus spent time with people. In particular, he spent time with the 12 disciples. He taught them. He modeled proper behavior for them. He challenged them. Jesus even rebuked them where necessary. His discipleship course was the course of his life lived together with these men.

Perhaps we should see discipleship more like this. It is best done through relationships with other followers of our Lord. Stronger Christ followers helping other Christ followers live the life of Christ could become our model. We could begin to see discipleship as being done best through relationships rather than programs. Programs can be a tool, but relationships are the means.

Here are three reasons to see relationships as more important than programs in discipleship.

1. We need examples. Information Continue reading

We Need Each Other

Christianity is a team sport.

While those playing individual sports still need a support system (coaches, trainers, moms and dads), those involved in team sports can readily see how much they need other people. No pass can get completed without a receiver and none of it works at all without the anonymous big guys on the offensive line.

Some see Christianity as just something they do alone. No church, no small groups and no accountability. Better to see faith as something individuals practice in connection with lots of other believers.

Here are a few reasons why Christians need each other.

1. Other believers have different gifts and talents and roles. No Christian has it all. Well, we do have all of Jesus and all of his love and all of his forgiveness. But we don’t have Continue reading

Teachers Who Connect

Years ago, I was the guest preacher at a small church in another state. Wanting to set a good example, I decided to attend the only adult small group bible study class they had on that Sunday morning. (It was called Sunday School then, but you might call yours a Life group or some other name.) What an eye-opening experience it was for me!

The class was just beginning as I popped in. No one greeted me in any meaningful way. (They didn’t yet know I was the guest preacher!) The teacher did ask my name, though she didn’t bother to find out anything else about me. Class started with the teacher complaining about how similar the lesson was to the lessons from previous weeks. She seemed bored by the subject and disinterested in her class members. With as little enthusiasm as a teenage boy forced to clean his room on a Saturday morning, she taught our class that day.

Class was boring, lifeless and ineffective. It was all I could do to stay awake myself! Class Continue reading

A Determined Heart

“Now Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Ezra 7:10

This verse first jumped out at me while in college. I underlined it in my devotional reading (A habit I still employ) and used it to teach children’s church (I still apply my  sermons to children- and to immature adults). It has been meaningful to me and perhaps you will find it to be that for you.

Note that Ezra “determined in his heart” to do three things. That is, these are the commitments that Ezra made and actions he vowed to take. Perhaps you might make the same determination in  your heart.

First, Ezra determined Continue reading

The future of discipleship

It was Training Union once.  SBC churches had a program for discipleship that was almost universally adopted by our churches.  It met on Sunday nights and was pretty well attended.  There were study course books and diplomas and discipleship had a strong niche.  Life was more patterned; routines more constant.

Discipleship for my church- and many churches- has had to change.  At FBC O’Fallon, IL, Continue reading

Small Groups or Bust! 3 Reasons Small Groups Matter in Church Life

   I make a big deal out of small groups (we call our Sunday School classes LIFE groups) at FBC O’Fallon, IL.  Why would I even care since I’m not preaching in those classes?  (Insert your own sermon joke punch line.)  Here are 3 important reasons why Christians should be in a small group in their church. 

1.  For Connection.  People are like legos- made for connection.  Small groups allow people to get connected on more personal levels.  You need that connection- even you computer nerds who are socially awkward!  And, more importantly, other people need you.  Small groups allow us to know each other’s names and favorite ice cream flavors.

2.  For Information.  I don’t let people ask questions during the sermon.  I probably wouldn’t know the answer anyway!  But discussions can happen in small groups.  We can sharpen each other and think together.  It is a great way to learn and study and grow.  Attend a small group bible study long enough and you will probably know much more about the bible than you do now.  And that is a good thing.

3.  For inspiration.  Okay, I can’t relate to the pastor.  He’s kind of weird anyway.  But I can sure relate to that guy in the class who is struggling to live out his faith in a hostile work environment.  I can relate to the lady who wants to shine the light of Christ in her life even though she has a suspicious spot on the x-ray.  Those people inspire me- and I hope I can inspire them! 

   I love small groups enough that Vickie and I are going to teach a LIFE group on Saturday nights for the 7 weeks  our church goes through the “Immersed: 40 Days to a Deeper Faith” study beginning this weekend- even though I already preach my sermon 4 times each weekend. 

   Small groups or bust!