Today’s post, like all posts on Mondays, comes from a book that I recommend you place in your personal library. Discipleship That Fits, by Alex Absalom, is one such book. He has a simple definition of discipleship that I like, and he has some great thoughts about what discipleship really looks like, or should look like, in your church and in. your Bible study group. He also tackles an important subject: why the Western church may not be making disciples like it should. As group leaders, you and I have the ability to change this! Here is what Alex Absalom has to say. See if his words fit your church and your Bible study group:
Discipleship is helping people to trust and follow Jesus…So often we in the church focus the vast bulk of our discipleship (and evangelistic) energies on the transfer of information. And while there certainly is an undending depth to what we believe, an overemphasis on information transfer is not the most effective way to disciple others – and definitely is not the predominant biblical pattern…discipleship is imitation…Discipleship is primarily about imitation over information…Good discipleship is a balance of relationships, experiences, and information. Regrettably, the Western church has the tendency to emphasize information downloading over relational discipleship. Instead, relationships should be the highest priority (pp. 19-26).
Alex’s main point is that we tend to think we are making disciples because we are transferring information to them through our Bible studies. Like he said, the Bible contains rich truths that need to be understood by Jesus’ disciples. But if that’s all we do to produce disciples, it will fall short. Relationships are required to make disciples.
If that is true, then here are a few implications for our Bible study groups (I shared these with a group of church leaders in Arizona this past weekend when I was out there to provide a day of training):
- Groups must become smaller – I cannot have a relationship with every member of my group if I’m teaching a “pastor’s class” or another class that is large in size, say 40+ in attendance (that’s like teaching a small church!).
- Groups must become more interactive – Group members must be allowed opportunities to talk and wrestle with the biblical text. A smaller group is a more conducive environment for conversations than a large “master teacher” class. As I hear people in my group share stories of struggles and victories, and as they ask questions of both me and the biblical text, I will know how to serve them and disciple them into people who look and act like Christ.
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