Yes you can! The Holy Spirit leads as you surrender to follow your calling as a disciple and disciplemaker. It's not about trying harder. It's about training to listen to God and follow Jesus, becoming more like the image of His Son. Read more...
Perhaps the best way to address this question is to consider the various kinds of spaces needed for gatherings in a church. In his book The Search to Belong, Joseph Myers shares a helpful scheme as a prism through which to look at points of connection. He says that it is helpful for a church to have the following spaces: public, social, personal and intimate.
Public space means that a person has a sense of identification with a church through its main public gathering, worship. As people move into a church, they might next look for social space, where they find “people like me” or who share a common chemistry. The “like me” can be anything from shared interests, common convictions, and age and stage in life. For larger churches this can take the form
of sub-congregations or mid-size communities.
Next is personal space, which we equate with a small group, typically comprising eight to twelve persons. Here, people learn to share their life together around the truth of God’s Word, and they care for each other without the deeper vulnerability of intimacy. This group size, though, works against transparent relationships. Only as people move into MicroGroups do they find intimate or transparent space or, as Myers calls it, “naked space.”
Small groups need to provide both personal and intimate space. Introduction to the value of deeper relationships is often found through the less threatening yet still personal connection of a traditional small group. But the environment of a MicroGroup with only 3-4 people of the same gender allows deeper transformation to occur; it also serves a vehicle for multiplication.
In other words, different size groups serve different purposes. It is important to be clear about what purpose a group serves and where it fits in to our attempts to shape people’s lives. In one of my churches, we championed the motto that we were “majoring in MicroGroups.” In other words, we were pointing people to the ultimate
destination of MicroGroups.
Some people might argue that true relational maturity ultimately is the ability of the men and women to understand their differences, but I would argue that in the intimacy of a MicroGroup it is best to have same-gender groups. Having led a group with two women and groups with married couples, I have found it difficult to be transparent about particular male struggles when women are present. My guess is that the same would be true of women with men. The other concern is the obvious inappropriate bonding that could occur in a cross-gender group of this intimate a nature. It has been well documented historically that in an intense spiritual environment heart wires can get crossed. Spiritual passion can easily cross over to sexual passion.
The is a lack of prepared leaders is most congregational settings. I rarely hear that a church has an overabundance of leaders. Yet, I like to say, “We don’t have a leadership deficit, we have a disciplemaking deficit.”
I believe that our leadership problem would take care of itself if disciplemaking became our priority. Just as we say, “Disciples are made, not born,” so it is with leaders. We want leaders who are disciples who disciple others. When we bypass the
disciplemaking stage and recruit people into leadership roles whose hearts and
character and not formed in Christ, we will get poor role models. We end up putting people in institutional roles so the management of church programs can go on.
My suggestion is to emphasize growing a network of disciplemaking. Over time this becomes the "farm system" from which to recruit and groom future leaders.
Urge every church who wants to be a disciplemaking congregation to make discipleship, that is, being equipped as a disciple and a disciplemaker, a prerequisite for key leadership, including professional staff positions.
There are four ingredients that converge to make for the transformational environment: relational transparency, the truth of God’s Word, life-change accountability, and engaged in a God-given mission. The small number maximizes the interactive nature of these four ingredients. More people water down the impact of these three elements. Relational transparency built on trust takes longer and becomes more difficult with the more people involved. The opportunities to interact over and share insights into God’s Word are decreased with greater numbers. With a greater number of people there is a natural tendency to move away from life-change accountability to measuring accountability by external standards and commitments.
First, start with prayer. Who does God bring to your mind? Discipleship Essentials by Greg Ogden has a Leader's Guide at the back of the workbook. This time-tested strategy with clear examples helps.
One of the reasons for a covenant is to empower the leader. Without an explicit covenant the leader has no means for accountability. Having a written covenant, which serves as a basis for recruiting and convening the MicroGroup, will minimize this difficulty. It also gives the leader a tool that can be used to call those who have agreed to the covenant back to their stated commitments. In Discipleship Essentials there are two built-in opportunities to review and renew the covenant. This process is laid out so that the participants can self-assess. People tend to be harder on themselves than their partners might be. The hope is that if someone is not fulfilling
they will recognize and be self-corrective when it comes time to review and renew the covenant. If the problemseems more urgent, then it would be appropriate for the leader to ask for one-on-one time with a member of the MicroGroup. I propose a question such as “It appears that you are having difficulty with [whatever the observed behavior]. Is that right? Is there a way I can be of help?” If the problem
continues after offered assistance, then the leader will have to make the hard call and say, “It appears that this is not the right time for you to be in this kind of relationship.”
I wish there wer a simple answer to this question. We have two major training opportunities to guide your church into a transformative disciplemaking environment.
1. Coaching MicroGroup: We offer an online coaching experience that provides a group of four, preferably, but necessarily from the same church. You are guided by a coach through simulated 8-12 sessions where you experience and then are coached to lead a MicroGroup. The idea is that over several years, you will have a multiplying network of Microgroups as the way to make reproducing disciples. Within about 3 years, there will be a cultural shift that provides a tipping point to becoming a disciplemaking church.
2. The second way is what we call a training cohort. A cohort is a group of leaders who are being trained together to understand Jesus' mission for His church and the means to accomplish that. There is an expectation of a monthly gathering of fellow disciplemakers who are majoring in the mission of disciplemaking. This content is a combination of biblical, theological reflection on who is a disciple, the nature of discipleship, the model, manner, and mission of Jesus and the Apostle Pau.
If the long-term desire is to have a culture-shaping effect on the life of a church or ministry, the leaders must share the philosophy and lifestyle approach to discipling. The ultimate goal is that the ministry staff and the decision-making leaders would not only adopt the philosophy of discipling, but also engage in the practice of building people.
That having been said, if you as an individual have a vision for making disciples that is not yet shared by church leaders, that should not stop you from beginning your engagement in disciplemaking. This can be a quiet ministry that grows within the body. In order not to sow seeds of dissension, I would either seek permission from the pastor(s) or church board, or at the least make them aware of your intention. This then lays the groundwork for a bottom-up change and states your desire to work in concert with church leaders.
Information is not transformation. More knowledge does not make a disciple. Even the demons know the Scriptures. The difference is following Jesus to be a disciple. MicroGroups are focused on replication. In other words, when you are "done" with the study, you continue the practice of inviting others into another MicroGroup to hand off your faith, facilitating an internship-style model.
This is where the leader can be a model and a coach. For example, I often hear complaints about how difficult it is to memorize Scripture. Some people will use the excuse of age. They say, “I just can’t remember things like I used to.” We want to be sympathetic, give the person a pass. In my experience it better to keep encouraging them while at the same time keeping them accountable to this particular discipline. They will be glad you did. Besides not letting them off the hook, you might want to explore some coaching techniques. Putting verses on three-by-five cards and carrying them in your purse or pocket for consistent review can be helpful.
Go over suggested ways to prepare the material in the lesson. Take 20-30 minutes a day and cover material in bite-size chunks. That is better than to cram it all in the night before the group gathers. Talk together as a group about the means and patterns each of you use to get ready for the time together. Keeping a life-change journal can be useful.
Record changes in habits, thinking patterns, life direction, understanding of the nature of God, or relationships that have come as a result of the discipleship process. This can serve as a wonderful record of the way the Lord is in the process of “making all things new.”