The Importance and Role of Small Groups

Submitted to Dr. Allen England,

in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of

DSM – D13  Discipleship Ministries @ Liberty University

by

Joyce Gerald

December 7, 2014

 

Introduction

The author will present a discussion on, (1) the writer’s philosophy of small groups in a ministry organization.  (2) The importance of the relational group in authentic disciple making and how missional groups help The Body of Christ moves out into the community. (3) Finally the author’s personal status in the community of believers and missional pursuits.  Small group ministries empower the process of growing and “multiplying” disciples and the family of God as it reaches inward and outward to the community.[1]

Philosophy of Small Groups in a Ministry Organization

The writers’ view of small groups in a ministry mirrors the original small group construct demonstrated by The Lord.  Jesus began the first small group when He called the disciples in Matthew 4:18-22 New International Version (NIV). [2]   First he trained the disciples (Mathew 5, 6, and 7) then He sent them out to “. . .  the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: The kingdom of heaven has come near.”  An effective small group follows the theological construct demonstrated by this example.  The early church followed the example that was handed down by the Lord. Murray described the process in this manner, “We will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word . . . And the Word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied exceedingly Acts 6: 4, 7. Christ’s power to save, and save entirely, depends on His unceasing intercession. The apostles’ withdrawing themselves from others work to give themselves continually to prayer was followed by the number of the disciples multiplying exceedingly.”[3] The early church grew because the leaders applied the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit.  The small house churches were the inception of small group ministries (Acts 2, Acts 5, Acts 16, Acts 22, and I Corinthians 16). [4] Bonhoeffer expounded on this principle by stating, “But the incarnate Son of God needs not only ears or even hearts; he needs actual, living human beings who follow him. That is why He called His disciples into following Him bodily. His Communion with them was something everyone could see.”[5]  Bonhoeffer solidified the writer’s philosophical construct of what a small group ministry entails and also its purpose. Small group ministries encourage, train, spiritually nourishes believers and prepares them for the work of reaching outside the walls of the church to begin the multiplication process (I Corinthians 4:1). [6]  A small group ministry is the ideal place to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with non-believers because it is a safe and endearing environment.  Through small groups, the body of Christ has embraced the “one

A small group ministry is an ideal place to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with non-believers because it is a safe and endearing environment.  Through small groups, the body of Christ has embraced the “one anothers” and are a living testament to them. [7] Within this cocoon, the non-believer comes to know Christ and receives him as a personal Savior. Then the growth process begins for them as they experience Him as Lord of their life, and begin their training to become “multipliers”. [8] (John 1:12, Colossians 2:6-7, Galatians 2:20, and Philippians 3:8-10). The term ministry denotes service to others and comes from the Greek word diakoneo.[9]  Accordingly, relationships are borne out of “diakoneo” as disciples learn and grow together under the leadership of a visionary pastor.

The Importance of the Relational Group in Authentic Disciple Making

For the disciple-making process to be authentic, members of the relational groups must have a clear understanding of its purpose and importance.   Mogler explained the vital role of relational groups in authentic discipleship,

The purpose of a church-based small group would be to stimulate the development or spiritual maturity and love to God and men through edification and discipleship, to connect people relationally, to provide support, encouragement and fellowship to glorify God and make disciples of all nations.”10]

Not only do relational groups connect people and provide the support they need the groups also “multiply new leaders and create new groups”.[11]Without this crucial role of the relational group, the church will cease to move forward. Rod Dempsey also expounded on the importance and role of relational groups.  Dempsey reiterated the sentiments of Mogler by stating that relational groups grow in quantity and quality through the guidance and teaching of the lead pastor.[12]  These groups all communicate regularly and efficiently and develop coaches while praying without ceasing as God expanded the vision of the church through the groups.[13]  However the role of the team does not end within the group or “cell”. [14]

The declarative statement of  The Lord to the disciples was apparent as He explained how they were to operate as a body, “I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. [Cell relationships should be solidified and demonstrative of the Incarnate Christ because . . . .] then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23).  Therefore, missional groups [cell/small groups] must move out into the community to be living examples of “lifestyle evangelism”.[15] According to Joel Comiskey, “Frequently a non-Christian is hesitant to immediately enter the doors of a church. It is much easier to first participate in a cell group in the warmth of a home.”[16]  Comiskey continued by detailing the sense of urgency that occurs when pro-active evangelism is deployed into the community as a whole,

Although non-Christians will be attracted by the lifestyle of cell group members, the cell group outreach must also be intentionally planned. The Scriptures teach that the world is lost and on the edge of a Christless eternity (Jn. 3:36; 2 Th. 1:7-9; 1:16; Jude 23). [Christ commanded the disciples to] “Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find” (Mt. 22:9). Paul felt compelled to preach the gospel (1 Co. 9:16) Another inner compulsion to persuade people was the fact that every person would stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Co. 5:11). It was this same urgency that stirred Paul to [write] Romans 10:14.  Some have labeled this type of concern “urgent evangelization”. . . .[17]

Missional groups help church to move out into the community through “lifestyle-evangelism” and “urgent and proactive evangelism”.[18] These constructs are the result of active pastor led, trained disciples, coached and mentored to carry out The Great Commission.[19]

Personal Status in the Community of Believers and Missional Pursuits

Due to the writers physical limitations live missional pursuits is not always physically feasible.  However, the writer uses every opportunity to evangelize and disciple people online “a few at a time” through the use of social media, blogs, devotionals, prayer and relationship building.[20]  Discipleship training is an ongoing process for the Egg Angels Ministry team.  Community outreach among individuals in several states, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom is fostered through the ministry members as they grow relationships with people who are in need of encouragement, prayer, and friendship.  Christ is shared on a one on one basis with everyone member of Team Egg Angels.  To date, the devotional and teaching blog has reached individuals in 135 countries.  The papers and discussion boards, written by the author, from this class, are being shared on the blog as a means of training people in the discipleship process. With reference to the community of believers, the writer is an active member of the Sunday school teaching ministry that is preparing the team to reach out to others outside the walls of the church.

Conclusion

The author presented a discussion on, (1) her personal philosophy of small groups in a ministry organization as supported by research and the model laid out by The Lord, (2) the importance of the relational groups in authentic disciple making, and how missional groups help The Body of Christ to move out into the community. Finally, the author’s personal status in the community of believers and her missional pursuits were shared with the reader.  Small groups, and the final end result of missionary outreach to the community complete the command of the Lord to reach all nations in his name thus, growing the local church while saving the lost for the Kingdom of God. This is the great commission and any church or Christian can follow this example through the development of small groups and relational missions.

 

Notes

[1] Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert Emerson Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 2013), 24.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).

[3] Andrew Murray, The Essential Works of Andrew Murray (Ulrichsville, OH: Barbour Pub., 2008), Locations 5015-5019.

[4] Joel Comiskey, The Evangelistic Emphasis of Discipleship” in  Cell-Based Ministry as a Positive Factor for Church Growth in Latin America, PhD diss., Fuller Theological Seminary, 1997 (Moreno Valley, CA: Joel Comiskey Group, 2008), Section:, accessed December 1, 2014, http://www.joelcomiskeygroup.com/articles/dissertation/index.html.

[5] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003),

208.

[6] Putman, Harrington, Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five, 24.

[7] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion

and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2013), Location 3552-3572, Kindle.

[8] Putman, Harrington, Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five, 24.

[9] “What Is Christian Ministry?” GotQuestions.org, 2014, accessed December 01, 2014, http://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-ministry.html.

[10] Christian Mogler, Small Group Ministry (München: Grin, 2009), 2.

[11] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2013), Location 3689, Kindle.

[12] Rod Dempsey, “The Importance and Role of Small Groups” (video of lecture, DSMN 500-D13LUO, week 7, Liberty University, fall 2014), accessed November 30, 2014.

[13] Rod Dempsey, “The Importance and Role of Small Groups”.

[14] Joel Comiskey, “Lifestyle Evangelism” in Cell-Based Ministry as a Positive Factor for Church Growth in Latin America, PhD diss., Fuller Theological Seminary, 1997 (Moreno Valley, CA: Joel Comiskey Group, 2008), pg. #, accessed December 1, 2014,

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid., “ Pro-Active Evangelism”

[18] Joel Comiskey, ““Lifestyle Evangelism” in Cell-Based Ministry as a Positive Factor for Church Growth in Latin America.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Greg Ogden, “Making Disciples Jesus Way: A Few at a Time,” Greg Ogden, 2007, The Environment of Transformation: The Three Necessary Ingredients, accessed December 01, 2014, http://gregogden.com/.

Bibliography

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003.

Comiskey, Joel. Cell-Based Ministry as a Positive Factor for Church Growth in Latin America. PhD diss., Fuller Theological Seminary, 1997. Moreno Valley, CA: Joel Comiskey Group, 2008. Accessed December 1, 2014. http://www.joelcomiskeygroup.com/articles/dissertation/index.html.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013.

Mogler, Christian. Small Group Ministry. München: Grin, 2009.

Murray, Andrew. The Essential Works of Andrew Murray. Ulrichsville, OH: Barbour Pub., 2008.

Ogden, Greg. “Making Disciples Jesus Way: A Few at a Time.” Greg Ogden. 2007. Accessed December 01, 2014. http://gregogden.com/.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert Emerson Coleman. DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

“What Is Christian Ministry?” GotQuestions.org. 2014. Accessed December 01, 2014. http://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-ministry.html.

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