Of Dr. Phil, Oprah, Tony Robbins and a Herd of 100 Horses

Word Association – Disciple:

robes, sandals, beards, followers, long time ago, Jesus.


How do we bridge this critical faith commandment from Biblical times to today?

Perhaps we need to rethink what discipleship looks like for us in the 21st Century. We know that the “lets-get-everybody-to-be-friends” strategy may build a mile wide/inch deep people group. But we want more.  You know it, I know it.  I hear it every day.

Assimilation does not come through small groups.  Assimilation comes through serving.  This is a huge shift for many of us. In studying other successful organizations like Compass Point, here are a few more shifts that must begin to take shape:

1. Discipleship doesn’t happen in large settings. Jesus spoke to the multitudes but only discipled twelve. I don’t care where you look in the Bible…discipleship didn’t happen in a large group setting. That doesn’t mean that Sunday sermons can’t get into deep subject matter…it just means that it can’t be the only source for people’s spiritual growing. Too many lazy people wanna show up only on Sunday expecting to be fed.

2. You can’t reach people far from God without putting a BUNCH of effort into discipleship. I once heard Vince Antonucci say that he wanted a church full of lost people and missionaries….YESSSS!  However, you can’t have either without a focused and spiritually growing discipleship process. Some lost people will come to church because of marketing…but the majority come because of a personal invite. I believe that the Holy Spirit shows us the people in our personal lives that He wants us to reach. In order to hear from the Holy Spirit and be relational missionaries for Him…we gotta be Kingdom-focused and doctrinally grounded disciples.

3. Assimilation is not discipleship. The Great Commission didn’t command us to go make friendships…it commanded us to go make disciples – HUGE difference. The idea of small groups being some kind of supper time social club is eerily unBiblical…and a total waste of resources. We were discovering that people were building friendships with folks they served with…not through the small groups. The driving force behind people coming to our small groups was to learn more about God’s Word and take the next steps in their spiritual life. Once we stop trying to make our small groups a hand-holding, Tony Robbins self-esteem experience and start letting them be a place of higher education…cool stuff will begin to happen.

4. Screw the percentages. I used to get intimidated when I’d be at conference listening to the speaker tell me that they had 80% of their people in small groups. Just because I can herd 100 horses around a lake doesn’t mean I can get them all to slurp up the H2o. The reality is that everyone wants to make friends…very few actually want to be disciples. Discipleship has to be about quality…not quantity. Don’t get me wrong…we love that our small group attenders do life together…but our single goal with our small groups is to teach people about God’s Word. If they make a few friends in the process…that’s a bonus…not a priority.

5. The Oprah method was a load of crap. We are a bunch of seriously messed up people trying desperately to live for Christ. Our collective self-esteem is pretty much already shot to Hell.  Self-help lessons and studies about digging a water well in Africa was a complete toilet flush for us…been there…done that…still doing it…don’t need to be taught it. We began to realize that our folks were hungry for a book-by-book study of the Bible. As amazing as it was to comprehend…we had to come grips with the fact that the folks in our small groups wanted to know what God’s Word said…and not take their marching orders from the latest Christianese Dr. Phil.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for this post and your series on Small Groups. I’m now in a 4 person discipleship group – we’ve only been meeting for about 6 weeks, but I can already see the change in one of the guys, who came to Christ earlier this summer. And we’re struggling to even get people to come to our small groups – so we’ve got a fundamental problem already.

    However we’ve also discovered that in the process of creating discipleship groups, many folks opt not to do it. It’s like the rich young ruler – when folks learn of the cost, they have a choice to make, to follow or not…

  2. This one really has me thinking today. Good post!

  3. Posted by Laurie on September 17, 2008 at 10:00 AM

    WOW!!! LOVE IT!!! So perfect for me today. “The Great Commission didn’t command us to go make friendships…it commanded us to go make disciples – HUGE difference. ” It is a huge difference and thanks for the reminder….

  4. this one is still hurting my head…..thanks alot Holy Spirit!

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