The goal of the church should be about discipling believers and helping them become more like Jesus Christ.
A Blurred View of Success
Too often the goals of the church have become blurred because of the expectations of society and their definition of success. Society’s view of success has affected how many in the church view success. Ask the average churchgoer which church is most successful: a church that organizes multiple services on any given weekend with an average attendance of ten thousand, or a church that has one service every weekend with an average attendance of 150. Most respondents would probably choose the church of ten thousand. Why? Because society defines success by numerical growth.
However, there is a danger in defining success in this way for the church. The goal of the church worldwide—and each individual church—should not simply be about becoming larger. It should be about discipling believers and helping them become more like Jesus Christ.
Therefore, the danger exists for some small group leaders when they feel the most important goal for their group must be to grow bigger and ultimately multiply into other groups. These are not bad goals, in fact, they should be on the list of goals for the group. However, the desire to be bigger must not be the chief aim. The number one objective of every small group must be discipleship.
The word used in the New Testament for disciple conveys the idea of a learner, student, or pupil. Another source, HELPS Word-studies, says a disciple is “a follower of Christ who learns the doctrines of Scripture and the lifestyle they require.” The apostle Paul wrote of discipleship and spiritual formation when he told the Galatians, “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19, NKJV).The apostle Paul wrote of discipleship and spiritual formation when he told the Galatians, “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19, NKJV). Click To Tweet
Though not an exhaustive explanation, the process of discipleship includes growing in relationship with Jesus Christ through instruction (learning God’s Word), imitation (following godly examples), and investment (putting into practice the principles learned and helping others grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ). These all work together for the purpose, as Paul said, that “Christ is formed in you.”
Therefore, we must make discipleship the number one goal of our small groups.
May Christ be formed in you. (See Galatians 4:19.)
This means the spiritual growth of the leader and the spiritual growth of the individual group members should be the focus.
Discipleship: Growth of the Leader
Small group leaders must make spiritual growth and personal discipleship their principal aim. The leader must seek to grow closer to Jesus Christ, first and foremost by understanding the need of God’s grace and resting in the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, which is the only means by which true spiritual growth takes place. Upon that foundation of God’s grace and Holy Spirit enablement, the leader can further develop close fellowship with Jesus Christ through prayer and other spiritual practices.
Discipleship: Growth of the Individual
When leaders make personal discipleship and spiritual growth a priority, they can then help those whom they lead experience spiritual growth. As the leader emphasizes God’s ongoing work of grace and the need to yield to the Holy Ghost, the leader can help their individual group members focus on discipleship and spiritual formation.
Good Things Will Happen
When the goal of small groups is discipleship and becoming more like Jesus, good things will happen. Leaders and group members will become healthy, growing disciples of Jesus Christ. As a result, groups will grow and new groups will be formed. And the great news is that these new groups will be spiritually healthy because a culture of spiritual growth was developed by keeping the most important priority in perspective: discipleship.
Bio: Jonathan McClintock is an author and the adult editor for Word Aflame Curriculum and The Discipleship Project. He also serves as campus pastor at Urshan College and Urshan Graduate School of Theology. Jonathan and his family live in St. Charles, Missouri.
Small Group Resources and Links
Discipleship Now (Apostolic media for small groups)
To read more by Jonathan McClintock, click here.