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Leading a Small Group & Making Disciples: Same thing or not?

“A square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t always a square.”

Somehow, this idea from geometry sticks with me. I believe it also can help us understand the relationship between leading groups and making disciples.

Every square is a rectangle because it is a quadrilateral with all four angles being right angles. But, a rectangle isn’t necessarily a square because a square also requires all four sides of the rectangle to have the same length.

Making disciples is much like the square. It has specific marks. If a small group doesn’t meet those marks, it isn’t making disciples. Similarly, I believe small groups are like the rectangle; they can make disciples if they have the marks, but they don’t necessarily accomplish those marks simply because they are a small group.

I believe the following marks are required for small groups to make disciples:

  • The right outcomes.
  • The right practices.
  • The right motivation.

The Right Outcomes

John the Baptist summed up discipleship well when he said, “He (Jesus) must become greater. I must become less” (John 3:30 NIV). Jesus “becomes greater”in us through the influence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit bears fruit in us (Galatians 5:20) and the Spirit deposits gifts into us (1 Corinthians 12).  

Every small group at our church, regardless of the phase of spiritual formation it addresses, is designed to produce an increasing measure of character (fruit) and calling (gifts). Everyone has a next step!

The Right Practices

I have heard people say that Christianity isn’t about “doing,” but it is about “being.”  I believe that kind of thinking is limiting when it comes to making disciples. If God’s Spirit wants to develop our character (focus on being) and our calling (focus on doing), then making disciples is about both.

Developing character requires certain practices. Regular Bible reading, journaling, and accountability are essential practices to hear from and obey the Holy Spirit’s leading. If you aren’t disciplined in these practices, it is impossible to become a more “made” disciple.

Developing your calling is impossible outside of actively serving in a ministry; it is impossible to really know how God has gifted you without it. Jesus discipled his guys “in the going.” If we want to make disciples, we must do that as well.   

The Right Motivation

Jesus gave us the motivation;“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” - John 10:10NIV

Everyone is broken. Jesus wants to restore us. Making disciples is the process. We have allowed that motivation to spur us on to action. Five years ago, Westside Family Church was known for reaching the lost but losing the found. We had small groups, but they weren’t making many disciples. Today, disciples are being made in our small groups. Don’t settle for leading a small group. Lead your small group to make disciples.

For more information, visit disciplesmade.com.

Brian is the Next Steps Pastor at Westside Family Church in Lenexa, KS and is part of our Kansas City Network.