Jani: Hello, everyone. Welcome to our new series on discipleship. Are you a little bit excited and maybe even a little nervous for your first meeting? I know I always am when I begin a new discipleship group. Let me suggest that you find a place where you can sit and listen and open your Bible and possibly take some notes. I might add that this is not the best podcast series to listen to as you are exercising or driving. You want to be able to sit down and open your Bible.
A prayer For This Episode
I’d like to open with prayer today. Oh, Father, I thank you for each and every listener. All of us are interested, Father, in you. We want to go deeper with you. Our hearts long for more of you. That’s why we’re doing this. Lord, we know you’ve commanded us to go and make disciples. We just want to learn how to do that in a meaningful way that will last on into eternity. So Lord, we invite you into these podcasts. We invite you into each of our hearts, our words, our thoughts. Father, help us speak to us. Use us as we seek to obey you. We tell you we love you. In Jesus name, amen.
How to begin your First Meeting
Now at this first meeting, you’re going to want to make sure that everyone knows each other. They probably all know you but they might not know each other. So along the way, you can pause the podcast anytime you want to follow instructions. You might want to pause it right now and introduce yourselves with some of the following questions:
- What is your name?
- Tell us where you were 10 years ago in your life? What was your life like?
- Where might you like to be 10 years from today?
- What would you like your life to look like out there in the future?
Why don’t you stop and share with each other right now.
5 ingredients of each meeting
I’d like to describe to you the five ingredients of our times together each week. Most of our episodes will handle all five of these ingredients.
First of all, we want to spend time in worship. We want to take our eyes off ourselves and fix our eyes together on the Lord Jesus Christ for a little while every time we’re together. So worship is one of the ingredients of our time together.
The Word Of God
And then we want to look at the Word of God. We want to focus in on teaching from the Word of God. We want to open our Bibles together and learn from him.
We want to have sharing time, we need to know each other’s prayer requests, our joys and cares, our sorrows, our needs. Now, if you’re listening alone, again, I’d like to encourage you to find a friend to go through this series with together.
Each meeting you’ll want to spend time in prayer. After you are done listening to the podcast, take time to pray together.
And then a final ingredient is accountability. There are going to be assignments each week. And we want to encourage each other to follow through with these.
So these five ingredients are worship, teaching from the Word of God, sharing from our own lives, prayer for each other, and accountability to each other.
2 goals: intimacy and accountability
When I disciple, I keep two goals in mind, intimacy and accountability. Intimacy because you want to go deeper with a few other women this year as you meet together. What is shared in your group meetings must stay within your group. Otherwise women will be afraid to open up and be vulnerable. So make sure there’s a sense of confidentiality among you all.
We want to grow in intimacy together and we also want to grow in accountability. You see, this discipleship group will require a commitment from you. It just won’t work if people attend occasionally. Now, if someone needs to miss a meeting, just make sure and check in with your leader or another member for prayer requests and assignments, but do try to be there each week. Our two goals are intimacy and accountability.
This is not mainly a Bible study, though we will be in the Word every time we are together. You see, discipleship is about going deeper with other believers on our journey to heaven, letting our lives influence each other in biblical ways. Discipleship is about coming out of isolation and learning how to give yourself to others. As you look to Christ together. Discipleship for me means learning to enjoy and delight in Jesus more and more, and then sharing that delight with others. Colossians 1:28-29 says this,
“Him [Jesus], we proclaim, warning everyone, and teaching everyone with all wisdom that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil struggling with all his energy, that he powerfully works within me.”Colossians 1:28-29
Oh, I love that, don’t you? Jesus is to be at the center of every discipleship meeting and relationship. “Him, we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” That’s our goal. And then notice what Paul says, for this I toil, so he is working hard, struggling with all his energy, that he powerfully works within me. Yes, we’ll work hard at this but it’s going to be his energy working in us and through us, that will accomplish all that he wants to this year in our discipleship group.
3 Types of Groups In A Church
Now, as I’ve said before, there are many types of groups in a church. But I think we can basically narrow them down to three. If you’ve listened to some of my previous podcasts, you might recognize these three groups: Committees, Fellowship Groups, and Discipleship Groups. But I do think this bears repeating and perhaps some in your group haven’t heard this before.
Now, committees are formed when the workload just gets too heavy for the leaders. Think of Exodus 18—we won’t turn there right now—Jethro’s advice to Moses, he said that “the work is too hard for you.” The workload was too heavy for Moses. Committees help relieve the heavy burdens on the leaders. Think of Acts 6, the first five verses there where the disciples chose seven to help the apostles serve. A committee has specific tasks. Committees are God-ordained and we should be eager to serve on them. An example would be a pulpit search committee, if you’re looking for a new pastor in your church, or maybe a new building committee. I hope you’ll be eager to serve on committees in your church. But let me say this, those are different from discipleship groups. There are dangers and limitations built into committees. They take and they don’t give strength, they drain and they deplete their members. Committees don’t reproduce. They do a job and then they’re over with that and they quit.
Now, not only are there committees in a church, but there are also fellowship groups. These might be small groups connected to Bible studies or community groups or maybe the children’s ministry or worship team. Oh, these are good. They help build relationships and offer encouragement and hope. Some people also call these support groups. They’re a happy thing. If your church has small groups, please participate wholeheartedly in one. I am.
However, small groups sometimes can become ingrown and even exclusive. Commitment levels can vary. There’s more sharing and less training. It’s not quite the same as a discipleship group. You see, to reproduce leadership, you need to make disciples. As I’ve said before, Christianity is a people movement, which means it is always only one generation away from shrinking into a sharp decline. Our responsibility is to this rising generation.
To relieve leadership, form a committee. To support leadership, build fellowship groups. But to reproduce leadership, you must make disciples. We see this all throughout Scripture, and we’ve touched on this before, but it bears repeating: Moses with Joshua, Elijah with Elisha, Jesus with his disciples, Paul with Mark or Luke or Timothy. You see, we want to be women who are building for the future. Moses did and there was a smooth transition from Moses’s leadership to Joshua’s. But what about when Joshua dies? At the end of the book of Joshua, he makes a speech and dies. And then Judges begins. The time of the judges where everyone did what was right in his own eyes. You see, Joshua never discipled anyone to pass on leadership and teaching to the next generation. He never reproduced what God had given to him in another younger man.
The Call To Make Disciples
Jesus calls us to make disciples. Indeed, this calling was his final command to His disciples before he left them and ascended into heaven. Matthew 28:19-20 says this,
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:19-20
You see, Jesus is telling us to make disciples, and by that he means to teach others what he has taught us. He wants us to be a link in a great chain of believers through the centuries until he returns. Remember that Jesus doesn’t say, “Go and make disciples if I give you this gift.” No. This commandment in Matthew 28 applies to all of his children. Each one of us is responsible for what we do know. Let’s not worry and fuss about what we don’t know. In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul says to Timothy,
“And what you heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, in trust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”2 Timothy 2:2
You see, Paul gives to Timothy, who gives to faithful men who give to others, and it goes on and on. Jesus wants this to become a way of life, so that the fullness of my life in him can be passed on to others who in turn can pass it on to others, who in turn can pass it on to others, who in turn, until Christ comes back and his glorious plan for mankind is culminated.
In your life, you are going to touch many people casually but you will only be able to disciple and train a few. Think of all the people your life has touched so far. Some family members, some friends, neighbors, classmates, community, group members, Bible study group members, neighbors, so on. But God is calling us all to go beyond just touching other’s lives. He wants us to train a few to train them to do more than touch them casually but to train them with what he is given to us.
Think of how Jesus touched so many, all the crowds that followed him and came to him, but he trained a few. In Mark 3 it says,
“He appointed 12 that they might be with him.”Mark 3
You hear that? “With him”. Or Mark 4:10 or 7:17,
“And when he was alone, the 12 asked him about the parables.”Mark 4:10, 7:17
You see, the 12 had a greater access, there was a closeness, a deeper relationship, he was discipling him.
Think beyond today
So even now, at your first meeting, I want you to begin thinking about what’s going to happen beyond today. Begin asking God for women you could disciple in the years ahead with what he has given you this year. That means that even now you need to be actively touching other lives, building relationships, to see whom God might have you train in the future. Without first touching, there can be little training.
Where can you reach out to touch other women? In your neighborhood, in your school, in your church? We don’t want to be the end of the line. We don’t want to cause a break in the chain of faithful, godly women giving Jesus to the rising generations. We want to leave behind a trail of women who love Jesus Christ with all their hearts, and want to disciple other women. Listen, as I read 2 Peter 1:12-15. If you have your Bibles there in your group, open up and listen as I read. Follow along 2 Peter 1:12-15. Peter writes this,
“Therefore, I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it is right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me, and I will make every effort so that after my departure, you may be able at any time to recall these things.”2 Peter 1:12-15
Don’t you love that last verse, verse 15? “And I will make every effort so that after my departure, you may be able at any time to recall these things.” That’s what discipleship is all about. We want to cultivate spiritual daughters, who in turn can pass on the truth of Christ. The younger women in our midst are our sacred trust from God. That’s what discipleship is all about. What a privilege.
Sharing: Bear Each Other’s Burdens
Now, each time you meet together, you want to share prayer requests. Galatians 6:2 says,
“Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”Galatians 6:2
How can you bear them, if you don’t know them? I want you to take time in a minute after I give you these instructions to pause the podcast, and go around your group. And fill out a page for each member of your group with their name and street address and phone number, their email address, their birthday, their family members, if they’re married, and have children, other weekly commitments they might have such as “Oh, I’m in a lady’s Bible study on Tuesday morning,” whatever, any unsaved family and friends.
Let me go through that list again. For each member in your group, you want to have a prayer page with the member’s name, address, phone number, email address, birthday, family, if they’re married and have any children, other weekly commitments, and if they have any unsaved family and friends you’ll be praying for throughout the year. Now, hit pause and do it right now.
Now bring those sheets each week to your group. Next week, you will begin sharing your prayer requests and you want to jot those requests down on the sheets. I also suggest that you ask someone to set up a group text for you all so that you can stay connected that way.
Accountability: The Value of Full Commitment
So that’s our sharing part of our meeting. Now what about accountability? I ask my group in our first meeting to read through a commitment sheet. You can find this commitment sheet below. You’ll want to download, print, and copy this sheet off, and ask each member to read and pray over it carefully during this coming week. Then come back next week ready to commit to the year if they feel God is continuing to lead them in this direction. There have been some times, I must admit, where some of my friends have said, “Jani, I love you but this group is a little bit more intense than what I had anticipated, and I don’t think I’ll have time to make this kind of commitment.” Well, that’s fine. There’s no problem with that. What you want to do, though, is know that those who are attending are committed.
This is what the commitment paper says,
Now, I hope that each person will pray over this commitment. Don’t make this kind of commitment without serious consideration. Leaders that’s up for you to encourage them to get that commitment paper off the website, herestoresmysoul.org, and go through it this week.
Next, let’s go to accountability. I told you there would be assignments each week. Sometimes they’ll be longer than others, this week’s isn’t too bad. First, your assignment is to read and pray over the commitment sheet we’re talking about. Come back next week ready to discuss it and let each other know if you are willing to sign on to this kind of commitment.
Secondly, read through the poem “Call Back” below. I’ve read it a couple of times on the podcast. I’m not going to take time to read it again right now, but read this poem, and be ready to describe someone who has called back to you. Leaders, you may want to make copies for your group for next week. And if no one has ever called back to you, describe how you would like to be able to call back to other women.
If you have gone a little way ahead of me, call back—
‘Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track;
And, if perchance, faith’s light is dim, because the oil is low,
Your call will guide my lagging course as wearily I go.
Call back, and tell me that He went with you into the storm;
Call back, and say He kept you when the forest’s roots were torn;
That when the heavens thundered and the earthquake shook the hill,
He bore you up and held you where the air was very still.
O friend, call back and tell me, for I cannot see your face;
They say it glows with triumph, and your feet bound in the race;
But there are mists between us, and my spirit eyes are dim;
And I cannot see the glory, though I long for more of Him.
But if you’ll say He heard you when your prayer was but a cry,By Mrs. Charles Cowman, Streams in the Desert • December 19
And if you’ll say He saw you through the night’s sin-darkened sky,
If you have gone a little way ahead, O friend, call back—
‘Twill cheer my heart and help my feet long the stormy track.
And then finally, your final assignment is: begin thinking about making a life graph or a “biography basket” that represents your life so far. I’m going to teach about this in the next podcast but just start thinking about it. Be creative, I want you to use visual aids. I’ll share mine in our next podcast. This will be a 20 minute presentation for everyone in your group to get to know you. You’ll have 15 minutes for sharing about your life and then 5 minutes for our questions and comments and prayer over your life. We’ll talk about that more next week.
Now finally, let’s go to worship and end our first discipleship meeting together this way. I want you to spend time in prayer thanking God for each other. What a privilege it is to get to gather together and learn to know each other more deeply. Listen to these verses that can hopefully spur on your time of thanksgiving.
“As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones in whom is all my delight.”Psalm 16:3
“Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love for his wondrous works to the children of man. For he satisfies the longing soul and the hungry soul he fills with good things.”Psalm 107:8-9
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all, making my prayer with joy because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now.”Philippians 1:3-5
“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”Ephesians 1:15-16
So spend some time together before you say goodbye to each other in prayer, thanking God for each other and the privilege that you’ll have of going deeper with him and each other this coming year. May the Lord restore your soul as you spend time together with him.