How People Grow…in Groups

In Transformational Discipleship, we unpacked the important relationship between truth, posture, and leaders. God brings about transformation as godly leaders apply the truth to our hearts while we are in a teachable posture.

Truth:

The Lord transforms us, sanctifies us, through His truth—and His Word is truth (John 17:17). The truth of the gospel and the truth of God’s Word has the power to change us and mold us into the image of His Son.

Posture:

God puts us in a teachable and moldable posture to receive His truth. For example, He will use trials, spiritual disciplines, and biblical community to soften our hearts toward His truth. If you are a preacher or teacher, you have surely observed the importance of a teachable posture as you have preached or taught the same message to a group of people, and some have been impacted while some have been hardened. The message and the messenger are the same, but the posture of each person is different.

Leaders:

God uses leaders to apply grace to our hearts. Each person in the body is given the opportunity to administer grace, in a variety of forms (1 Peter 4:10). Because of this truth, pastors and teachers are wise to equip all of God’s people for ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13) so that more people can encounter His grace through more leaders.

As a follow-up to Transformational Discipleship, Ed Stetzer and I wrote Transformational Groups based on a large research study on small groups and how people grow in biblical community. After analyzing the research, we can confidently say “your groups matter a lot.” From a research lens, people in small groups pray and confess their sins more regularly, share the gospel more confidently, give more generously, and serve more sacrificially than those not in a small group.

We see a deep connection between groups and discipleship. Based on the learning in both research projects and based on our understanding of discipleship and how critical groups are to the health of a church, we believe in these three imperatives for church leaders (notice the connection between these imperatives and the importance of truth, posture, and leaders):

1)    Develop your leaders (leaders)

Leaders will reproduce who they are. The faith is often more caught than taught, so the leaders a church puts in their group environments will greatly determine the health of the groups. Leaders must be encouraged and developed. They must be trained and equipped.

2)    Launch new groups (posture)

Biblical community is essential for spiritual growth as it puts people in a posture to receive encouragement and to walk together with others. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation.

If a church is not launching new groups, the church is not giving new people and unconnected people a clear opportunity to live in Christian community. Launch new groups so that more people can experience the beauty and joy of a connected and interdependent posture.

3)    Feed your people (truth)

Connecting people together is not sufficient for transformation. They must be connected together in truth. God desires His people to be both unified and sanctified, and community that is formed on the foundation of God’s Word accomplishes both. Don’t just launch groups—launch groups that are built on a wise plan for discipleship. Don’t just promote community—ensure your community is grounded in Scripture.

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