Transformational discipleship involves moving from the row of chairs in your church where you are simply in proximity to one another, to sitting in circles, to then being in community with one another.
When Eric Geiger and I were writing Transformational Groups, we did a discipleship study that involved over 3,000 Protestant churchgoers and asked them about spiritual formation.
One of the five items that was the most predictive for spiritual maturity was participation in a small class or group of adults such as a Bible study or adult Bible fellowship. But what makes a small group thrive? Our studies discovered five elements of a transformational small group environment: mission orientation, Word-driven mentality, multiplication mindset, stranger welcoming, and kingdom focused.
1. Mission Orientation: First, every small group should be mission oriented and focused on becoming part of and following God in his mission for the world. When someone becomes a believer, they take on the responsibility of being globally minded; this mindset contributes to their spiritual growth and maturity.
2. Word-Driven Mentality: Second, small groups need to be firmly rooted in the Scriptures, which are a source of life and growth. Sharing life’s struggles and encouraging one another is a healthy part of any community. But too much sharing can make the group seem like a support group. The needs people share in the group need to always be hedged-in and examined through the lens of Scripture.
3. Multiplication Mindset: A third aspect is a multiplication mindset. The purpose of a group is to eventually reproduce into another group that is making and growing disciples of Christ. This element of small groups helps them stay open to change and inviting to new people.
4. Stranger Welcoming: A fourth element of small groups is that they welcome strangers. Small groups must always be aware of new people in the church and new people in their groups, intentionality creating a welcoming and relational environment for them. Without this the group becomes inward-focused and loses sight of the mission to make more disciples.
5. Kingdom-Focused: The final component is a kingdom-focused mindset. Group members need to stay focused on what God wants to accomplish in their time together, not how they can be the most exciting small group in the church. Groups cannot exist for the sole purpose of emotional support for its members, but must find their place in God’s greater plan of advancing his kingdom.
Transformational discipleship can happen when small groups are focused on God’s mission, His kingdom, and His Word, and when they are welcoming to strangers and intent on multiplying. All of this begins when people get off the pew and move into circles in order to be in community with one another and provoke one another to love and good deeds. This is essential.
Small groups that produce transformational discipleship are essential not only to the spiritual growth and maturity of church members but also to the advancement of the gospel.
Ed Stetzer (@EdStetzer) is executive director of LifeWay Research. This post originally appeared on EdStetzer.com and was used with permission.
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