4 Wrong Assumptions About Discipleship

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I think that all of us would say that the main purpose for small groups in a church is to make disciples. If we are not making disciples, then we might as well call them social clubs. The question then becomes – what is a disciple? For the sake of this discussion, I am going to use the definition that a disciple is simply someone who is taking their next steps to be more like Christ.

The really tough part is how to evaluate your groups for effectiveness in discipleship making. We can make it complicated and have the wrong assumptions about spiritual growth. Here are four wrong assumptions that you can make about discipleship in groups:

Everyone grows at the same pace. The worst mistake that we can make in churches is trying to microwave the growth process in our people. If we don’t get results quickly, then we feel like we have failed as leaders. Lasting growth takes time and cannot be rushed.

Everyone grows in the same way. We are all wired differently as human beings, so we have to expect that we will take different paths toward the center. A great resource for this is The Me I Want To Be by John Ortberg. We have to create different environments to allow different people to grow in different ways.

Only the small group leader can disciple. As long as you are one step ahead, you can take someone else along on the journey. We have to change the mindset that only mature disciples are equipped to lead others. God will equip the willing.

There is a finish line to discipleship. As long as we are in these earthly bodies, we will be striving to be more like Jesus. We all want a certificate on the wall that says we have accomplished the goal, but as Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 

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About the author

Chris Surratt is a ministry consultant and coach with over twenty-three years of experience serving the local church. Chris served on the Executive Teams at Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and Seacoast Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He is also the Discipleship and Small Group Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources. Chris’s first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, was just released by Thomas Nelson.

5 comments on “4 Wrong Assumptions About Discipleship”

  1. Brent Dumler

    Great post. I’ve actually used the first two points in a class I teach on the Spiritual Disciplines. We are currently working through how to make disciples with intentionality, while avoiding making it a structure or system. Thanks for the reminders.

  2. Daniel Sangi Im (@danielsangi)

    Hey Chris,

    I love your definition of a disciple, since it makes Christ the center and goal, and it implies movement. Here is where I’ve landed for a definition of a disciple: “A disciple of Jesus is an individual who is continually being transformed into the likeness of Christ, as he or she is learning and participating in the mission of God with others” (I elaborate that here – http://www.danielim.com/2013/04/07/what-is-a-disciple-six-expert-views/).

    Could I add another assumption to your list?

    Many churches assume that there is only one path for individuals to become and grow as disciples.

    I believe that our discipleship pathways have to be adult-education oriented, since adult-education principles will help people enter into the pathway, and also keep people in the pathway.

    Thoughts?

    • Chris Surratt

      Daniel – thanks for your thoughts on this. I think your definition is great of a disciple is great! I like the inclusion of mission.

      I think that adult-education is a good pathway for discipleship, but I am not sure that it is the only way, since not everyone thrives in that context. It is a great way to walk with people, though.

  3. Taka Sande

    WOW!! ‘Out of the box’ thoughts on discipleship!

    I believe discipleship is like an individual journey, that never really evens. Its has to be an adventure, full of discoveries and fun, as we move towards Christ likeness!

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