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Small Groups Help Believers Fulfill the Great Commission Together

Allen White

“We are like sheep, and sheep are dumb,” admitted a small group member in their recent meeting. Another member of the group took offense, “Are you calling me dumb?” Obviously, this was one of the sharper sheep. I would have been offended too. I'm not dumb, but I am a sheep, and sheep need to be led.

Many pastors and church leaders have bought into this idea. “How can my people lead when they need to be led?” Typically, when pastors think of leaders in the church, often our thoughts gravitate toward 1 Timothy 3. As the shepherd of our flocks, our job is to watch over our sheep and protect them from the wolves of heresy, egotism, and multi-level marketing. We take great pains in certifying “qualified” leaders or else groups will only be led into trouble.

The problem is that the harvest is plentiful, the workers are few, and our certification and training processes have created a tremendous bottleneck. “If only more qualified leaders would walk through the doors of my church, then these problems would be solved.” But, is this the mission that we are called to?

I believe that we have made this way too complicated. The Great Commission commands every believer to “Go and make disciples of all nations...” (Matthew 28:19-20). How are we equipping every believer in our congregations to make disciples? Our excuse is often that our members need more training before they can lead others. We continue to train, and the harvest continues to wither.

At New Life Christian Center in Turlock, California, we have found that fulfilling the Great Commission is as easy as putting a Lifetogether study like the new Experiencing Christ Together series in the hands of any member who is willing to gather a circle of friends. The step by step curriculum guides the discussion. There's even leadership training and a video commentary to help the leader/host prepare for the lesson. The host doesn't need to be a Bible scholar. The Bible scholars are on the video.

Since each lesson balances the five biblical purposes, the health of the group increases from week to week. Every week group members grow in their ability to connect with God and with each other, to learn and do God's Word and to reach out to others. By simply following along with the study, the group can become what we desire for it to be.

With the support of experienced small group leaders and staff, the new host is empowered to “go and make disciples…” They are no longer sitting on the sidelines wondering what part they have to play in building God's Kingdom. They are living in obedience to the last words that Christ gave to His Church. And, group members are coming to Christ and being discipled in their groups.

When questions come up or problems surface, an experienced leader who is building a relationship with each new small group host/leader is right there to help the group navigate the issue and solve the problem. For first time “coaches” and mentors, a curriculum like Hosting Lifetogether takes some of the fear out of mentoring other leaders. The key to knowing the group is to know the leader. As this relationship grows between coaches or community leaders and the group host/leader, then the leader grows and the group grows.

For some pastors, this might seem too out of control. Please understand that I am not advocating chaos, just momentum. You cannot sideline character in the process of building groups. But rather than rejecting “unqualified” leaders, why not help them step by step to become qualified? If they are teachable, you are well on your way to developing a great leader. If they are unteachable, then it really doesn't matter how long they've been a Christian. They probably won't become a good leader.

The harvest is plentiful, and the workers are, well, sitting in our pews. How can we help to get them in the game?

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