SWBTS General 2

Small-group discipleship cultivates holiness

September 23rd, 2016 / By: Mark Kelly | TEXAN Correspondent / comments

Small-group discipleship cultivates holiness

FORT WORTH “Making disciples who make disciples” lies at the heart of every pastor’s mission in his congregation, two Texas pastors say.

“Discipleship means radically different things to different people,” says Rodney Brown, pastor of Metro Bible Church in Southlake. “Our theme verse is 1 Thessalonians 2:8. Real discipleship is simply imparting the Word and imparting our lives.”

Chris Osborne says the emphasis on making disciples permeates everything they do at Central Baptist Church in College Station.

“We are real serious about discipleship,” Osborne says. “We use our Sunday school classes. We have intergenerational small groups. I’m a book-by-book, verse-by-verse preacher, so we try to really lay out the Scripture on Sunday mornings. We try to disciple the children all the way from preschool through high school.”

Central Baptist’s adult discipleship program is built around a curriculum Osborne wrote himself.

“I noticed there was really good intensive curriculum and really good beginning curriculum, but there was almost nothing middle of the road, so I wrote my own,” Osborne says. “It covers basic doctrines, and I took a group of men through it for a year, then I took a group of women through it for a year. Then they were responsible for taking other people through.”

Osborne encourages those he has discipled to teach the curriculum to groups of four or five: “That helps keep the discussion going; you’ve got better ideas being offered. It’s easier for an introvert to lead it. Plus you get the material through more people that way.”

At Metro Bible Church, discipling integrates with the pastoral care role of the church’s elder/deacon ministry.

“We pastor our congregation through small groups, so each elder—and in our case we have highly qualified deacons—leads a small group,” Brown says. “Small group discipleship is not the end road I’m trying to get to, but that’s where it’s modeled well, in soul care.”

Brown’s congregation is largely composed of Millennials who are first-generation Christians and often feel they aren’t qualified or don’t know enough to “impart the Word” to others.

“We try to make them comfortable and say it’s OK to come back and get answers,” Brown says. “And it’s not the venue. If you like to take walks with someone, if you like to get a workout with them, if you like gardening, if you’re a stay-at-home mom—we have to get creative. Invite someone over in the afternoon when your kids are down for their nap and have them help you fold clothes. But go through the Word of God and challenge one another scripturally and do soul care.”

Brown disciples members over nine months or a year, then delegates them to find others to disciple. He offers to be their “walker”—to join that new group and coach them as they lead that process. “I will show up 20 minutes early, and we’ll go over how we are going to do it,” Brown says. “Then I will debrief with them later in the week. I’ll do this for several weeks, and then they’re on their own.”

Brown followed that process with Chris Mordecai, a Metro Bible member who teaches fifth-grade science in Trophy Club. 

“I observed the way Rod was with me and the way he set me free to find a guy and be that way with him,” Mordecai says. “He called me to a life of holiness, of discipline, of giving up my life to serve the Lord, so the next call was for me to call someone else to give up their life to serve the Lord.”

Mordecai was discouraged when several men he met with didn’t follow through, but then a man began attending the church who was “rough around the edges” but open to being discipled. 

“I don’t know what the difference was, other than this was just the Lord’s orchestration, but he embraced the idea and ran with it,” Mordecai says. “Now he is an example of what it’s like to give your all, serve the church, be constantly focused on others, and love the Lord. It was a blessing to be part of his growth.”

Managing expectations is crucial, Brown points out.

“If you disciple 10 guys, you probably ought to count on two of them lasting long term,” Brown says. “You cannot take it personally when someone walks away. That’s why it’s so important on the front end that you’re really choosing, as best you can tell, the right people. You may spend three years pouring into six guys, and five of them walk away. But look what that one guy is doing. He’s multiplied himself five times over!”  

Mark Kelly is a career Southern Baptist journalist and hosts a podcast at godsrevolution.net.