Jesus’ training model contrasts with many small group ministries today.
Jesus’ training model is both simple and comprehensive. Whose model will we trust? Jesus’ or our clever models?
Jesus trained in two different tiers, and we do not seem to be doing well today in distinguishing the things that differ. Each tier has different structure, different culture, and so a different target as the end-result. If we choose to follow Jesus as our ministry model, we would be wise to spend sufficient time soaking in this in the Gospels to integrate into our ministries.
1. “Come & See” – DRAW IN Disciples (Staging Area)
John 1:35-4:54 and the “crowd” in the Gospels
“Come & See,” like in John 1:35-51 and later with the crowd, is an open, inviting, noninvasive welcome to all, women and men, rich and poor, educated and uneducated. “Come as you are” into an open, permeable group where all ages and genders may fluidly come and go and get their needs met. When the crowd needed to learn, Jesus taught them. Hungry? He fed them. When sick, He healed.
Jesus designed “Come & See” to bring His Father’s presence into contact through the immediate felt-needs of the lost and the lightly committed. Those who had stepped from the antagonistic world into the curious crowd now had an opportunity to experience the caring touch of the Father and Son in community. Coming to the “staging area” is a crucial part of exploring the beauty in the Alps, but not all.
What do you choose? To be more an admirer of the beauty on the heights? Or an adventurer setting out toward the heights together with others? An adventurer will climb the trail. Jesus’ training model continues…
2. “Come & Follow Me” – MAKE Disciples (The Trail)
Mark 1:17-3:13; Luke 6:17ff + parallel passages
A personal choice to take ownership and responsibility in T-E-A-M is the only condition for climbing toward the heights. God gave me my life. So what part of it is exclusively mine? Pay forward what Jesus so freely gave to us. In Mark 1:17, our Guide invites us to join Him and others on His epic adventure to the heights. As we learn to climb into the Alps, the exquisite beauty trumps the pain and blisters. It take hard work, but is well worth the effort.
In Mark 1:17, our Guide invites us to join Him and others on this epic adventure to the heights. The repetition of the call to others in 4:21-22 and 9:9 suggests a pattern as Jesus invites His followers to the next tier. Jesus gathered those who said “yes” into same-gender, closed small groups for a limited time.
Face-to-face relationships with high levels of authenticity and transparency stand at the center of intentional, high impact, SmallGroups for and training.
None of us can do this alone.
We desperately need Jesus and each other. The invitation to the trail demands personal preparation, increasing commitment and full buy-in from all as a T-E-A–M (Together Everyone Accomplishes More). Jesus’ calls us to the trail. “Come, follow Me and I will make you….” Jesus trains up F.A.T. servants, (Faithful, Available, Teachable). If you want to go faster, go alone. If farther, go together. As Elton Trueblood wrote:
“What [Jesus] did was to collect a few very common men and women, inspire them with the sense of his spirit and vision, and build their lives into an intensive fellowship of affection, worship & work.”
Although the trail may begin more gradually, it expands into the full range of experiences available on any adventure, the dangers and hardships, and also the heart-stopping joys and beauty. Jesus concentrated on the Twelve, even while ministering to the crowd. Jesus invites new followers from the crowd into the 2nd tier to build for the future (like the 72 in Luke 10:1). In Mark 8:34, Jesus invited the crowd to choose to move into the 2nd tier. Both/And. Jesus worked with “a few very common men and women.” Because He built solidly over a ten month period, His three-tiered approach has now led to the 100’s of millions of Christians in the world today. Jesus’ training model continues…
3. “Come & Be with Me” – MULTIPLY Disciples (Guides) Mark 3:13-15, Luke 6:17ff + parallel passages
In Mark 3:13-15 (Luke 6:12-16), Jesus spent the night in prayer with His Father. He then called the Twelve who Jesus had already trained and watched for ten months…and they came. His initial faith-community of Twelve was probably sub-divided into three primal groups of four, modeled after the closeness of the original, divine Small Group. “Jesus focused on the few to reach the many.”
This tier was a more deliberate, twenty-month training in a closed, same–gender group. He targeted emerging leaders who reproduced what Jesus had been doing to them. For Jesus to fulfill His marching orders from the Team-of-Three, His ministry was never about simply drawing in the crowds. Nor even making disciples. His heart was for the world. Jesus must build into these first disciples a spiritual DNA in primal groups to also multiply disciples to all nations.
The Guide must raise up more guides like you and me, followers who could take others to the heights. This ground swell of growth began slowly with Jesus’ disciples. Exponential growth begins slowly. It’s the Kingdom math of exponential multiplication to which Jesus has called us. 3 becomes 9, 9 to 27, 27 to 81 and 81 to 243 in the 4th generation, 2 Timothy 2:2.
Start me with ten who are stout-hearted men and I will soon give you 10,000 more (Oscar Hammerstein in New Moon).
To study this in additional depth, here are a few options.
- Read this 2-page PDF of a big-picture overview.
- Read this 9-page PDF that goes into greater detail. Look up the verses in a Harmony of the Gospels and make this your own.
- Read this PDF for a deeper dive into primal groups, and why I believe Jesus discipled in three groups of four (three groups of four = The Twelve).
- I wrote a chapter in Eternally Relational (still a draft). Beginning on page 120, you may read in more detail on the free PDF download.