Are you struggling…
…to discover an effective SmallGroup training plan…
…to develop radical followers of Jesus?
One that both works and also aligns with Scripture?
Jesus trains His Twelve…then and now!
What a model, although a contrarian model to what most 21st century churches practice today.
Jesus is our perfect model both for maturity and also for ministry. It’s indescribable how breathtaking Jesus is! Where would you go to discover how Jesus ministered in the 1st century so you could bring His wisdom forward to minister in your context? The four Gospels sketch out His approach to training “make & multiply disciples.”
Jesus left the glory of heaven and became a man…without ceasing to be God, oh mystery. And He brought with Him in His incarnation this same life He experienced with His Father and the Spirit from eternity past, interactive co-love and mutual care.
Jesus then invites His people into this same life, love and light He experienced in the greatest SmallGroup ever, the Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit. Jesus calls each of us to embrace Him fully in primary groups as small as 3 or 4 modeled after the Trinity. This was Jesus’ brilliant yet simple strategy to restore the world to intimacy with His Father.
“Jesus focused on the few in small, primal groups to reach the many.”
Have we been captured yet by Jesus’ vision?
I want to suggest some thoughts for your study, using an illustration of backpacking in the European Alps. Incredible beauty lies hidden in the remote accesses, only accessible to experienced backpackers. If I wanted to gaze on this stunning beauty firsthand, I must initiate certain discernible steps for my first backpacking experience, as we also do on our spiritual journey. Since Jesus is the smartest man who ever lived, these insights on Jesus’ ministry training strategy provide us with a broad, flexible guideline to train as agile, creative disciples in the 21st century.
“Come & See” – DRAW IN Disciples (Staging Area)
Jesus trains His Twelve in John 1:35-4:54 and the “crowd” in the Gospels
“Come & See” is like the staging area for a popular mountain backpacking trip, with all the amenities of a welcoming staff, exquisite restaurants, popular entertainment, quaint chalets, clean restrooms, and great children’s care while the parents listen to an inviting presentation of the slopes.
“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? Or an adventurer setting out toward the heights together with others? An adventurer will commit wholeheartedly to climb the trail.
“Come & Be with Me” – MULTIPLY Disciples
JEsus trains His Twelve in Mark 3:13-15ff, Luke 6:17ff + parallel passages
Jesus’ longs to see all His people on the trail with Him. Climbing the heights demands personal ownership and responsibility to prepare together. Wholehearted commitment moves us from the “crowd” to accept our Master’s invitation to join Him on His epic adventure to the heights: “Come & Be with Me so I might send you out….” Yes, it takes hard work to climb into the Alps, yet the exquisite beauty trumps the pain and blisters as we train together as T-E-A-M (Together Everyone Accomplishes More).
From 100’s of followers and thousands of fans, Jesus handpicked His Twelve after a night in prayer with His Father (Mark 3:13-15; Luke 6:12-16). And they came! “Jesus focused on the few to reach the many.” Jesus started small…then refocused small to build depth. From all the strategies Jesus could have chosen, He knew this was the one strategy that works. He modeled His initial faith-community after the closeness of the Trinity (in probably in three primal groups of four, yet fluid).
Jesus gathered those who said “yes” into same-gender, closed groups as small as 3 or 4 for a limited time. Face-to-face relationship with high levels of authenticity and transparency stand at the center of intentional, high impact training and growth in SmallGroups to raise 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 begins 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 continually invites new followers from the crowd into greater commitment (like the 72 in Luke 10:1). Because Jesus built solidly over a twenty month period, His training approach, empowered by the Spirit, has now led to the 100’s of millions of Christians in the world today.
Jesus targeted emerging leaders who reproduced what He 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. Or even making disciples. His heart was for the world. Jesus must build into these first disciples spiritual “seed” or a DNA to also multiply disciples to guide others on this journey (Matt. 28:18-20).
“Go & Multiply Disciples” – SEND OUT Co-Workers
Jesus trains His Twelve in the Rest of the New Testament, including “Acts 29”
Our Master 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 become 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).
From the start, Jesus began with this intended end. For His worldwide crusade to win back His prodigal world, He needed women and men trained to go the distance to guide others back to the Father’s heart. He still does today. This intended end was fulfilled shortly after Jesus was raised from the dead by the Father’s power. His intended end is still ongoing, Acts 29 to each new generation, uniquely lived out in His 21st century disciples.
“Jesus was deeply concerned for the continuation of [His plan], and his chosen method was the formation of a small band of committed friends” (Elton Trueblood).
However, we must also create space for those we train if they are ever to achieve the stature, which is their God-given destiny. If we hold on, we ultimately make both of us co-dependent. We don’t need to be as radical as Jesus (He died to create space!) But do imitate His model.
As His people, we are caught up with Him in His epic adventure to restore His lost world of people to intimacy with the Father. His people have the awesome privilege to partner with Him in His unchanging plan for the ages…before we fully understand. Our little stories now have eternal meaning because they are lived out within His Big Story.
His unfinished mission defines our call as individuals together in faith-communities. It’s staggering! The same God who spoke the entire universe into existence desires to partner with us in this ministry of presence. We are one of His intimate allies. In the words of the character John Keating in the 1989 movie Dead Men’s Society:
“Carpe Diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”
So jot down what you see as crucial aspects in Jesus’ training model.
Jesus’ intended end was for His followers to “Go & Multiply Disciples Together,” like Jesus did.
As the Father has sent me, I am sending you….Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21-22; see also Matthew 28:19-20).
For a printable PDF on this post, click here.
I also mentioned “primal groups” as small as 3 or 4 above. I posted on that on March 9,, 2018.
You may have noticed that I deliberately skipped over Mark 1:17-3:12. This section puzzled me for years. I now believe this is not a necessary training tier for every new Christian, although a crucial one for some when I compare the one-month old disciples in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians chapter one). If you are interested in a deeper dive, click on the free, downloadable PDF, “Special Transition.”
For a printable PDF that expands on this for a deeper dive, click here.