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Discipleship 101: Balance

I’m the small groups pastor here at the Summit. I have the best job at our church. Maybe the best job in the entire world since this is the best church on earth. My day-2-day involves a lot of coaching small group leaders to grow as ones who make disciples of Jesus for the glory of God. In coaching them, I run into a few pretty common situations that can keep a group from growing / moving forward as disciples. The truth is, these are usually not complex situations, but ones that arise because the leader has forgotten or never heard some basic biblical principles on discipleship. I want to tackle those here on the blog and I hope this is a help to our small group leaders at the Summit as well as to other pastors and leaders serving in a direct disciple-making context.

Principle 1: Balance

Just like in a food diet, balance in your spiritual diet is critical to your long-term health as a disciple of Jesus. Probably the most common mistake I see in small groups is imbalance in how the leader plans for his group members to grow as disciples.
I should note that this problem is not isolated to group leaders. Many lead pastors suffer this same dilemma. Rick Warren talks to them in a 2005 article on this topic.

Imbalance: how it happens

Imbalance usually comes about unintentionally and to the ignorance of the group leader and thus why it is such a common, easily treatable problem. But if left untreated an imbalanced spiritual diet will lead to a very unhealthy environment for spiritual growth. What usually happens is that God in his grace gives a person a passion for a certain area of life as a disciple (for our purposes here, a disciple of Jesus is one who loves God, loves other believers, and loves the world.) be it bible study, evangelism, prayer, accountability, ministry to the poor, etc. This person then becomes a small group leader and out of sincere motives tries to get others in their small group as passionate about this area of life as he is. One of two things follows: either, the group slowly dissolves and the leader becomes discouraged or angry, OR the group gets behind the leader and it morphs into a spiritual “cause” group.  Neither lead to healthy environments for disciple-making.

Balancing the diet

At the Summit, we combine the great commandment with the great commission to say a disciple Loves God, loves Each Other, and Loves the World. Out of a response to the gospel, a group engages in deep bible study and meditation, shares the gospel to the world, and shares life together. In contrast, a small group that only studies the bible is in great danger of spiritual obesity. Only caring for those in the group leads to spiritual isolationism. Only caring for the world becomes a spiritual social action group.

So group leader, what does the normal course of group life look like for you? How balanced of a diet are you providing for your group? When is the last time you had a group prayer meeting? When is the last time you just hung out together? When is the last time you served the community?

An Idea

The point is not just to get you doing things, it’s to call you to step back and look at the big picture. So here is an idea for you: Grab a good book on spiritual disciplines (Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines is my favorite) and grab the 2010 calendar. After working through the disciplines, look at 2010 and start planning opportunities for your group to get some exposure to the balanced life of a disciple of Jesus Christ.

If you are a Summit Small Group leader, we have a calendar already available for you and you can talk with your coach about how to implement the “balance” principle.

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