I was listening to the Group Talk–Small Group Network Podcast this weekend titled “Northeast Online Huddle Discussion with Steve Gladen” and was struck by a simple illustration from Mr. Gladen. He said that one of the first things he does as he trains churches and church leadership who want to start small groups is that he asks, “If you had your perfect disciple next to you, what would they ooze, what would they be . . . what characteristics would they give out?” So, he gives blank index cards to leadership and asks what a disciple is and inevitably the responses vary, sometimes dramatically.
Gladen continues, “If you guys were all going to come to my house and I said just come to Orange County, California, that would get you within 3.1 million people of me. Even if I said the city I lived in, that would be 40,000; the subdivision would be 273. And even the street would be 10. You could find me with the street, but you’d still have to go door-to-door for 10 houses.”* The point is for us to reflect on what vision we are setting for our members with respect to their discipleship. Are we only guiding them to Orange County? Are we getting them to the city? Are we getting them to the subdivision? Are we getting them to the street? Or are we getting them to the house where Christlikeness resides?
We understand discipleship to be: The journey through which they [people] are formed, conformed and transformed in such a way that the personality and deeds of Jesus Christ naturally flow out of them where they live, work, and play. Certainly “personality and deeds” standout because we ought to be living and acting like Jesus. The phrase “live, work, and play” is a way of saying be the church wherever you are. As the mobile temple of God indwelt by the Holy Spirit, you are, literally, the presence of God wherever you go. But I want to highlight the word naturally. At some point, we quit thinking about what Jesus might do in a situation and we simply do what our gut tells us, precisely because we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) receiving guidance from the Spirit and God has given you His heart (Ezekiel 36:26, Psalm 37:4). The things that you want will be the things God desires.
Be sensitive to where your group members are on this journey and what prodding they need to transition to the next region. Sanctification is a process; we mature over time. But be sure that you are casting the vision of one who naturally lives the life of Christ.