One of the most extraordinary things about God’s creation is that all living organisms are made from the same stuff: DNA. DNA is the set of instructions that calls all of the shots while something is growing and living out its life. DNA determines what kind of organism something is, how tall it will be, what color it is, whether it has hair or not, and every single other variation that distinguishes everything from bacteria to humans.
Disciple making is an organic process, too, with a specific goal: intentionally equipping believers with the Word of God through accountable relationships empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to replicate faithful followers of Christ. The individual vehicles for this process are called Discipleship Groups, or D-Groups.
Even though two D-Groups never look the exact same, there are still markers that identify them as D-Groups. Furthermore, there are signals that tell us the D-Groups are healthy. If our groups launch with the same fundamental DNA, it does not matter what their context, age range, gender, or stage of life is, they will be healthy and set up fo success.
Greg Ogden, in his book Transforming Discipleship, wrote, “When we open our hearts in transparent trust to each other around the truth of God’s Word in the spirit of mutual accountability, we are in the Holy Spirit’s hothouse of transformation.”Here, he lays out three of the most important aspects of what makes a healthy D-Group: transparent trust, the Truth of God’s Word, and mutual accountability. As we examine some of the fundamental aspects of a D-Group, keep these three things in mind, as they are the tools that will sharpen you and those in your groups.
How to Start a D-Group
The first and most important step in forming a D-Group is prayer. We see this example in Jesus’ ministry from Luke 6:12-13: “During those days He went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God. When daylight came, He summoned His disciples, and He chose 12 of them—He also named them apostles.”
Jesus’ own first step in selecting those closest followers He would spend the majority of His earthly ministry with was prayer. How much more should we pray about it!
After you pray for God to reveal people to invite into a discipleship relationship, approach those individuals and invite them into your D-Group. Covenant with them to be committed and accountable to each other, promising to be transparent with one another as you walk together. These are the people you will be investing your life into for the next 12-18 months.
How to Structure Your D-Group
What follows is a sample order for a standard D-Group meeting.
Open with prayer. We do this to become more like Jesus, so it should be natural that we begin by praying. Next, have a time of intentional conversations. These conversations will be about the highs and lows of the week—what struggles you faced, what victories you won—and a time of sharing celebrations and praises. Always be quick to talk about where you see God working in your life.
After you discuss your weeks is a good time to transition into digging into the Word. An excellent way to do this is by quoting the Scripture memory verses you have been working through. Hold each other accountable to memorize—sometimes it is enough motivation to know that your brothers or sisters will be asking you to quote for them.
Next, share what you have learned from the Word that week. Some do this by sharing HEAR Journals (See Sample HEAR Journal) or by sharing passages that convicted them that week. The goal of studying the Bible is to apply what it says to our lives. Knowledge without application is useless information. When approaching this time, it is helpful to ask questions like, “What are you hearing from God, and what are you doing about it?” Here are three simple questions to teach your D-Group to help them apply God’s Word personally:
Is there a promise to claim?
Is there an action or attitude to avoid?
Is there a principle to apply?
Remember that effective discipleship must contain both authentic relationships and systematic Biblical training. Though living a life worth emulating is important, simply living a model life is not enough; you must ensure that those you disciple understand the Biblical basis for the steps of faith they see you taking. This only comes through systematic Biblical training.
As you close your groups, make sure to spend a few minutes holding each other accountable personally. Perhaps there are sins you are struggling with or temptations you are fighting. The trust that comes from accountable Discipleship relationships makes sharing those things both natural and helpful.
Daily Disciplines of a Disciple
As you go about your week, it is important to encourage those in your groups to keep going with these 4 basic, daily disciplines of a disciple of Christ:
- Pray continuously
- Read and journal daily
- Memorize Scripture weekly
- Rely on the Spirit consistently
Finally, it is crucial to plant the seed of multiplication into every D-Group that you lead. You are investing in them so that they can turn around and invest in others. As each new group is faithful to keep the same DNA, the disciple making process will continue from generation to generation the same way it started: with a Jewish Rabbi who was the Son of God and His twelve disciples who changed the world by doing exactly as He had done with them.
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