You may call them Life Groups, Growth Groups, or Sunday School Classes. No matter what you call them, there are some important questions to consider. Are your church’s Life Groups reaching new people? Are they reaching those who are lost or unchurched? Are they continually multiplying and reproducing new groups? For many, if not most churches, the answer to these questions is a disappointing “no.”
In a growing community, the Life Group Ministry of a church may grow as a result of new Christians moving into the area. However, transfer growth is not Kingdom growth. In rural or declining communities, a church may have little or no expectation for growth at all. To even raise the question of multiplying a new Life Group is as unwelcome as a new message series on tithing.
At a recent pastor’s conference, I had the opportunity to ask over a hundred church leaders if any ministry in their church was truly multiplying. To my surprise, not one had a single ministry that was multiplying. This is the tragic reality of the average church in today’s world. Something must change and change fast. If we continue to do the same things in the same ways, we will continue to get the same results.
Is it possible for a church’s Life Group Ministry to reach new people regardless of its cultural context? What can we learn from Jesus about small group ministry that truly grows and multiplies?
In his earthly ministry, Jesus was both a teacher and a disciple-maker. He taught the crowds and he discipled the twelve. He often taught in synagogues, but his twelve member discipleship group met anytime and anywhere. From Jesus we learn the importance of both teaching and disciple-making.
Bible teaching, fellowship, and caring ministry are important functions of Life Groups that make them supremely important. However, we must do more than teach believers to be good moral Christians. We must teach them to be disciple-makers. Consider the incredible potential of growing Life Groups through multiple discipleship groups that we will call D-Groups. By following the example of Jesus, we see how this could work.
BIBLE TEACHERS EQUIP DISCIPLE-MAKERS
A major responsibility of all Bible teachers is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12). According to Jesus, a believer’s most important work of ministry is that of disciple-making. Unlike Jesus, not everyone has the gift of teaching, but he has called every believer to be a disciple-maker (Matt. 4:19; 28:18-20). Therefore, Life Group teachers must see every individual in their class as a potential disciple-maker.
It is a mistake for a Life Group to see itself as the end to the disciple-making process. Instead, it should be the launching pad for a great number of disciple-makers who are equipped and empowered to go out and do the work of ministry that Jesus has called us to do.
As modeled by Jesus, disciple-making works best in the small, relational environment of a D-Group. Early in his ministry, Jesus went “fishing” for some men to be in his D-Group. Twelve men accepted his offer. For three years Jesus led these men to faith and poured his life into turning them into disciples who make disciples. It was a simple but highly effective process.
Likewise, as pictured above, believers inside the church must be equipped and empowered to go outside the walls of the church to make disciples. The community is waiting for us. If we don’t go, we won’t grow.
DISCIPLE-MAKERS GO OUT TO START D-GROUPS
When teachers equip and empower those in their group to be disciple-makers, then every Life Group has the potential to launch multiple D-Groups out into the community. D-Groups can meet anytime and anywhere. They can meet in coffee shops, cafes, homes, schools, parks, and places of business. They can meet every day of the week.
For example, as pictured above, one Life Group of twelve people could be responsible for launching four D-Groups meeting in different locations throughout a community. Two or three Life Group members could start a D-Group in one location and two or three in another. Then every member would begin “fishing” for new men or women to connect with each D-Group. One by one as people accept this offer, each D-Group could grow to a maximum of eight people. Jesus discipled twelve, but we are best equipped to disciple no more than eight.
Think about the potential of this. Every Life Group of twelve people has the potential to reach up to thirty-two people in four D-Groups of eight meeting out in the community. The lost and unchurched are more likely to connect with these D-Groups because they meet them on their own turf. Once connected to a D-Group, these individuals can be more easily led to faith in Christ and to joining your church and Life Group.
D-GROUPS BRING BACK NEW PEOPLE TO LIFE GROUPS
A Life Group of twelve people that intentionally launches four D-Groups out into a community is more likely to grow than one that does not. This Life Group will be prayerful and intentional about fishing for new people to connect with its D-Groups. It will be obedient to the command of Jesus to “go and make disciples.” As pictured above, the people in this Life Group will build relational bridges to the unchurched making it easier for them to bring back new people into the group. This Life Group will grow.
LET’S TAKE THIS TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Making this vital connection between Life Groups and D-Groups is essential and explosive. By their very nature, D-Groups are equipped and designed to multiply and to do ministry outside the walls of the church. Each D-Group is trained to carry out six ministry and evangelism projects a year or one every other month. Let’s do the math. If your Life Group launches four D-Groups, this means that different members of your group will carry out twenty-four ministry projects in one year. It means that your Life Group will intentionally share the love of Christ with many people outside the walls of your church every year.
As your D-Groups grow, each group has a goal to multiply one time each year. This means that your four D-Groups will multiply into eight D-Groups. Your Life Group now has the potential to reach up to sixty-two people in eight D-Groups meeting in different locations throughout your community. These eight D-Groups will carry out forty-eight ministry projects and bring back more new people into your Life Group.
At this point, your original Life Group of twelve will have many new friends and new disciple-makers to be equipped. You will need to consider multiplying out a new Life Group. This will be needed to continue to equip potential new disciple-makers to go out and launch new D-Groups.
Now consider this. What if every student and adult Life Group in your church followed this same process? It would be unstoppable. The gates of hell could not prevail. God’s Kingdom on earth would grow. And yes, it would be possible for your church to grow and reach new people regardless of its cultural context.
This is real church growth. It is not growth through new ministry gimmicks or glorified entertainment. It is growth as Jesus taught us to grow. It is the way the early church grew and turned the world upside down for Christ. It is a grass roots movement of common men, women, and teenagers who accept the call to be genuine disciple-makers.
Equipping these disciple-makers with an effective tool and training them to lead D-Groups will be essential. LIVNIG THE D-LIFE is a tool published by Life Bible Study that many are finding to be highly effective. D-Life is an organic, intentional, and simple process for equipping all believers for a lifestyle of making and multiplying disciples. A bi-vocational pastor recently trained in D-Life said, “Living the D-Life is organized obedience.”
This unstoppable process and genuine movement of lifestyle discipleship will not happen by accident. It will certainly require prayer and the work of the Holy Spirt. In addition, it will require the hard work and “organized obedience” of many genuine believers who are passionately committed to the Great Commission.
For more information about D-Life, go to: www.livingthedlife.com.