One of the strategic invitations our church offers—and this website endorses—is participating in a disciple-making group. It’s something every Jesus-follower should experience as a participant, as a leader, and, eventually, as a coach. Most are intrigued, but few participate. There are numerous reasons people say they can’t. I’m going to highlight three and suggest shifting the burden from “I can’t” to “God can.”
First, what’s a disciple-making group?
A D-group is a community of 3 or 4 people of the same gender who meet weekly for 14-18 months to grow in their relationship with Jesus and follow Jesus’ command to make disciples. It includes studying the Bible or going through a workbook, committing to invest in one another, and being open to and obeying God’s leading in their lives.
“I can’t lead a disciple-making group” or “I can’t be in a disciple-making group” is sometimes a wise statement. But other times, it’s a fear-based statement. There are legitimate reasons NOT to participate…for a season.
I am vehemently opposed to using guilt as a motivator. Fear sells, but it is not conducive to transformation. It’s OK to say “no,” but not indefinitely. You should always feel the freedom to decline but say “no” for a strategic reason or a specific season. Then, take advantage of the opportunity to invest in eternity.
Fear sells, but it is not conducive to transformation.
Reason #1: I don’t have time
Time has always been an issue. The English word time is found approximately 950 times in the Bible. Even Joshua prayed for more time to defeat his enemies in battle. But the teacher, in Ecclesiastes 3, reminds us that “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.”
True, you may not have the time, and if so, you’re making a wise decision to decline. But often, the real fear is, “I’m already too busy, and if I add one more thing, I will snap!”
Now may not be the best time for you, but you may have a scheduling problem or a faith obstacle. Are you truly maximizing your time each day? Or do you squander multiple hours in front of a screen or in another form?
Be proactive in your scheduling and plan your days. Even better, plan your week. Put the “big rocks” in first and allow disciple-making to be a big rock.
Are you afraid to commit because of the fear of the unknown? Jesus has commanded you to “make disciples,” so he will provide a way—and time—for you to do it.
Reason #2: I don’t know what to do
It’s reasonable not to know what to do if you’ve never participated in a disciple-making group, but guess what? If you do it, you will gain experience. Often the real fear relates to failure. That’s easy to overcome with a proper resource and strong faith.
I’m a big advocate of Greg Ogden’s Discipleship Essentials book because it allows you to practice making disciples as you grow as one. His workbook is easy to use and perfect for both the experienced and inexperienced disciple. If you’ve “never done it,” start by merely reading the questions in the book and asking different group members for a response—an easy and terrific way to start. As you gain more experience, you’ll be able to re-frame questions or create scenarios in which the questions fit.
Please note, if you are “leading” a group, shift your mentality to “overseeing” the group. You might lead the first several sessions to model a healthy group dynamic. But then leadership for each lesson should rotate. Give others a chance to lead and then debrief after the experience by asking, “How did ______ do leading us today? What are some things ____ did well, and what’s one thing ____ could do differently or improve?”
Besides selecting a useful resource, a strong faith is again invaluable. True, you may not know what to do, but just as Jesus commanded us to “make disciples,” he also commanded us to “be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (I prefer the NLT translation of the Greek verb “idou.”)
Reason #3: I can’t commit for that length of time
Often when people say this, they express a fear of the unknown. What if my schedule changes? What if I get overwhelmed with our study? What if I get annoyed by the people in the group?
These are all fair questions. But the healthy response is to say, “God, I put my fears in your hands” and then take a step of faith.
The other aspect is to recognize that healthy growth takes place over time. Home-cooked meals are always better than microwaved. Jeans, cheese, wine, and leather goods improve with age. Healthy habits and relationships develop over time. I love Rick Warren’s statement and closing question: “When God wants to make a mushroom, he takes six hours. When God wants to build an oak tree he takes sixty years. Do you want to be a mushroom or an oak tree?”
We all want an oak tree faith, and there’s no way to microwave one. It takes time. Having a Disney “FastPsss” or an “E-Z Pass” to go through tolls on the highway is beneficial. But we benefit from a crock-pot faith, one that cooks all day long.
We benefit from a crock-pot faith, one that cooks all day long.
This may not be the season of life for you to invest in a disciple-making group, and that’s OK. But when is that time? Don’t wait for the perfect time, because when it comes, something will surprise you and disrupt it. There is no perfect time. Pick a time and take a step of faith.
Shift the burden from saying “I can’t” to “God can.” Know that God will form you over time; know that God is with you; know that God will provide a way and time for you to make disciples when you commit to it.
QUESTION (leave a comment below)
What are other reasons people give for not participating in a disciple-making group?