Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship is a classic. It powerfully describes Christ’s call for men to “come and die” in order to be His disciple.
In as many times as I have discussed that book with friends, I’ve never thought about an equally important concept—until now. Since a true disciple of Christ will become a disciple-maker of others (after all, that is Christlike), we must also consider the cost of disciple-making.
Initially, we may think the cost is time and energy. Certainly this is true. Disciple-making is a commitment to open up your life to another person. It’s an act of service that requires long hours, late-night calls, inconvenient conversations and out-of-the way trips.
It’s a waste of time to fish in a spot where fish aren’t biting. Wise fishermen move on. They know fish eat at different times of the day in different places. To apply this to ministry, you need to focus on the most receptive people in your area.
This is not a marketing principle. It’s a basic New Testament principle. Jesus told it in the parable of the sower. When you sow seed, some of it falls on rocky ground, some on stony ground, some on hard ground and some on good soil. Wouldn’t it be great if you knew what the good soil was and sowed all your seed there? Why waste seed, time, effort, energy and money?
Mark 1:17 says, “And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men’” (ESV).
Throughout my ministry, God has placed so many different people in my path—people from all different walks of life, from the affluent to the poor, from the important to not important, from the religious to the nonreligious. But a common theme between them all, when confronted with the gospel, is that they will listen if it is presented in a nonthreatening way.
In the book of Mark, Jesus told the apostles that He would make them fishers of men. Now, let me show you how a fisherman works.
Fellow pastors and church leaders, we are in a battle for souls. The Bible encourages us to “endure hardship as a soldier.”
This is not to say that we are at war with people, and we need to be very careful to realize that the war we are involved in is spiritual in nature. In fact, the war we are engaged in is far more important than any earthly one. The implications of our war are eternal.
Victory is not a matter of who will be in charge politically or who will control natural resources. It’s a battle that will determine how many people we can rescue from sin forever. We’re talking about souls for eternity.
Once you make the decision that small groups will be your primary (or only) delivery system for connection and discipleship, it only makes sense to look for ways to accelerate small group ministry growth and impact.
Here are what I’ve found to be 6 keys:
1. Your senior pastor must become the primary spokesperson and champion. Although I’ve not ranked these 6 keys in order of importance, there is no question that this a very important key. If you want to build a thriving small group ministry, there is no workaround for the absence of this key. See also "Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church of Groups."
Recently I was visiting a church in the heart of a retirement community. The pastor got up and was astoundingly relevant. “There are five ways we tell you what’s going on here,” he said. He held up his hand and counted on his fingers: “The bulletin, the sign, the website, our mailer and announcements.”
He paused and then joked, “If you still don’t know what’s going on, then I have a hunch you’re just not with it!”
I don’t know if this was the pastor’s typical practice, but as a guest, it was a huge leg up in knowing where to find the information about how to get involved.