A Diagnostic Tool and a Word of Encouragement

By Paul Wilkinson

Here’s a diagram I was taught last week during a 3-day training conference at LifeWay in downtown Nashville (click on diagram to enlarge):

Hopefully, you recognize the head, heart, hands language as the categories for the transformational learning model. And the wedges of the pie are the foundational dynamics for balanced small group discipleship. These categories fit within the transformational life strategy (LIFE) model. Bible Study in the form of weekly teaching and Discipleship Groups which provide personal space development would be the F function. Fellowship understood as non-group time gatherings, Ministry Inreach which is prayer and nurture within the group, and Financial Benevolence which is financial aid for those struggling in the group would be split between the L and I functions. Missions understood to be foreign missions through group trips or adoption of missionaries, Ministry Outreach which is personal evangelism and adding the unchurched to the LIFE group, and Community Projects understood as local missions would be the E function.

Use this pie, in addition to your other leader information, to diagnose where your LIFE group is springing and where they might be dragging their feet. If you see an area that needs attention, invite others to champion those causes. If you have a group member who has a passion for orphans, then empower them to champion projects at the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home. If you have a group member with a heart for missions to Nepal, then empower them to champion that cause for the group. If you have group members who love to schedule meals for the sick in your group or who would love to call members who miss a week to see how they are, then empower them to champion that cause. Your job is not to do all the work; rather, your job is to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12) by bringing the Word to your group, by encouraging your group to a balanced discipleship through each of the discipleship spaces, and by casting a vision for these other areas of ministry in the pie above. As many in business are told: only do what only you can do. I would modify that for the body of Christ as: do what you are uniquely called to do; invite and empower others to do the rest.

Now for the word of encouragement: you guys do these functions really well. Being “out of the office” for 3 days allowed me to look at the big picture rather than the minor cracks here or there, and I was convicted that I do not tell you enough that you are great. I appreciate your work for the Lord, your service for BBC, and your leadership for your group members. What a blessing you are to me!

Public Space

By Paul Wilkinson

Our final space for discussion is public space. Public space is when the numbers are greater than 70 at any given event or gathered population. Jesus served the public space by ministering to the crowds: the feeding of the 4000 and the Sermon on the Mount as examples. The crucial aspects of the public space are inspiration, movementum, and preaching.[i]

For us, the public space most concerned with discipleship is the corporate worship gathering. Note my inclusion of the word “corporate” because it should be clear by now that our work in each of the other spaces are acts of worship in themselves. They all point to and give praise to God. Yet, it is the large corporate gathering in question here where there is singing, prayer, and preaching present for a single body of believers.

These gatherings should offer us inspiration. One of my favorite days each quarter is our “all staff” meetings. If you realized how much I hated meetings, then that statement would shock you. However, as I look out at all of the vocational ministers who do the work of nurturing the body of Christ, it is humbling. I am one small part of a massive organism that synchronizes together perfectly, most of the time, to make God’s name known to those who haven’t heard. I see us on mission together and it is extremely motivating. Our corporate gatherings function that way as well.

The word movementum attempts to highlight both movement and momentum. The point is to understand how our activity on this local level both contributes and is a part of the global and eternal kingdom of God. We gain perspective through stories of God’s work of how we can and should be a part of it which results in even more glory and worship toward God for His pervasive goodness.

Preaching brings the Word of God to us for our moment in time. It provides the foundation for what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how we will continue to do it. Certainly, we deepen that foundation in our group time as we are able to dig deeper in the Word and apply it to a smaller population, but with that depth comes a potential for disconnectedness to the larger body. We must be ever on guard against that isolationism.

How then can we as group leaders leverage the public space of corporate worship? First, we reinforce the three outcomes of that space: inspiration, movementum, and preaching. We continually cast the vision for our group members of their calling within the larger body of BBC and the even larger body of God’s global and eternal kingdom. Second, we can deepen the sermon by utilizing sermon-based curriculum. This curriculum allows for a further exegesis and exposition of the preaching teams message to the body. Third, we encourage our group members to participate in corporate worship to that they maintain the perspective of themselves as part of a family. We are not “in it alone,” and corporate worship can remind us of that truth.


[i] http://dandelionresourcing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Infographic-The-5-Contexts-of-Discipleship.jpeg

Social Space

By Paul Wilkinson

Social spaces consist of 20~70 people and are efficient at creating community, facilitation mission, and promoting spiritual practices.[i] Jesus’ social context was the 70 who were sent out in Luke 10:1. Many of our LIFE Groups function in this context on a weekly basis and even more LIFE Groups function like this during fellowship events.

Social spaces are crucial for our discipleship strategy, so, we must leverage them well. Part of that leveraging is to be sure that they function as a social space instead of a public space. It is very easy to allow a social space to become “preaching” focused instead of community led and they can become sources of mere inspiration as opposed to engaged mission. As group leaders, we must be vigilant to preserve the community feel while keeping the challenge and vision perpetually in front of our members.

To accomplish those tasks, we must nurture L, I, and E well. You have been called as the F leader and spiritual guide for the group; it is crucial that you develop a leadership team to handle these functions for the group. Through the L and I function (Love one another and Involved in biblical community), you will be able to develop the community feel needed for confidence in the faith and the carrying of one another’s burdens. Most groups have prayer time and send those prayers out weekly by email. Continue to do that but also consider tracking them to completion so that, eventually, there might be as many praises for answered prayers as there are petitions. Moreover, even when prayers aren’t answered in the way we’d like, by tracking them we can see how God is working in our lives. Also, don’t neglect your group fellowships because it is a non-classroom setting where people will inevitably relate in a different way. Pot lucks are always a strong way to go!

The E function calls for community engagement. This function has traditionally been the most difficult to sustain on a regular basis. Some tools that might help you are to find someone in your group with a particular passion. While everyone in that group might not share the passion, this person will nevertheless champion it and sway others to be on mission. Make that person your E leader. We can help find this person through PLACE data and the like. Be sure to have times of debrief and follow-up for the projects that you do. Debriefing will allow time for introspection on how God is working through the service and follow-up will help foster continued care, focus, and community with those you serve.

In short, to maximize the social space well, you must delegate. You cannot immerse yourselves in the Word the way that most of you do and the way we ask you to do while also juggling these other duties. Furthermore, a pivotal step in discipleship is raising people up into leadership roles consistent with their gifts and abilities. Do not cheat them out of these discipleship opportunities.

Meditate on the Luke 10 passage with how Jesus relates to the 70. Continue to focus on your calling as spiritual guide and shepherd while beginning to pray that God raises up from within your groups individuals with a heart for inreach and outreach. It will not come back void.


[i] http://dandelionresourcing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Infographic-The-5-Contexts-of-Discipleship.jpeg