Discipleship Matters – Part 5
A Note from Michael Gossett
DISCIPLESHIP MATTERS: PART 5
As we continue to understand the biblical model of discipleship according to Christ, it is reasonable to ask the question, “how are we to accomplish this?” Theory is never useful if it is detached from practice. At Green Acres, we have said, “Connect Groups are the primary vehicle for discipleship.” What this means is that when functioning properly, our small group ministry will become a disciple making factory. The goal is not to have more people in a “groups ministry” program, but rather to have more people walking with other believers, so that we may all grow in the likeness of Jesus.
SMALL GROUP MATTERS: In order to truly understand the purpose and the reason Green Acres is committed to our Connect Group Ministry, we must first consider the historical development of Small Groups. The New Testament serves as a historical catalyst for the inception of small groups. Joel Comiskey says, “Jesus developed His own group of twelve and hung out with them for three years. In the atmosphere of the group, these disciples were molded, shaped, trained, and then sent forth.” It is implied that Jesus intended for the apostles to continue developing others in small groups as He had modeled. The entirety of Jesus’ earthly ministry was spent in a small group with these men. Soon after He enlisted the disciples, He sent them to teach, heal, and minister to others as He had done. This small band of men led by Jesus would become the catalyst to move small groups forward throughout the next three hundred years. Eugene Peterson gives similar insight about Jesus’ time by saying, “Jesus, it must be remembered, restricted nine-tenths of His ministry to twelve Jews.” Throughout the three years of Jesus’ ministry, it is evident that his time with the twelve disciples was spent for the purpose of development.
The disciples received the charge from Jesus with resolution and zeal. They continued in ministry just as Jesus had taught them throughout the previous three years. Throughout the first century, the ministry of small groups advanced. Due to increasing persecution of Christians, small groups were spread across the cities. These groups, which met in homes, were often mentioned throughout the epistles. The absence of physical church structures does not inform the modern church’s prescription regarding buildings, but it does suggest the effectiveness and need for small groups. Acts 2:42 states, “They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Apparently, home groups met on a regular and even daily basis. This frequency differs from what is regarded as today’s small group culture. Despite increasing hostility and persecution throughout the first century, home groups continued to thrive.
The politicizing and legalization of the Christian faith in 313 A.D. presented new trials and tests for the followers of Christ. Although unintentional, an unhealthy professionalism arose within the culture of the clergy. As political freedom increased and persecution decreased, the disparity between clergy and laity grew. Clergy members continued to meet in small groups, however, laity was removed from small group structure. The lack of separation between the church and state provided opportunity for political influence to gain control over many aspects of the Christian faith.
Martin Luther boldly challenged the unhealthy political climate within the church, calling for major reform. He purposed to restore the structure and function of the church to resemble the leading of the early apostles of the first century. Church groups, theologians, and religious leaders had recognized the need for change, but reform ultimately began with Martin Luther in 1517. Luther’s ideas emerged as he studied the Bible, and his doctrine of Sola Scriptura informed many of the conclusions he reached. Martin Luther helped reestablish the biblical concept that salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone. His doctrine of the priesthood of all believers pertains to small group ministry directly. Martin Luther embraced the charge of Ephesians 4 to equip the saints for the work of ministry. This implies that believers must commit to service and shared community. Martin Luther and Martin Bucer declared that small groups were vital for those serious about their faith and obeying the commands of Jesus. Both also agreed that small groups were given as a gift, not only for community, but also for the cultivation of personal holiness. Martin Greschat says of Bucer, “There was no doubt for Bucer, however, that it was the small groups that bore the greatest importance; it was they who would ultimately set the tone of and determine the greater church.”
The attempts to capture the essence and power of the ‘primitive church’ became more prominent and effective during the post-Reformation era. Philip Spener instituted what is now commonly referred to as home groups, where he offered sermon-based small group discussions. The groups, known as Collegia Pietatis, consisted of prayer, Bible study, and discussion regarding previous sermons. Spener regarded community within a small group as vital for true life change in a believer. The Moravians structured their groups like Spener’s model, regarding them as little churches within bigger churches. This movement influenced the Methodist church’s format and function for small groups. John Wesley appropriated what is called the band system from Zinzendorf that resembled Luther and Bucer’s philosophy for helping believers grow in personal holiness. Wesley’s basis for these groups was found in James 5:16. He believed that each church member needed personal encouragement and support, which only came from community within the parameters of small groups. Throughout church history, we can see the common thread of the need for small group ministries to not only exist, but thrive for the local church to thrive. For this reason, we continue to encourage every member of Green Acres to jump into one of our small groups, which are known as Connect Groups. Why do we call them Connect Groups? The purpose is to remind us why we meet on a weekly basis. Just as the Apostles did, we meet to Connect to Jesus and His church, Grow in the likeness of Jesus, so that we may Multiply for the purpose of Jesus. This is what our Connect Groups should truly resemble here at Green Acres. Every time someone asks you, “why do you call them Connect Groups?” You can gently answer, “because it is more than just a program to study the Bible…. It is a life changing decision to Connect with Christ and with other believers.”
The Connect Group Ministry at Green Acres is not a new concept. This is what traditional Baptists do because it is embedded in scripture. Every single one of us have a reason to be in a Connect Group. This is the reason my wife, Katie and I are a part of a Connect Group on Sunday nights. It is not something we talk about as a program; it is the scriptural basis for how we are to grow together and individually in Christ.
CONSIDER THIS: Considering what has been discussed, how has this deepened your understanding of the need for small groups? What is the role that you should play in your Connect Group? If you have never been a part of biblical community as God has designed, go to gabc.org/groupfinder to find your place at Green Acres.
Be sure to download this free resource offered at GABC called, “Discipleship Guide.” This guide is designed specifically as a resource to help you walk with others in a discipleship relationship. Grab someone from your Connect Group, a friend, a mentor, or someone younger and just commit to going through the guide together. If you would rather have a physical copy of this guide, contact Todd Haymans at firstname.lastname@example.org and request yours today. I know you will be amazed at the fruit from relationships such as this. Hold each other accountable. Pray for one another. Grow together in the likeness of Christ. Stay tuned next week for more…. Download the Discipleship Guide Here.
THIS SUNDAY: I am so excited to preach the third week of the series, ANCHORED, and we will be looking specifically at 1 Peter 1:22-2:3 “Anchored in Love.” I pray you will come excited and be sure you invite someone to attend with you. There is no greater invite than a personal one from you.
SIGN UP TODAY! I am so excited to announce the inaugural Green Acres Classic golf tournament that will be hosted by the Green Acres Baptist Church Foundation. The tournament will be on Monday, September 26, 2022, at Willow Brook Country Club. All proceeds will benefit the next generation of ministry leaders by supporting the Residency Program. This is just another thing I LOVE about our church family. We believe in raising up leaders so that the Mission of God will continue to advance.
The newly developed Residency Program is designed specifically for those called to full-time vocational ministry. Residents serve on our ministry staff for one year while being developed and discipled by our staff team. Residents also have an opportunity to further their ministry education through a partnership with East Texas Baptist University.
Even if you decide not to enter the Green Acres Classic, you can still support this incredible new ministry of our church. Your support of the Green Acres Classic is an eternal investment that goes beyond the boundaries of this world! Please click the link to support this ministry: https://www.gabc.org/classic/ To learn more about the Green Acres Baptist Church Foundation, visit GABC.org/foundation.
FALL FRIENDSHIP DINNER: Ladies, I pray that you will be able to attend this year’s Fall Friendship dinner! It is going to be such a great time! So, men, make sure your wives are there! The dinner will take place on September 13th from 6:00pm – 8:30pm. Just know that this is a huge outreach gathering and serves to kick-off all fall Bible studies, Flourish mentoring ministry, and other enrichment events for women of all ages. If you have any additional questions, please be sure to stop by the table in the foyer this Sunday.
STARTING POINT: Come learn all about Green Acres! If you have just recently joined our church or are considering church membership, this class on September 18 is for you! It is designed to give you a better picture of who we are as a church family. Together, we want you to have a clear understanding of our mission, vision, and values here at Green Acres. For families with children ages birth to elementary, you are welcome to check your children in with Kids’ Ministry. Register here!
HOLY LAND TRIP: Pastor David and I will lead a trip to Israel in February 2023, which is coming up quickly! This is a rare opportunity to travel with both of us. The dates are February 15-25, 2023. Email email@example.com for more information.
DON’T FORGET! 10 DAYS OF FASTING AND PRAYER: I am asking each of you to join in on our churchwide 10 days of fasting and prayer together. Starting on September 4, we are going to have 10 days of focused prayer for us to pray together as a church family. You will receive a fasting and prayer guide that will give you everything you need to journey with us on these 10 days. On September 14th, we will conclude our 10 day journey in the Worship Center for a Night of Prayer and Worship as one body praying to the one true God! Make plans to join us that evening!
I cannot wait to worship with you this Sunday!
You are loved and prayed for!
 Joel Comiskey, Making Disciples in the Twenty-First Century Church, (Moreno Valley, CA: CCS Publishing, 2013), 33.
 Eugene Peterson, Travelling Light: Reflections on the Free Life (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1982), 182.
 Joel Comiskey, Chapter 2: History of the Cell Movement, Provided by Dr. Dempsey in DSMN 820.
 Dr. Dempsey, Video Lecture for Week 3 in DSMN 820.
 Martin Greschat, Martin Bucer: A Reformer and His Times, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press), 216.
 Joel Comiskey, Chapter 2: History of the Cell Movement.