Jesus is our model for creating God-honoring, life-changing community. Yes, he spoke to the masses, but Jesus’ primary ministry here on earth came via an invitation to twelve ordinary Jewish men. As you well know, Jesus invited them into community with him to learn and grow together as they followed him. Rather than mass-producing disciples, Jesus chose to invest deeply in a handful of people, developing committed followers.
We’ve identified four simple steps–or stages–that will help you start groups for spiritually curious people, stages that mirror what Jesus did in building his first group of disciples.
Jesus spent focused time in prayer in order to discern which people he would disciple. Notice how he prayed all night before he chose the Twelve (Luke 6:12-13). If prayer was important to Jesus, it should be important to us! Prayer is crucial as we prepare to begin a small group for the spiritually curious.
In addition, preparation involves finding two or three other followers of Jesus who will plan and pray together with you, building relationships with people who may accept your invitation.
Jesus extended compelling invitations to those he chose to follow him. See John 1:35-50, Luke 5:27-32, and Luke 6:13-16. For our invitations to be compelling, we need to pray for those we will invite and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the way that we invite them.
Jesus invited potential followers to “come and see” (John 1:38) where he was staying and spend the day with him, almost as a sample of what it would be like to follow him. A trial meeting allows people to come and check out what it would be like to be in a discussion group where people aren’t being told what to believe but can safely discover things for themselves. In a trial meeting, participants see that initiators are there to listen and create a welcoming, safe place to discuss life, God, and the Bible together.
Jesus cared for the Twelve–day in and day out–through three years of their limited understanding, encouraging them to watch his life and wrestle with his words so that the truth would penetrate them completely. When we follow his lead, faithfully walking alongside the participants in our group and helping them experience God’s Word for themselves, the Holy Spirit uses his Word to work in their hearts, and we can be assured that everyone will grow (including us)!
Jesus knew that the Kingdom of God was all about relationship; relationship with him, his Father, and with each other. And that’s why:
- He prepared well by praying about whom to invite
- He extended compelling invitations
- He encouraged those he invited to check it out
- Those who accepted his invitation grew in their understanding of God.
He also chose a small group environment as the catalyst and context for it all.