Making Disciples in the Small Group

By Joel Comiskey, Making Disciples in the 21st Century Church, 2022

Paul says, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16). Paul is writing to a home church gathering in Colossae.

There’s something about the home group environment that enhances deep discipleship. The larger celebration gathering also promotes discipleship as we worship and listen to God’s Word. I love to greet people who are part of the larger local church after the service’s conclusion. Yet, talking to people while others are milling around doesn’t enhance deep sharing.

The small group, on the other hand, provides much deeper sharing, transparency, and prayer. Recently, my small group decided to start with a light meal. We give ourselves .30 minutes to talk about our lives. Then we begin with an icebreaker, worship, Word, and witness. We refine each other as we listen and share transparently.

Small groups help in the discipleship process of becoming like the Trinity by helping members to take off their masks and enter each other’s lives while allowing love to rule. If a church is only meeting in the larger gathering, it’s easier for people to remain superficial and leave in anonymity.

The disciples were formed and shaped in community as they learned, laughed, and experienced conflict. Jesus knew that his followers had to go deep enough to take off their masks and be known. One of them even showed his true colors of deceit and deception and eventually betrayed him. David Watson writes, “In open and frequent fellowship with other Christians, we can be sure that we are being real in following Jesus, and not just playing religious games, however, correct our theology may be. Christianity is all about relationships: with God and with others.” (Called and Committed, p. 30)

Christ journeyed with his disciples for three years to demonstrate and teach them about love and community. Their lives were molded and shaped together, and this fiery fashioning of character became the main component of their training. Jesus had a considerable challenge to unite such a diverse group. He brought together disciples who were temperamental and easily offended. They often saw each other as competitors. It wasn’t easy for them to wash each other’s feet (John 13:14).

Jesus taught them to love one another in the small group and then, in Matthew 28, told them to make new disciples. They did this as they met in homes throughout the Roman empire. The early house church movement was a disciple-making movement; let’s not forget that today.

True disciples work through conflict, use their gifts, evangelize non-Christians and eventually multiply. Let’s always remember the purpose of small group ministry: make disciples.

My prayer is that Jesus would renew your commitment to him and cell ministry as you make disciples who make disciples