Discipleship Contexts

by Abraham Cremeens

In May of this year, the elders rolled out our updated strategic plan. Within that strategy, we identified our Discipleship Structures as something to give attention to.
We asked a Key Question:
How can we most intentionally and effectively disciple and train our church family for fruitful ministry and leadership?

We answered with a Key Action:
Develop and implement a cohesive strategy within structures like Connection Hour,
Care Groups, & Discipleship Groups.

Determining how to pursue this key action has been a very fun and exciting road. Over the course of several meetings and extra lunches, we worked through a resource called Discipleship That Fits by Bobby Harrington and Alex Absolom. In their book, they identify specific “contexts” and what outcomes should best be pursued based on the size of that context. We didn’t agree with everything in the book and certainly made it our own along the way. However, God did use it to help us collectively establish what we are aiming at in each discipleship context of our church. The chart and descriptions below summarize where we landed.

Worship Gathering
While you may not consider the Sunday morning worship gathering a discipleship context, it definitely has a key role in that preaching, as Jared Wilson says, serves as the steering wheel of our overall discipleship efforts. Even as we sing songs of worship, our hearts are being transformed into the image of Christ, which has a direct impact on our community of disciple-makers. During that hour and twenty minutes, other outcomes we seek are unity of our church family as we all come together, beholding the glory and grace of God in worship, and then responding to our holy God in a multitude of ways.
Connection Hour
In our Connection Hour, the outcomes of teaching and connecting are not new. For years we have aimed to connect to truth and to one another. One next step we would like to take, though, is seeing this context serve as a bridge into other discipleship contexts. As people get to know one another, this time spent can serve as a connecting point into a Care Group or Discipleship Group. We also look forward to transitioning into two Connection Hour groups this fall led by two different teaching teams. 
Community Groups
On this next one, you will notice a name change. For a few years now, we have referred to our small groups as Care Groups. It has been a good name since care and support are a large part of our small group culture. We continue to value “support” as a continued outcome we want to see take place in this context. However, we want this support and care to be the outflow of biblical community. The most distinctive aspect of these groups is that they are smaller communities within our church family. You also notice the outcome of “challenge.” We want to continue to see our Community Groups as a context where disciples gather to help one another align with God’s Word in how we think and live. Two key questions that should be asked within a Community Group are: What is God teaching you and how are you responding?
Discipleship Groups
Finally, you will notice Discipleship Groups (D Groups). This is still a newer part of our discipleship culture, but it is an important one. As elders, we desire to see every member benefit from the kind of transparency that takes place in a group of three or four individuals meeting regularly around the word and prayer. This doesn’t mean everyone has to be in a D Group, but it is wise to participate in a relational circle of some kind (such as a D Group) where a few people have a window and an open door into your life. Discipleship Groups are a high commitment setting where each participant seeks to have a spiritual impact on one another (no spectators allowed). Further, the growth that takes place in such a group should be replicated in other ways and forms of making disciples.
Finally, each context should have a foundation of being grace-filled, equipping focused, and biblically driven.
This probably doesn’t answer all of your questions, and we certainly have some distance to cover in order to make these desired outcomes a deeper reality. However, I do believe exciting opportunities are ahead for us in discipleship. If you are not a part of discipleship at Kossuth, then let me encourage you to jump in. For those of you who are, please continue to help us grow as a community of disciple-makers toward the Great Commission.