This is the third part of a series on starting a discipleship group. To access previous blogs in this series, click here.
We sat down with preacher and author Josh Patrick and asked him some basic questions about how Jesus made disciples. Here’s what he told us.
How do you begin your first meeting with new people?
This is how I begin. I invite the men to meet me at a quiet, distraction-free place where we could talk. As soon as everyone arrives, I give a short talk about our need for relationships that are close, life-giving, and distinctively Christ-centered. I admit that even though I’m a pastor, I really need these relationships and I tell them that I prayed and felt led to pledge myself to each of them as a friend and as a brother in the Lord. Then I opened the floor and asked if they had anything to share.
What I hear after that usually confirms that the Spirit had indeed engineered these connections and has called us to walk together. All of the men express similar desires and heart wounds as I have.
My First Group
My first group was a motley crew: a pastor, an accountant, a corporate chef, a videographer, a web security expert, a financial planner, and a music professor. But we were all united by a common desire: to pursue Jesus together.
After everyone shared, I presented a group covenant that outlined some goals and guardrails for our group. This felt risky because it was more formal, and it may feel awkward for you, as well. But relationships can feel awkward at times. Over the years, I’ve learned to err on the side of intentionality and work through those awkward moments.
Remember, the great commission was catalyzed by the most brilliant man who ever lived. He had a plan. He worked the plan. He commanded his disciples to continue with the plan. And the plan worked! People don’t float into spiritual maturity. Your group won’t become close after one or two meetings. Spiritual growth and relational development is a journey and you arrive at your destination if you are intentional and have a purpose. While God can work spontaneously and unexpectedly, the fruits of the Spirit emerge slowly over time as we show up and do our part every day.
Providing A Way Out
Toward the end of our first meeting, I give anyone who didn’t feel comfortable or couldn’t commit an out. I tell the men in several ways that it was totally fine if they didn’t want to join a group like this. I encourage them to pray about their commitment and share our conversation with their wife—if they were married—and ask them to look over the group covenant.
At our second meeting, we officially launch the group.
To solidify the group commitment, I require the men and their wives to sign the group covenant.
In the next part of this blog series, Josh will share his blueprint for how group meetings go after the launch meeting. He will also talk about how his group interacts apart from regularly scheduled meetings.
This blog was written by Josh Patrick, who is the Teaching and Discipleship Minister at Harpeth Christian Church—“the best job in the world,” he says. Josh is driven by a desire to help people catch the vision that knowing Jesus is the greatest reality in the universe. He is the co-author of the newly released book, The Disciple Maker’s Handbook (Zondervan). The aim of this book is to equip everyday Christians to passionately participate in the greatest cause on earth—making disciples of Jesus! Josh and his wife, Joni, have three daughters—Lilly, Joy, and Sarah—and a rambunctious Boston Terrier named Bruno.
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