In the modern church in America, we equate discipleship with membership in a small group and the completion of a never ending stream of canned Bible Studies. This is what goes for discipleship in most churches. It is quantifiable and it is verifiable and churches and pastors can look at the numbers statistically to see the rate of participation and involvement within their local church body. However it looks nothing like Matthew 4: 18-22, where the first disciples dropped everything to follow Jesus.
Please listen to a recent sermon on this topic here.
The problem with the small group model is it is not discipleship. It is the consumption of religious material for consumption sake and to almost bribe people to spend time in Scripture and fellowship with other believers. This means to an end that never comes and discipleship are not the same. The discipleship we see in the Bible involves the dropping of our desires, wishes, and past and the following of Jesus and his will, period.
What is missing in the never ending stream of canned Bible Studies is the dropping of the past and the radical following of Jesus. Being a disciple of Jesus happens every single day, not just during small groups. A disciple is different than the non-believers in their family, within their friend network, and at work. The disciple is actively patterning their life after Jesus, in word, thought, and deed. This seldom happens in small groups and this seldom happens at all. By design, small groups allow pastoral staff to check blocks that can be quantified.
Only God can quantify the radical life of discipleship that Jesus expects from His followers on a daily basis. The end result of our lack of emphasis on the need for radical changes in our lifestyle and worship on a daily basis is this. Churches are closing every day across North America and the numbers of people being baptized are dropping. In most cases, it is probably a good thing these churches are closing so a new work can be started in their place. But how can we reverse the overall trend in faithfulness besides just planting more and more churches every year, which we should also keep doing.
Churches, pastors, and Christians must look at the Bible and see Jesus called those who would be his disciples to a radical life-altering path. Jesus called us to drop our baggage at the foot of the cross and to proclaim the kingdom of God and need for repentance to all.
If our faith has not resulted in a changed life to follow Jesus and we are not proclaiming the kingdom and repentance within our families, friends, and work place, we are not being biblical disciples and we definitely are not being radical and I question what our faith is in. If we are not disciples, we are just ordinary folks who spend 1-2 hours per week getting some religious indoctrination with the hope it is enough to make up for our lack of commitment.