Philosophy of Small Groups


Small relational groups are essential in making disciples for the health of the body of Christ through authentic and genuine lifestyles of the disciple-maker. The sharing of life and modeling will help to define the philosophy of the relational group, which in turn will encourage the disciples to missions within the local, national, and international community.

My Philosophy of Small Groups in a Church or Ministry Organization

My philosophy of small groups within a church or ministry organization is constantly being developed. I can see the need for small groups, since the leader can maintain more control over the group as well as keep it on track as to its ultimate destination. A small group is more intimate and the members can get to know each other much better. It is through relationships where the group will become much stronger so they can forge ahead and accomplish the goal of the group. For instance, I plan on starting a “Share Jesus Without Fear” group, to teach others how to share their faith and evangelize. The goal of the group will be evangelism which will lead to discipleship. Having a small group will make it easier to stay in control as well as teach and help those who may not be grasping the material well.  A larger group would not afford the intimacy of a small group.

The Importance of the Relational Group in Authentic Disciple Making

Disciple makers leading small groups must intentionally pursue a relationship with their disciple mentees through genuine and authentic interactions. According to Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, “Jesus himself made disciples using a variety of methods and activities, yet his goal was always discipleship.”[1] For relationships to occur, the leader must be willing to be open in his or her small group. Sharing life together is important, but they must also allow others to see their humanness as well. For instance, pastors and disciple makers are not perfect. They have problems as well as sin in their own lives. By being open and honest with one another, this can forge a true and open relationship so that the group members can pray for one another. Putman et al. wrote, “We believe in the priesthood of every believer, and we want to get people into the game.”[2] Since every believer is called to be a minister to others, then members of the small relational group can certainly minister to their own leader by praying and showing love to one another.

Putman et al. states “Making disciples in biblical relational contexts can work well to reach the world for Jesus, one person at a time. The relational small group forms the backbone for discipleship.”[3] A small group must have a defining purpose so that it can stay on course with its vision and goal. If the group’s purpose leads back to making disciples, then it is on target to succeed. Putman et al. wrote, “A biblically based, disciple-making small group involves three components. It’s (1) a place where shepherding takes place, (2) a place where real teaching takes place with Q&A, modeling, and stories, and (3) a place where authenticity and accountability are encountered and modeled.”[4]  Taking these steps can lead to a healthy small relational group which will strengthen the body of Christ.

Missional Groups Can Help the Body of Christ Move into the Community

Missional groups can help the body of Christ move into the community. As mentioned previously, there must be a purpose and a vision to stay on track. Rod Dempsey wrote,

‘In the Great Commission, the command to ‘make disciples’ is clear. In the final instructions from Jesus to His disciples, we have some clues about how to go about making disciples regardless of the model. We must be going. We must be going to all nations. We must be preaching the gospel. We must die to self and be witnesses (martyrs) for Christ. We must be going and making disciples, which includes baptizing and teaching them to observe (obey) everything that Christ commanded. We must wait on the Spirit of promise to go with us.’[5]

I found Dempsey interesting when he wrote about Neil Cole’s book, Church 3.0. Dempsey wrote,

“Neil Cole in his book Church 3.0 argues that historically, the church has had three operating systems. The first system was organic and functioned around the idea of a people movement. The second system rejected this system and morphed into a professional clergy-driven model. The third operating system is a return to the family/body operating system where every person is important to the health of the church.”[6]

What I found interesting was that church as we know today (Church 2.0) has been conducting itself as a place where people have gone for the last 1700 years. Cole asserts that in Church 2.0. the ministry setting is at the meeting place, which is a church building. The new emerging church is Church 3.0 in which the ministry setting is in the marketplace. In other words, instead of teaching disciples to disciple within the confines of the church physical building walls, Church 3.0 is sending disciples into the community and the world to evangelize and make disciples. I truly believe that is what Christ truly meant when he stated that we were to take the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the utmost parts of the world (Acts 1:8). The church posture is that we all go. We all minister since we all as believers are called into priesthood.[7] Another interesting comparison is that growth in our current Church 2.0 is based on addition where in 3.0, it is based on multiplication.[8] Dempsey wrote, “Missions: people are encouraged to live as missionaries and go across the street and across the world.”[9]

My Status of Living in the Community

My status of living in the community identifies more with Church 3.0. I have started a ministry called Marketplace Evangelism Ministries, which focuses on taking the gospel into the workplace through evangelism. I share my faith with corporate business owners. If they come to Christ, then I take them on as disciples to teach them how to share the gospel with others and ultimately, they start to make disciples. Many times, my activity leads me to others in the marketplace who may not be business owners, but employees who want a true relationship with Jesus Christ. I will never turn down an opportunity to witness, but my focus is to stay within the confines of the marketplace to stay on track with the vision of the ministry.

Being Missional in the Community

Within my own community, I can be missional by living my life as a man of God, by praying for those I meet, helping when I see a need to help, and when people come to Christ, encouraging them to live a life of Christ as well as taking them on as a disciple of Christ. Don N. Howell wrote, “Jesus referred to himself as the Son of man who walks among people offering redemption to lost sinners, proclaiming God’s inaugural rule, and experiencing loss, persecution, and betrayal.”[10] Living my life as a follower of Jesus Christ and intentionally investing in the lives of others through relational discipleship can make a difference for the cause of Christ. As Christ lived among the people, we all should be living among the people and testifying and sharing our faith. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “The Christian community thus lives its own life in the midst of this world, continually bearing witness in all it is and does that ‘the present form of this world is passing away’ (1 Cor. 7:31), that time has come short (1 Cor. 7:23), and that the Lord is near (Phil. 4:5).”[11] As Bonhoeffer asserts, we must be living our life in the world in order for the world to be changed. The time is short and the second coming of Christ is near. According to Dave Earley, “A Christian missionary is a person with the mission of positively impacting others with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.”[12] Therefore it is so important that every believer live their life as ministers of the gospel and missionaries. The only way to do this is that everyone must become engaged in taking the gospel across the street and ultimately across the world.


In conclusion, we are all called into priesthood as followers of Jesus Christ. This is accomplished by training all church members to be missionaries for the cause of Christ. This can be done by developing small relational groups with the ultimate focus of discipleship. The group can be whatever, as long as it leads to discipleship. As mentioned previously, “A biblically based, disciple-making small group involves three components. It is a place where shepherding takes place, a place where real teaching takes place with Q&A, modeling, and stories, and a place where authenticity and accountability are encountered and modeled.”[13]

By implementing these types of groups, it can lead to these newly trained disciples to take the gospel out into the community to minister to neighbors, as well as their local community. These new disciples can then start their own ministries and multiply by making disciples who in turn make disciples. By training new followers of Christ to be missional, then they can take the church into the marketplace to evangelize and make disciples. As Cole asserts, we must all become engaged in the business of ministering to each other as well as in the harvest fields of our communities. Dempsey states to see life transformations, we must follow Colossians 1:28, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. Our goal as Christian leaders is to help every individual stand before the King of kings and hear from Him: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”[14] It is my hope through Marketplace Evangelism Ministries that we can do just that.


Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4. Minneapolis, MN: First Fortress Press, 2003.

Earley, Dave, and David Wheeler. Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is… How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2013.

Howell, Jr., Don N. Servants of the Servant: A Biblical Theology of Leadership. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E Coleman. Disciple Shift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.


[1] Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps that Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 177.

[2] Ibid., 170.

[3] Ibid., 196.

[4] Ibid., 197.

[5] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), 275-276.

[6] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 276.

[7] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 277.

[8] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 277.

[9] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 280.

[10] Don N. Howell, Jr., Servants of the Servant: A Biblical Theology of Leadership (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003), 198.

[11] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4: Discipleship (Minneapolis, MN: First Fortress Press, 2003), 250.

[12] Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 101.

[13] Putman et al., DiscipleShift, 197.

[14] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…, 278.

Joseph T. Lee, Copyright © May 20, 2018, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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