Thursday, September 15, 2011


Core Group discipleship

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C3 Discipleship Process

Jesus did it. Wesley did it. You can too.

Jesus' 3-Strand Discipleship

The most effective manner to train and equip people for any skill is by providing effective models and opportunities to practice the skill itself. Jesus used a show, tell, release, and supervise model of training. Jesus ministered to the multitudes (crowd), the 12 (cell), and the inner circle of 3 (core). After calling the disciples, He took them along with Him, teaching and healing the sick as He went. Then, after He thought the disciples had seen and learned enough to try for themselves, He commissioned, empowered, instructed, and sent them out to do the same things. This discipleship process should be no different for those desiring to bring others into a complete understanding and walk in Christ-likeness.

John Wesley’s 3-Strand Discipleship

In 1743 John Wesley created a 3-strand discipleship model, a company of people having the form and seeking the power of godliness, united in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one another in love, that they might help each other to work out their own salvation. The 3 groups were called societies (crowd), classes (cell), and bands (core).

C3 Discipleship Process

The C3 discipleship process can be integrated into any church using all 3 strands or by launching stand-alone Core Groups. It can be used by any Christian church as a roadmap and adapted to fit any church expression or in small groups or for individual study. In addition to the process, we also provide free resources to assist you in equipping the saints.
C3 Discipleship

Strand 1: Crowd

Size: 50+ people; this is typically the large gathering of people for corporate worship
Purpose: To bring about a change in knowledge
Focus: celebration - worship.

Wesley's society or crowd group included those in a geographical area, much like a typical, congregational meeting in today’s church. These large groups of people met once a week to pray, sing, study scripture, and to watch over one another in love. However, as is true of today's corporate church gathering, there was little or no provision made at this level for personal response or feedback.

Strand 2: Cell

Size: 5-16 people
Purpose: To bring about behavioral change; conduct
Focus: community - fellowship.

Wesley's class or cell group was the most basic group structure of the society. The class was composed of 12-20 members, both sexes, mixed by age, social standing and spiritual readiness, under the direction of a trained leader. It was not a gathering for academic learning. They met weekly in the evening for mutual confession of sin and accountability for growing in holiness. This group provided the structure to more closely inspect the condition of the flock, to help them through trials and temptations, and to bring further understanding in practical terms to the messages they had heard preached in the public society meeting. Membership in a class meeting was non-negotiable. If you wanted to continue in the society you had to be in a class. In 1742 in one society in London there were 426 members, divided into 65 classes. Eighteen months later that same society had 2,200 members, all of whom were in classes. Every week each class member was expected to speak openly and honestly on the true state of his or her soul. This strand closely resembles today's cell groups, small groups, life groups, etc.

Strand 3: Core

Size: 3 or 4 people
Purpose: To bring about a change of direction, heart and position; knowledge, character and conduct
Focus: committment - discipleship.

Wesley's band or Core was made up of 4 members, all the same sex, age, and marital status. This was a voluntary group of people who professed a clear Christian commitment, who desired to grow in love, holiness, and purity of motive. The environment was one of ruthless honesty and frank openness. There were specific rules about punctuality and order within the meeting. He introduced accountability questions which everyone answered openly and honestly in the meeting each week. Bands became the training ground for future leaders. This group held to extreme confidentiality in a “safe place”, mutual submission where matters of indifference were yielded to the released leader, and godly stewardship. This was the group that could intensively pursue goals and vision together. There is a strong case to be made for churches to review, adapt and integrate a 3-Strand Discipleship Process into their expression. It begins with the Bible, is supported by sociological evidence, makes sense from an organizational standpoint, and has been proven successful for thousands of years.

Biblical Evidence

"One standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Biblical Evidence for 3-Strand Discipleship

Scripture paints a clear picture of a God who not only lives in community but embraces and seeks after it. First, with Adam (Gen.1:26), then with the people of Israel (Deut.6:4) and finally in the Godhead itself (John 1:1-3). There is power in a cord of three and this concept runs throughout God's Word. Since God Himself lives and works in community, and we are made in the likeness of God, then we too are created to live in and for community. To be human is to hunger for community.
Additionally, Jesus and the disciples modeled a closely knit community. Christ Himself came to provide community and live with us (Mth. 1:23) and then He called a small group of disciples to live and walk with Him (Mark 3:7-10,13-14). Jesus knew that the multitudes had great needs, but chose to minister to the twelve and especially the three (Peter, James and John). By walking with and training a few, He ultimately transformed many lives.
This cord of three strands is Christ’s highest dream for His Church. It is seen in His prayer for us that we may be one as He and the Father and Holy Spirit are one (John 17:11). Additionally, Christ sees our unity and community as our message to the world that He came and that He is love, and if we, the Church, fail at community, we fail our mission (John 17:21, 23).

Relational Evidence for 3-Strand Discipleship

There is relational evidence that God created us to crave relationships and community:
• God wants us to seek a relationship with Him (Acts 17:24-27)
• God wants us to have relationships with others (Genesis 2:18)
• God reveals His emotions to us (Ephesians 4:30; Zephaniah 3:17)
• God intervenes when we can’t communicate (Romans 8:26-27)
There is also blessing that comes from community:
• Strength for storms of life (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
• Wisdom for making good decisions (Proverbs 15:22)
• Confidentiality and accountability for spiritual health (Proverbs 27:17)
• There is strength, reliability and assurance in community (Proverbs 18:24)

Structural Evidence for 3-Strand Discipleship

As churches are planted to accomplish God’s work in the world, organization becomes a necessity to ensure community. The Core Discipleship process and groups are a way to ensure that this done in a life-giving manner by “doing life together” - everyone is cared for and no one cares for too many (not more than four). Just as is true in a natural family, the Core Discipleship Process enhances spiritual parenting to ensure that no one stands alone, struggles alone, serves alone, develops alone, seeks alone, or grows up alone.
The Core Discipleship Process and groups are a God-ordained way to provide infrastructure within any church to assure the development of disciples (Matthew 28:18-20), where the workload is shared (Exodus 18:9-22), where everyone receives care (Acts 6:1) and where leadership can be determined, equipped and repeated (Titus 1:5).
Finally, the Core Discipleship Process provides a structure for “mutual membership” to promote unity in the body (Ephesians 4:1-6, 11-16), a sense of belonging to one another (Romans 7:2-4) and a place to edify, bless, grow, serve and challenge each other through the exercise of each person's spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 12:12-27).

Next: The Core Discipleship Process: The Master's Discipleship Plan

Church: 3-Strand Discipleship Process

Strand 1: Crowd

Size: 50+ people; typically large gathering
Population: Mixed gender
Purpose: To bring about a change in knowledge
Focus: Celebration/worship

Strand 2: Cells (Life, Home, or Small Groups)

Size: 5-16 people; typically in homes
Population: Mixed gender usually
Purpose: To bring about behavioral change; conduct
Focus: Community/fellowship

Strand 3: Core Groups

Size: 3 or 4 people
Population: Same gender (see process)
Purpose: To bring about a change of direction, heart and position; knowledge, character and conduct
Focus: Commitment/discipleship - intentional, relational, reproducible

Core Groups specifically embrace the Great Commandment and the Great Commission by focusing on the imperative to make disciples found in the Great Commission as they are taught to "...observe all that I commanded you"(Mth. 28:20). This is accomplished as we build life-long relationships in the context of safe and confidential groups of no more than four disciples, men with men and women with women. Core Groups are not accountability groups or smaller, small groups. Core Groups develop students and adults who commit their lives to Jesus Christ and are willing to follow Him as presented in the pages of God's Word. From the very beginning, Core members are held accountable to begin praying for two to come to Christ and for someone they are called to disciple.

Core Key Values

There are 5 key values emphasized within a Core Group: Matthew 22:37-40(Great Commandment); Matthew 28:19-20 (Great Commission); Acts 2:42;Ephesians 4:11-16, and 2 Timothy 2:2.

1. Love: Great Commandment

The first foundational value of a Core Group is the pursuit of the Great Commandment - our vertical relationship with God and our horizontal relationship with others (Mth. 22:37-40).

2. Christ-likeness: Great Commission

The second foundational value is the pursuit of Christ-likeness as we observe the Great Commission (Mth. 28:18-20). It is our desire to be genuinely conformed to the character of Jesus. We believe God’s vision for man is to make us in the image of Christ (Gen. 1:26; Rom. 8:29). We believe that all spiritual progress is the result of God’s grace. We believe that humility is the pathway to Christ-likeness. In seeking to truly become like Christ, we remember His command to, “Learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Mth. 11:29).

3. Devoted: Acts 2:42

The third foundational value of Core is a commitment to the four fundamental devotions of the church as recorded in Acts 2:42: devoted to God's Word, fellowship, communion, and prayer. It is learning to be a doer of the Word.

4. Equipped: Ephesians 4:11-16

A Core Group outfits the saints for the work of ministry - the privilege and enterprise of each member of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-16).

5. Faithful: 2 Timothy 2:2

A Core Group is facilitated by a more spiritually mature person who prayerfully selects others whose faithfulness and gift have been evidenced (‘faithful men, teach’) as presented by Jesus (Luke 6:12,13) and by Paul (2 Timothy 2:2): "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." Discipleship as "spiritual parenting" is a life-long process and those we prayerfully select are those we will invest a significant portion of our lives.

Discipleship And The Great Commission

From Matthew 28:19-20 we learn: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (bold mine).
The Great Commission has three participles: "go," "baptizing," and "teaching” and one imperative verb, a command: "make disciples." The main idea is to make disciples. The participles tell us how to do that: we make disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching. So the goal of a Core Discipleship Group is to make disciples, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded.
There appears to be a lack of consensus regarding the Biblical definition of discipleship as it appears in the Gospels and the Epistles (theology and methodology). It appears from Scripture that the main verb, 'make disciples,' does not really explain the means of discipleship, but its goal. To make disciples according to Jesus' Great Commission is accomplished by going (first participle), initiating people into the life of discipleship by 'baptizing' (second participle), and achieved by 'teaching' (third participle) which is the continuous obligation of the church in the life of a new convert as they develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as both Savior AND Lord. Teaching then is the process of getting the person to know Him in a life-long, deeper, and more intimate way. Scripture is an absolute essential element in the process of Holy Spirit-inspired, transformation of knowledge, conduct, and character. Discipleship is the corporate responsibility of the church. Discipleship is a life-long process, beginning at the point of salvation, and participated in by a variety of individuals within the church, each as the Lord directs, from his or her own unique gift set and way.
Making disciples does not refer to some formal structured program intended only for the super-spiritual. It is God’s imperative for every believer in His church. It involves the initiation and the instruction of every believer into an ever deepening relationship with Jesus Christ. It seeks to make every person a follower of Christ.

The Promise

The last phrase of Matthew 28:20 contains an incredible promise: "And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." In context, this verse is primarily talking about making disciples. What Jesus is saying is that when we make disciples according to His plan and process, He will be with us. When Jesus sees a disciple making church, He gets involved there. When He sees disciples going out to make new disciples, then baptizing and teaching them, He is very present. According to Romans 12:1-2; Romans 8:29, God wants disciples to be conformed to Christ's image, and according to His Commission, He promises to help us make disciples to accomplish His plan.

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