THE POWER OF DISCIPLESHIP GROUPS FOR MULTIPLYING DISCIPLES
*EVANGELISTIC ADDITION VS. DISCIPLEMAKING MULTIPLICATION
D-GROUP OF 4
**Robby Gallaty on Discipleship Multiplication in D-Groups
God has always been interested in reproduction. In fact, His first command to Adam and Eve in the Garden was not to be spiritual, productive, or upstanding citizens of earth. Rather, it was to “be fruitful and multiply.”(Genesis 1:28). What God commanded the first humans to do physically is what Jesus commanded the first believers to do spiritually. The goal of every *D-Group is for the mentee, the one being discipled, to become a mentor; to multiply–make other disciples [*A D-Group is a closed group of 3-5 members of the same-sex consisting of believers who desire a deeper walk with Christ via intimate and accountable relationships resulting in community and multiplication of more disciples].
In essence, the D-Group is designed for the player to become a coach. If it is not discussed early on, members in the group will adopt a consumer mentality, with a short-sighted, self-serving focus. The heart of discipleship, as Christ modeled and instituted it, is that you are not learning only for yourself. You are learning for the person whom you will mentor in following Him.
The Great Commission is designed to be a team effort. Instead of the pastors/leaders/Sunday school teachers/deacons performing all the duties of ministry in the church, the saints are equipped to carry out the work. The ministers cannot carry out the command alone, as Paul clearly stated:“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:11-12).
Greg Ogden, in his book Discipleship Essentials, expounds this point by graphically illustrating the contrast between someone personally seeing one person come to the Lord every day for a year, as compared to investing in the same two people for an entire year (see chart above). The evangelist hits the streets every day with the goal of sharing the gospel with as many people as needed to see God save one person. In contrast, the disciple-maker walks two people through a year of intensive discipleship.
The slow-moving discipleship process creeps forward with only four people being impacted in two years, compared to 730 converts through the solitary work of the busy evangelist. However, this radically changes with the passing of time. After sixteen years of the same activity, the evangelist would have seen almost 6,000 people come to faith in Christ, while the disciple would have impacted 65,536 people. Every person on the planet would be reached multiple times over after thirty years. It is a ministry shift from a strategy of addition, where the clergy performs the ministerial duties, to one of multiplication, where believers are expected and equipped to personally participate in the Great Commission.
Multiplication–not addition–is Jesus’ plan for reaching the world with gospel. And multiplication is the purpose of the D-Group. If the body of Christ would accept this plan, embrace it, and faithfulness obey it, then the Great Commission would be accomplished.
Nothing Grows under a Banyan Tree
The banyan is a massive tree that develops secondary trunks to support its enormous branches. A full-grown banyan tree can cover an entire acre. The tree provides shade and shelter for many animals with its branches, but nothing is able to grow under its dense foliage. Therefore, the earth beneath is barren.
A banana tree is exactly the opposite. Within six months, small shoots sprout from the ground. Six months later, another set of shoots spring up from the earth to join the others, which are now six months old. At about eighteen months, bananas burst forth from the main trunk of the tree. Humans, birds, and many other creatures benefit from its fruit before it dies. Every six months, the cycle is reproduced, with sprouts forming, fruit bearing, and shoots dying. The end result is a forest of banana trees.
These contrasting trees graphically illustrate a vital discipleship truth. Many people utilize a banyan style of leadership. Mitsuo Fukuda explained, “Banyan-style leaders have a tremendous ministry, but have difficulty finding a successor, because they do not generate leaders, only followers. It’s possible to grow followers in a relatively short space of time, and that’s a useful result on its own. But when the leader goes away, you are left only with a heavily dependent group of people, programmed with a list of instructions” (Mitsuo Fukuda, Upward, Outward, Inward: Passing on the Baton of Discipleship. Gloucester, UK: Wide Margin Books, 2010, p. 100).
Discipleship is about shoots and sprouts. These new sprouts are never a threat to the banana tree, for they ensure growth. In fact, they are expected. The goal of a D-Group is for the mentee to become a mentor, for the player to become a coach. Unless that happens, the group never progresses beyond a small group Bible study.
**Source: Chart is adapted from Greg Ogden, Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ (Downers Grove: IL.: IVP, 2007), 12. Article adapted from Robby Gallaty. Growing Up: How To Be A Disciple Who Makes Disciples. (Bloomington, IN.: CrossBooks, 2013), pp. 13-16. Thanks to Robby Gallaty for permission to print this article.
I am the Lead Pastor of Valley Baptist Church (Bay Area), born and raised in Huntington Beach, Ca., and currently living in Novato, California. I am married to my best friend of 29 years - Dana - and have five adult children; and seven grand children. I have been a Teaching Pastor for over thirty years. I was privileged to study at Multnomah University (B.S. - 1988); Talbot School of Theology (M.Div. - 1991); Westminster Theological Seminary & Northwest Graduate School (D. Min. - 2003). I founded Vertical Living Ministries in 2008 with the goal of encouraging Christian Disciples and Leaders to be more intentionally Christ-Centered in how they live by bringing glory to God in nine key areas of life: (1) Intimacy with God, (2) marriage, (3) family, (4) friendship, (5) vocationally/ministry , (6) emotional and physical health, (7) stewardship of resources, (8) discipleship, and (9) mentoring.
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