Most pastors in the US long to teach to a huge crowd of excited people on Sunday mornings: people packed into pews, pens and notebooks in hand, waiting for a download of all kinds of top-rated, inspiring information from the Bible. But this kind of learning environment is exactly what a good schoolteacher would hate: a big classroom and a one-size-fits-all lecture style of teaching. Teachers realize that most people don’t learn best by listening to lectures. Yet many pastors still believe they are making disciples by preaching sermons that teach their congregations what the Bible says. They see discipleship as simply a transfer of knowledge from teacher to student and they expect the result to be a changed life.
What makes this even less effective than a classroom environment is that most Christians only attend church one time a week. In fact, according to some assessments Christians only go to church only 1.6 times a month. No wonder most believers don’t have a Biblical Worldview! Many pastors are frustrated by the fact that most Christians are too busy to come to more than a worship service. Because of this, they pour all they have into that one venue. As a result, they have created a knowledge-based environment for discipling; they put all the emphasis and focus on the worship service and sermon on Sunday morning.
Now – good things can happen in a large group setting that cannot happen in a small one. It is exciting to see masses of people committed to the same thing. It enables us to see that we are part of a bigger movement as we worship together in a large group setting.
But remember, discipleship requires more than a head-level change. Jesus said in Matthew 4:19 that He would make us into something altogether different—that we would experience change at the heart and hands level too. I am convinced that little learning takes place in a formal environment alone, which is why at Real Life Ministries we focus on small groups that are relational. Effective disciple-makers do not EXCLUDE formal instruction, but they understand its LIMITATIONS.
Jesus modeled the importance of relationship in the way He taught His disciples: He followed the Deuteronomy 6:7 exhortation. God’s commands were on His heart, and He talked about them as He spent time with the disciples. He talked about the truth when they ate and when they went to bed. Jesus spent time with his disciples because His relationship with them was the conduit by which He could deliver all that they needed.