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Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

For the past while I’ve been grappling with the chicken and the egg question when it comes to small groups. Should they primarily focus on mission? Or, is the main focus discipleship? I think I’ve finally landed. The following quote from Alan Hirsch says it all:

People resist mission because they are under-discipled, but they are also under-discipled because of the absence of any missional challenge.

Small groups must be about discipleship.  Small groups must be about mission. My deep concern is that many of our small groups are about neither. The problem is, we’ve become used to seeing discipleship as a passive thing as we sit and enjoy one another as we “huddle and cuddle” together. We’ve made it reading the hottest book on the market or learning about the Bible (not that that’s bad!). One look at the discipleship process Jesus used with his twelve will convince that discipleship training needs to be moved from our cozy homes or churches and brought into the streets. Jesus’ disciples were trained by following a living example. Their training was an active thing, not only theory. They followed Jesus wherever he went which means they found themselves in places and situations that were probably very uncomfortable.  They understood what it means to be a disciple by practicing it and then listening to Jesus’ spiritual instruction.

So what comes first? Mission? Discipleship? I believe the ultimate goal of small groups is to develop mission-shaped disciples. That requires our small groups to be actively involved in joining God’s mission together by going where Jesus would have gone, by serving those He would have served. Only then will transformation happen in our own lives and in the world God has placed us in.

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)


I believe we certainly develop as disciples as we live out the mission.  But we also see God's mission more clearly as we develop as disciples.  Often it is the mission of God is the innertia of discipleship, but once it's moving it creates its own momentum... if that makes sense.



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