The story actually starts 11 years ago.
October 2006, A Dream
On October 16, 2006, I had the most vivid dream of my life. The dream had three scenes. In the Scene 1, I was traveling through the countryside. It was harvest time and all around me people were hard at work harvesting the fields.
In Scene 2, I was in a gigantic, spectacular building. Everything was sensational and there was more marble than I had ever seen. I remember thinking, “Where am I? Why am I here? Where are these people taking me?” I was led to a small room in the center of this huge, elegant building. It looked just like a funeral home parlor and they said, “Jim, lead the funeral.” Their request was repulsive to me. And I realized I must get out of this place of death.
In Scene 3, I was in Morton, IL, the town I grew up in, and I had my bicycle on my car and I was going to the trailhead, the beginning, of the River Trail, a beautiful, paved bike trail that goes from Morton down to the Illinois River. But I kept going around the block because I could not find the driveway to the trailhead parking lot. So I could not get onto the trail.
When I woke up I knew immediately what God was saying to me through the dream. Continue Reading →
This is what happened. I was teaching a class on how to study the Bible and in preparation I decided to look at what the Bible itself has to say about Bible study. I was jarred by what I discovered. The Bible says almost nothing about studying the Bible! Very often we are told in the Bible to obey and meditate on Scripture, and there are many passages that tell us to remember and not forget God’s word and God’s acts. But study the Bible? It’s almost never mentioned in all of scripture.
I was the same way. I had taught and written about discipleship for thirty years, and discipled many people both one-on-one and in small cadres. But recently I realized that my primary assumption about discipleship was wrong.
What am I talking about? I always thought that discipleship should immediately follow someone’s coming to Christ. In other words, I thought that discipleship followed evangelism. But I was wrong. Continue Reading →
A new way of doing small groups is sweeping around the world. Instead of focusing on learning and talking about the Bible—as we have so often done in the past—the Discovery Group format focuses on listening to and immediately obeying the Bible. The change is subtle but powerful and brings wonderful results. The simple Discovery format is accelerating evangelism, leadership multiplication, and church planting across the globe.
I have been experimenting with the Discovery Group methods for most of a year and want to let you know of a few tweaks I have made. You might call it Discovery Group 2.0. Let me explain… Continue Reading →
I hate to break it to you, but your small group is going to end. Every small group, even the very best, is going to close someday. Jesus is no longer meeting in person here with his twelve disciples, and you are not going to do life indefinitely with the wonderful people in your current group.
How do you end your small group? How do you celebrate the cool things that God did in it? How do you bring closure?
My wife Vicki and I just closed our small group last night. I will tell you how we did it, and maybe you can glean ideas for how to best end your group when the time comes. Continue Reading →
How do we make disciples who make disciples who make disciples? Recently an exciting new method of doing this is sweeping around the world. It’s called the Disciple-Making Movement. At its heart are Discovery Groups focused on discipleship—obeying everything Jesus commanded. (Matthew 28:18-20)
In an earlier post I wrote about how a discovery group works, each meeting is built around immediately obeying a single passage or story in the Bible. If you are intrigued by the Discovery Group method, you are probably wondering, “What passages do you study?” Good question.
The answer is: Continue Reading →
A simple but revolutionary way of doing evangelism and small groups is sweeping the globe. It started in India but it’s rocking the world. In suburbs of San Francisco, slums of South America, and Muslim tribes of Africa, the lost are being won, disciples are being mobilized, and churches are multiplying.
It’s called the “Disciple-Making Movement” (DMM). Although it’s a 21st century phenomena, it’s just a return to principles taught by Jesus 2000 years ago.
What is a DMM? It’s a combination of several key principles and methods, but at its heart is obedience-based small groups that follow Jesus’ command to teach disciples to “obey everything” he commanded us. (Matthew 28:18-20)
Here’s the four steps to start and multiply a DMM “Discovery Group.” Continue Reading →
For 20 years I have been researching what makes small groups grow. This has involved many rounds of data gathering and careful statistical analysis. Over and over again the results reveal: The most important factor for the health and growth of a group ministry is coaching.
For some reason, I woke up at 2:30am today wondering, “Why is coaching so important?” And I started to think of the different small group coaches who have helped me as a group leader over the years. They all had unique styles and they helped me in different ways. Let me tell you about a few of them. Continue Reading →
Ka-Blam! My concepts of how to do small groups, evangelism, and discipleship, just blew up. I thought I knew a lot about these things. I’ve been a pastor, small group writer, and small group consultant for 30 years. I even did my Ph.D. research on what makes groups grow.
But recently my paradigms of small groups, evangelism and discipleship were shattered. And now I am in learning mode all over again, experimenting with a new approach to take things to a whole new level.
What am I talking about? The next big thing in small groups… and discipleship… and evangelism is Continue Reading →
I’ve been in full-time ministry for 35 years. During that time I’ve served in a number of different roles such as a missionary, senior pastor, associate pastor and missions pastor. No matter what role I have been in, I am almost always leading a small group—sometimes more than one group.
There are four reasons why every pastor should lead a small group: Continue Reading →