In this season of social distancing, we must be able to distance ourselves from one another while still advancing the gospel and creating disciples. As if creating disciples was not a tough enough job already! The buzzword in the small groups world used to be “community.” We wanted everyone in our church to be in community together for great reasons. They were less likely to leave the church. They were more likely to serve in the church. They were being cared for by more than just the pastoral staff.
Now the word I hear often is “discipleship.” We have done a pretty good job of gathering people into community; now how do we turn that into making disciples? Great question. Here are five potential barriers to discipleship.
1. It’s really hard.
Helping someone become a fully devoted follower of Christ is not for the faint of heart. There will be times of elated joy and times of extreme frustration. People’s lives are messy, and walking this journey with them gives you a backstage pass to the ugliness.
2. It takes a long time.
Most of us are not very patient—especially when it comes to other people. We want to see immediate results, or we’re on to the next thing. Becoming a disciple of Jesus is a long road that takes time and patience. There is a lot to cultivate and refine. We didn’t get this messed up overnight.
3. It requires relationship.
If Jesus was our example, then we are not meant to take this journey on our own. Disciples are not created in a classroom or on a pew. Iron sharpens iron. The only way to help someone become more like Christ is to be a part of his or her life. All of the good and all of the bad.
4. There’s not a finish line.
By nature, we want to see the job finished. My favorite part of mowing my lawn is when it’s finally done. I can spend a couple of minutes admiring my mowing skills and then move on to the next conquest. That’s not the way it works with spiritual growth. We’re never finished until we’re standing in front of Jesus.
5. It causes growth.
What you may not realize is that when you decide to disciple someone else, you are going to grow as well. Growth is difficult. Growth means change. Every time we take another spiritual step, it requires more from us. It would be much easier to stay right where we are, but the fact is that living things grow.
While the task of discipling another person is daunting, the result of making a disciple who will make disciples is absolutely worth it. And Matthew 28:19 doesn’t actually give us a choice. Jesus left us one job to do—disciple all of the nations. Now let’s go do it.
Chris Surratt is a ministry consultant and coach with over 22 years of experience serving the local church. Chris served on the Executive Team at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, and was on staff at Seacoast Church in Charleston, SC, for 15 years. He also manages SmallGroup.com for Lifeway Christian Resources. Chris’s first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, was just released by Thomas Nelson. You can follow his blog at chrissurratt.com or follow him on Twitter @chrissurrat