My Sunday School teacher called early on a Saturday morning. “Mark, my store was broken into and completely vandalized. It’ll take days to repair. If you don’t teach tomorrow, then we won’t have Sunday School. How ‘bout it?” I agreed, but only out of pity. Prior to that moment, I had only taught a third grade Sunday School class with my wife. I actually got her to drive to church while I scanned the lesson plan. And I knew I was bad. Because of that experience I skewed spiritual gift tests every time to show what I had no gift of teaching. So, within the hour I had a lesson plan in hand and I was to be teaching not just any adults, but my peers at our new church plant.
I went to war on the lesson plan. I don’t remember the passage, but I remember the preparation. I spent most of that day and was up early on Sunday ready to stand and deliver God’s Word.
And so I taught the lesson. And I became the sub for teachers who had to miss. Then I was asked to teach my own class. After we moved to another church, I taught college & career classes, middle schoolers, and an adult Sunday School class. I was a teaching machine. Boy, howdy, did I know how to follow a lesson plan and teach that lesson.
But did I make disciples? I can’t answer that. I know what I taught, but I don’t know if it was caught. A few couples divorced. Teens went wayward. But I taught the lesson.
Small group leaders must have an unwavering commitment to making disciples in obedience to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Paul told Timothy the essential part of his role in Ephesus was being able to raise up those who could pass it along to others; disciple-making.
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2 NIV)
The “entrusting” part required that “reliable men” be equipped so that they could pass it along. And how can we continue to be satisfied making converts when the command of Jesus goes further into disciple-making?
There is a horrible phrase I picked up recently. It makes my skin crawl and might wake you up in the middle of the night with cold sweats: institutional discipleship. Ouch. Are we just leading people to Christ so that they can keep a church going? The command of Christ is to become change agents in a lost world! Nobody gets a bye. Everyone is in the game who is a follower of Jesus. The small group leader’s role then is about raising up and sending out disciples.
When I was beginning to be a small group leader, I never asked God if what I was doing was His plan. I just wanted to survive the hour! I did ask the Holy Spirit to speak through me. But again, I never asked the Lord to show me a method that could make disciples that would multiply. I just put my head down and delivered.
Prioritize making disciples over just teaching the lesson.
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership (DOM) for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.