How can the church best equip believers to live out the Christian life?
To answer that question, consider a couple of Bible passages that have long intrigued me. They are the Great Commission (Matthew 28) and Ephesians 4. The words of the Great Commission are "teaching them to observe," which I believe carries a very different meaning than had the text just said, "teaching them." We can't leave teaching along the wayside because we have nothing without the truth and direction of God's Word. But the phrase "teaching them to observe" must be really different. The phrase mandates that we take believers farther down the road than "teaching them." We can't just teach the Bible and hope someone knows what to do with it. I believe teaching them to observe will look much more like coaching than teaching. It involves feedback and mastery of skills.
That leads us to Ephesians 4:12, "... equip the saints for the work of ministry..." church leaders (and we believe Small Group leaders certainly fall into this category) are to equip members for ministry. According to the Believers Bible Commentary, "The work of ministry simply means service. It includes every form of spiritual service. And what this verse teaches is that every believer should be "in the ministry"."
Over the years, I've noted widespread belief in the church that everything will be okay if we just teach God's Word. Yet, Jesus used relational and experiential tools to equip His disciples for ministry. The church today is challenged to find ways to practically equip people for the ministry God desires that believers fulfill.
Given these two scriptures, I propose that we use our Small Groups to accomplish equipping the saints. How exactly would we achieve that? Here are a few ideas, but you'll see the principle of finding ways to move beyond just teaching to providing specific ways to apply the truth and practice the learned skills during group.
Model initiating gospel conversations with a lost person during your group meeting.
Model how to share the gospel.
Allow time for group members to practice sharing the gospel with each other.
Model how to glean truth from Scripture, focusing on how they would do this with someone else in a disciple-making relationship.
Allow time for group members to study a passage in pairs and use the principles.
Challenge group members to put into practice the things studied and come back and report on successes and failures.
Another equipping idea is to leverage church-sponsored ministries beyond group time. A global trip with your group would be awesome, but a better first step might be for your group to serve in ESL Rock the Block or Summer English Camp, sponsored by City Ministries.
May God bless you with wisdom as you seek to equip your members for the work of ministry.