Yesterday, our elders were trying to explain their vision for developing a vibrant small group ministry in our church.  During the course of talking extemporaneously, one elder shared that the purpose of the groups was to foster: teaching, fellowship, prayer, service and outreach.  I wrote them down because I wondered whether those were in any particular order.  Later, they passed out a handout that said small groups were to be a “primary model for evangelism, service, discipleship, and fellowship.”  And another person asked whether those were in any particular order and was told yes, they had prayerfully considered the order.

What I would like to suggest is the discipleship does not belong in that list.  it seems to me that discipleship is the umbrella under which all the other areas fall.  My working definition (on which I welcome your input) is that discipleship is following/being like Jesus. 

I think all other areas, evangelism, service, fellowship, teaching, prayer, and outreach fall under the umbrella of following/being like Jesus. 

Evangelism is telling people about Jesus, just like He did, “I am the way . . . no one comes to the Father except through me.”  Service is “[taking] on a servant’s nature”, just like He did.  Fellowship is spending time with other Christ followers so that we can encourage and uplift one another, just like He did.  Teaching is providing opportunities to understand this Jesus we are following and what following Jesus looks like, just like He did.  Prayer is talking to the Father both individually and corporately, just like He did.  Outreach is a little fuzzy for me.  Jesus went where the people were and the people came where He was – so outreach, at it’s best, is providing opportunities, both formal and informal, for us to be where the people are so that we can tell them about Jesus, pray for them, serve them . . .

So in the above scenario, I don’t know what the working definition for discipleship was that it was one of a list, nor why it fell so far down the list, but I would like to suggest the definition is incomplete.

NOTE:  worship was mentioned at one time as well, but not in these two particular lists, but I would like to suggest that like discipleship it belongs over the rest, because at their best, fellowship, prayer, service, teaching, evangelism are all acts of worship.