Four Differences between Bible Studies and Micro-Groups
The most frequent answer is that it’s a program of the church, something you sign up for and attend.
“We have a discipleship class that you take when you first give your life to Christ to help you grow in your relationship with Him.”
Many answer that it’s doing a Bible study with some friends or people from church.
Is discipleship a Bible study or a class?
When we look back in time to the model that Jesus provided us in the Bible with His disciples, we see Jesus interact with His followers in ways that didn’t involve just teaching or preaching.
He spent time with His disciples; He did life with them. Teaching was a part of the process, but only a part. For three years He engaged in an intimate relationship with them.
While Jesus chose 12 men to pour into during His earthly ministry, He had a close inner circle of just 3 men.
They prayed with Him, traveled with Him, and witnessed miracles that astonished them and those around them.
A discipleship micro-group, a group of 3-5 men or women who are committed to following Jesus together, can mimic this type of relationship.
So how is a discipleship micro-group different from just a Bible study or class?
Information vs. Transformation
When you think of a traditional Bible study, you think of a teacher walking a group of people through a specific study to inform and equip those taking the study for a specific task or purpose.
For example, a study on the Armor of God specifically addresses how to arm ourselves as Christians for spiritual warfare. Most of the discussion is going to revolve around this topic alone, and a good Bible study teacher or leader will divert any off-topic discussion back to the topic at hand to reach the lesson objective.
While a Bible study can be interactive, often there is a “sit still while I instill” mentality surrounding it.
A discipleship micro-group is all about transformation, how are we going to become more like Christ, the One that we are following. The questions that are being asked and the focus is on how we can take the principles and concepts we study and put them into practice and apply them to our daily lives.
Each week the tough questions of “What did you do with the information that we discussed?” “How are you doing?”, and “Where are you struggling?” are asked.
While a Bible study can be an important part of a discipleship micro-group, it is only a part of the overall objective of transformation.
Time-Bound vs. Lifelong
However, a discipleship micro-group is not bound by the same time constraints. The commitment to this type of group is greater than that of a just a Bible study or class. Becoming a fully developing follower of Jesus is a lifelong process.
We will not fully “arrive” as a disciple until we are with Jesus in Heaven. It takes a lot of work and effort to keep our relationship with Jesus vibrant and growing, and we need help and accountability along the way, more help and accountability than we can get in just a 6-week Bible study.
That’s where a discipleship micro-group comes in.
This type of group is committed to sticking with one another for an indefinite period of time in order to sharpen and strengthen each other, to celebrate when things are going great, and to mourn and weep when things are falling apart.
A discipleship micro-group can do multiple Bible studies over the course of their time together, learning and growing through life’s ups and downs.
This doesn’t mean that people won’t come and go from a discipleship micro-group.
That is a natural part of the process as people change and go through different seasons of life. People may even leave one group to start their own.
But a longer commitment is there to stick with each other for as long as God allows and directs.
Formality vs. Intimacy
Now don’t get me wrong, there is a place for that in today’s culture. Now more than ever the people of God need to be informed and strong in their faith so that they can stand against the lies and attacks from Satan. Our culture needs strong voices of truth to stand for the Gospel.
There is a place for discipleship classes and Bible studies in the church.
But intimacy and close connection with other believers is just as necessary.
We need each other. We were created for close community and intimacy with others, and discipleship micro-groups provide that type of environment and experience.
When you have 3-4 men or women in your life that you can count on no matter what, people who will pray for you and support you in time of need, you can face just about anything.
There is power in community.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 emphasizes just how powerful connection among believers is when it states that “a three-fold cord is not easily broken.”
A discipleship micro-group provides this strength in believers’ lives and allows for individual names and needs to be known and met.
Objective vs. Organic
As a classroom teacher, I learned early on that my educational objective had to be met to provide my students with the essential information and knowledge they needed to pass the coming test.
My objectives were the priority. I did not have the freedom and flexibility to walk into my classroom and proceed in an organic way letting my students decide what they needed for that hour or class period.
The organic relationship was left to after class, on the playground, or before or after school.
A Bible study or class can fall into this same trap of objective over organic.
A discipleship micro-group provides a more organic environment for relationships to grow and flourish. It allows for space and time for the participants to speak freely and express what is on their mind and hearts.
Often when there is a serious need or issue with someone in the group, Bible study may become secondary to the spiritual help and care that needs to be given to someone at that moment.
Life is difficult and messy. A discipleship micro-group allows for an environment of safety and healing for those within the group.
However, true discipleship happens in a small group of committed followers of Jesus Christ who are on the same journey of becoming more like Christ over the course of their life.
Jesus had his group of men that He poured into and that He loved and trusted. We need our group of men and women that we can pour into, love and trust.
While they are distinctly different in scope and purpose, Bible studies and discipleship micro-groups are both a part of the discipleship process.
Excellent article describing the subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences between bible study and discipleship!
Thank you for your blog, Jana! This is really easy to understand and helpful to see why micro groups are so important to our relationships with Jesus and others!