3 Phrases That Reveal Opportunities For Small Groups


We are to be disciple-makers if we are to take Jesus’ words in the Great Commission seriously (Matt. 28:19-20). According to Paul, discipleship is the, “building up the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure and stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:12-13) This kind of building up takes place primarily in the context of the local church.

In part, this context is necessary because relationships are necessary for discipleship. Discipleship happens in relationships. Paul, when writing to the Thessalonians says, “being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” (1 Thess. 2:8)  Sharing the Gospel and making disciples happens best when we have a genuine love and affection for those with whom we are engaging. This dynamic explains why small groups exist at Mercy Hill Chapel. Small groups exist to encourage discipleship. In fact, that is one of its primary designs.

In Luke 6:45, Jesus says something that is pertinent to our disciple-making relationships and so to our time together as a group. He says, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Jesus is saying that the things that we say are a reflection of the state of our heart. So, as disciple-makers we should pay attention to the things that are coming out of our own mouths and out of the mouths of our brothers and sisters.

My goal is to alert us as small group members to this discipleship gauge Jesus gives us. Here are 3 key phrases to listen for in small group to help us gain insight into the heart. The hope is that by listening for these kinds of common phrases, it will give us tools to identify some opportunities for growth and some opportunities for encouragement. Opportunities for growth being phrases that signify areas in a believer’s life where there may be sin, disbelief, or, “bad fruit.” Opportunities for encouragement being phrases that signify areas where the Gospel has taken root and has born faith, righteousness, maturity, or, “good fruit.” These are opportunities to celebrate the work that God is doing in the lives of other small group members.

In this post let’s consider 3 phrases that reveal opportunities for growth. In a follow up post we will look at 3 phrases that reveal opportunities for encouragement.

1. “I love our group/church. Don’t add anyone else to it.”

I mention this first because this is a thought that I have struggled with from time to time. As human beings, it is a fairly regular occurrence for us to long to keep the good things that we have or to return to the good things that we once had. Part of this stems from a love of that which is good. It is great to hear that a small group member finds small group to be useful, convicting, friendly, enjoyable, fulfilling. These are all good things. But there is more on display in this statement than their love for the good things of small group. “Don’t add anyone else to it.” When our love of the good things that God has given us conflicts with His mission, we find ourselves desiring sin rather than the good that we ought. Paul urges us to, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called… eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace.” (Eph. 4:2-3) We are called to unity in the body. When we add a new member to our church or small group, we ought to respond in joy for what God has done in bringing another believer into our church and seek to bring them into our unity. What is more, if our church is fulfilling its mission, then those that we add into membership more often than not may be new believers who have come to faith through the ministry of our church. Let us never forget that, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Lk. 15:7)

2. “I primarily get involved in church for the good of my children.”

Like the previous statement, upon first glance, this sentence may not seem to be undesirable at all. We, as parents, are in fact called to, “bring them [our children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4)  I would never, under any circumstance, discourage our members from wanting good for their children or from wanting to raise them up to know the Lord. The danger in this phrase seems to be the fact that these parents are allowing their children to take the place of God. As believers, we are called to gather as a church primarily to worship and enjoy God. We are to gather to commune together with him by worshipping together, speaking to Him in prayer together, and hearing him speak to us through his Word together. We cannot allow our children, our spouse, our friends, or anything else be the primary driving factor that spurs us to engage with the church. It is our love of God which comes from his love for us through Christ that should drive us to join in ministry with a local body.

It is ironic that in putting our desire for our children’s good first, we may be teaching them to put something else in the place of God in their own lives. This is definitely not the good that we want for them. By putting God first in our lives, we will be setting the example to our children to follow.

3.  “This situation/person/thing made me…”
Of the three, this phrase may be the one most commonly heard in small groups. Again, I am guilty of using it myself. “I was driving in my car and this guy cut me off.  He made me so angry.”  We hear statements like this all the time. The reality at stake here is where sin ultimately comes from. I would hope that if pressed, the individual would admit anger against a personal slight is sinful, but this individual is attributing their sin to a situation or another person. The Bible gives us a clear picture that man’s sin flows from his own evil heart. (Matt. 15:19) R.C. Sproul poignantly states, “We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners.” “Sinner,” is not a description of our lives, but rather, it is the reality of our hearts. In our example the person was not angry because someone else made him so. He was angry because that anger already existed in his heart. Phrases like this present an opportunity to engage deeper and disciple one another.

The context of small groups serves discipleship by letting us listen to each others’ words and gain insight into each others hearts. Phrases or attitudes which highlight opportunities for growth in the lives of our small group members, can also serve as opportunities for discipleship.