Alongside and distinct from growing homegroups I’ve been so encouraged by increased life-on-life discipleship. We’re nurturing that in triplets and they’re motoring! New combinations, unlikely combinations and kingdom combinations are popping up in surprising ways. Here’s why I think they matter….

Up-close discipleship invites everyone to bear his or her weight. It nurtures self-leadership and growth in accountable ways. We want what God desires in his church, and that’s spectators! Spiritual health comes through hunger and engagement. And simply put, prayer takes us to a pure place. Passive consummation and low-level silliness are diminished, when we sit with others and desire God’s best for our growth and transformation.

Up-close discipleship necessitates honest conversation. We speak profound untruth often when we default to those well-worn words, “I’m fine!” The vocabulary of the church should be noble, good, and true! Real life-on-life honesty to name our struggles, pursue holiness and seek the Holy Spirit’s help is challenging in a large scale context so smaller contexts are vital. Repentance and change come best in one-degree shifts and they best happen in small groups.

Up-close discipleship allows for personal application. Stories are the data of the soul, and where we work out our salvation. Big picture teaching concepts and scriptural ideals getting translated rather than lost happen best life-on-life. Smaller settings equip us for meaning and joyful whole life goodness with Jesus!

Up-close discipleship nurtures evangelism and more. Churches with a culture of one-on-one discipleship have no question with what to do with someone who comes to faith in their church. They are welcomed and plugged in. The flames are fanned, encouragement and equipping come from life-on-life. Imagine the long-term fruit that could result if every church could say to new believers, “We have someone who would love to walk with you over the next six months, as you grow in your faith?”

Up-close discipleship encourages ongoing accountability. Simply put, this reaches places little else can. It’s the place to go to as we submit to God’s word and His Spirit, in genuine community. Genuine change happens when we bring our lives and struggles into the light, both to God and to fellow brothers and sisters.

Up-close discipleship allows for struggles and burdens to be carried together. In an age of incessant social media chatter, we assume that every believer is surrounded by people who will pray when they hurt, and love and support them when they suffer. Yet, in an age of constant connectivity, people are as lonely as ever. Facebook ‘friends’ may be barely acquaintances and there’s the precious gift of others sitting with us, listening to our muddled conversations, making us something to eat, and praying us through the tears. This is irreplaceable. We need burden-bearing relationships.

Up-close discipleship enables other ministries and service to flourish. Discipleship relationships are not an alternative to other interactions, but rather a compliment to these. A church community filled with a culture of disciple-making can trust that their groups don’t have to do it all, freeing these groups to do the very things they do best.

Up-close discipleship supports mutual growth. It’s that glorious expression of the biblical ‘one-another’ mandate. One-on-one discipleship is often explained as if it is only for the benefit of the younger Christian who is being discipled. Yet, it is for all of us! Meet with someone who doesn’t have it all together and is looking to you for help. Do you want to see change in your personal sin struggles? Invite someone into your life and say, like Paul did, “follow me as I follow Christ.” And finally,…..

Up-close discipleship cheers on healthy relationships. Biblical community is a cheap buzzword in some circles: it can be easy to define, yet hard to find. Sunday gatherings alone are unlikely to nurture the deep love and community impact we long to see among the people of God. But one-on-one discipleship can. Imagine what faith hope and love in the power of the Holy Spirit might generate over five years!? Here’s to this shape of formation and this reality in our churches for the sake of the world.