One of the biggest challenges disciple makers face in Canada is the lack of enthusiasm for obedience. Some say that it sounds an awful lot like legalism to talk so much of obedience. Others claim they can have Jesus as Saviour but not so much as Lord. Still others just do not know how to build obedience into the regular rhythms of life.
To the first two comments (legalism and Lord) I would say that you really need to take this up with Jesus himself, as it is He who said to teach disciples to obey every command He had given (Matthew 28:19-20). His words, not mine. It’s not legalism, it’s simply obedience. And I don’t think you can claim one part of Jesus (His saving work) while refusing the other part (His requirement of obedience to His commands - Matthew 28:19-20).
So, how do you build faithful obedience into the DNA of a worshipping group or fellowship? By using the
Three Thirds Meeting format.
The Three Thirds Meeting- What is it?
This concept was first used by Ying Kai, but later put into a chart and words by Steve Smith. I want to be sure to give them credit as this is definitely not original with me (you can purchase the T4T book here).
You can use whatever words work well to describe the three parts for you in your context. Smith describes the three parts as:
Basic Three Thirds Meeting Structure
In using this, I’ve adjusted the sections a bit (from Smith’s description). I am using a hybrid approach that combines elements of both T4T and DBS. I stick to the three parts because of the powerful accountability loop it provides. The time frames are up to you, but its good to keep them somewhat equal. If you want to have a one-hour meeting, then 20 minutes for each section works well.
Look Back (20 minutes)
In the look back section, we start with Member Care. Instead of jumping straight into your lesson or Bible study, take a few minutes to hear how people in the group are doing. Ask about their families and take any prayer requests. This doesn’t need to be long (5 minutes is enough) but it should be sincere.
Then have a brief time of worship. You can sing a few songs or use non-musical worship.
After that you have a time of friendly accountability with the group. Ask them about the goals they set in the last meeting. How did they do at obeying God’s Word from the lesson last week? How did it go when they tried to share their testimony or what they learned last week? Smith says we should ask about both 1) following (the obeying and 2) fishing (the sharing).
Give everyone a chance to answer about both areas. If your group is too big, split into pairs or groups of three to do this friendly accountability time.
If you set goals and do not ask for a report, you are training disciples to be disobedient! You do not want to do that. So be sure to include this important accountability time as a regular part of your meeting DNA.
The final thing in the first section is Vision Casting. Vision casting is a short, simple challenge to reach the lost in your area. You can use a story, a scripture, picture or a variety of options for the vision casting part. But be sure to remind them every meeting of the urgency of reaching the lost. Keeping this front and centre helps to keep the group focused on the primary task of a disciple.
Look Up (20 minutes)
In this section you train them in content from God’s Word. Whether you use a short passage of scripture or a story, keep it brief. The reading of the passage or telling of the story should not be more than 5 minutes long.
After sharing the story or scripture several times, have the trainees/disciples repeat it back to you. This is very important in helping them gain confidence. It also helps you know what they have understood. In the DBS method, this is the “repeat the passage in your own words” part. Be sure that everyone in the group can repeat the passage or story with some level of accuracy before you move on to discuss it. If they make mistakes, gently correct them and ask them to try again until they can each share it well.
Adult learning specialists tell us that taking this step of repeating before interpreting is vital. It helps people to internalize what is being said. If you take time to do this well, you will find you have much deeper and more meaningful discussions about the scripture.
Then work through these questions to engage with the Scripture.
What do you like about this story/passage? What don’t you like? (this can include anything they find difficult to understand)
What do we learn about God?
What do we learn about people?
Is there a sin to avoid? A promise to believe?
Is there an example to follow? A command to obey?
Look Ahead (20 minutes)
Then, you move to discussion about how you will be faithful through sharing and obedience. These are questions you can use:
What did I discover/learn from this?
Who will I share with? (If you use this question, you are already moving into goal setting).
What will I obey?
Find the set of questions that works best for you. But stick to the same questions each time as you train. Variety can hinder multiplication. It needs to become normal and natural to always ask these same things.
During the discussion, make sure each person gets a chance to share. Again, this is why your disciple-making groups should not be too large. If you have a bigger group, split into pairs or threes to answer these questions so each person speaks. As disciples speak out these answers, the Word of God is taking root in their hearts.
Set specific goals related to following Jesus (obedience) and fishing for men (sharing). Make clear decisions regarding personal and/or group application of the scripture.
For example, say you study the passage about the Good Samaritan. You might decide as a group to work together to help a needy widow in your community that week. Also, be specific about who you will share the gospel or this week’s passage/story with in the coming week. The more specific the goals, the more likely people will do them! And, they know that next week, you will be asking them to report on how that went.
Start with reporting and end with goal setting in each disciple-making meeting. This is what we call the Friendly Accountability Loop. It works! Don’t let time pressure (because you had too long of worship or went into preaching-mode in the lesson time) cause you to skip these things.