Home > Crossway Blog > Discipleship Category

Archive for the ‘Discipleship’ Category

How to Be an Effective Bible Study Leader

WOWM - Tips and Encouragement

This is a guest post by Nancy Guthrie and is part of Women of the Word Month, a free 31-day campaign designed to encourage and equip women for transformative Bible study. Learn more or sign up at crossway.org/women.

Have you ever led a Bible study?

If so, you know how hard it can be to manage your group’s limited time and make sure you use that time wisely.

While some participants may be very casual about how the time is used, others in your group are very aware of the time and become frustrated when they feel their valuable time is being wasted. There are several issues, I’ve found, that have a significant impact on using the time allotted for small-group discussion effectively:

Getting Started

So often we run out of time because we are slow to get started. We are waiting for latecomers, or chatting, or enjoying some food together and simply let valuable discussion time get away from us. All groups develop a culture, and members learn whether the group will really start on time or not, and they adjust their sense of urgency in regard to arrival time accordingly.

Certainly you need to allow some time for participants to greet each other and to share their lives with each other, but you will want to determine how long that will last and give the group a firm start time for the discussion. If you set a culture of starting on time regardless of whether or not everyone in the group has arrived, and not allowing latecomers to interrupt your discussion when they arrive, you may likely find that group members become more punctual.

On the first day you meet, be sure to ask members to join the group and enter into the already-commenced discussion as unobtrusively as possible when they arrive after the discussion on the lesson has started. When we stop the discussion while everyone greets the late arriver, perhaps hearing the story of what caused the lateness, it can be challenging to get started again. As the leader, you will need to manage this area with a blend of appropriate firmness and grace.

Prayer Requests

Many times, we want our small-group discussion times to include a time of sharing prayer requests, which is a meaningful way of sharing our lives together and exercising our trust and relationship with God. But we also know that sometimes sharing requests can turn into telling long stories and lengthy discussions as other members offer advice or input.

One way to handle this, if the use of time for prayer requests is a concern for your group, is to provide note-cards for people to write down their requests and share them at the end or simply have members swap cards with someone else. Or you may simply want to determine a time to bring your discussion to a close that will allow for time at the end for sharing requests, praying together over those requests, and praying through the truths presented in the lesson.

Getting Stuck Along the Way

So often we give too much time to earlier questions and simply don’t have time to work our way through all that we want to cover. You might want to look over the content you want to cover before your group time to determine how you will use the time. Mark the key questions and topics you must get to. Make a note beside each question you want to be sure to include, indicating an estimate of how much time you want to give for discussing that question, and then watch the clock along the way to keep on track.

Keeping the Focus on God’s Word

People come to a Bible study for many reasons, from many situations and struggles, and with varying levels of knowledge of and interest in the Bible. Sometimes our groups can easily slip from being a Bible study group into becoming more of a personal support group. Finding that right balance between biblical study and personal support is a significant challenge for every small-group leader.

I’ve sometimes heard group leaders say that when a group member arrives with a significant struggle or sorrow, the leader feels she must set the study aside to listen and give input to that hurting person. Perhaps there are situations where this is the best thing to do, but we must also remember that the Word of God speaks into every need and situation in our lives. It heals, it gives perspective, it instructs, convicts, restores, and renews. Be sure that you do not assume that the advice and input of group members has more power than your discussion of the truths of God’s Word to help that hurting person.

Keep in mind that while some participants may come more for the fellowship and sharing of their lives with each other, many other participants are hungry to feast on biblical teaching and discussion of God’s Word. If, over time, these participants find that the Word is often set aside or given short shrift, they may look for another forum in which to study God’s Word with others.

Ending On Time

Because participants have plans after the study, people to meet, children to pick up from childcare, etc., it is important that you end on time so that participants will not be slipping out one-by-one, or be unable to focus on the discussion because of the distraction of needing to be somewhere else.

Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at conferences around the country and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Covenant Theological Seminary. She and her husband, David, are the co-hosts of the GriefShare video series used in more than 8,500 churches nationwide and they also host Respite Retreats for couples who have experienced the death of a child. Guthrie is the author of numerous books including Holding on to HopeHearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow, and the five-book Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament Bible study series.

Related Posts

Video: Discipling through Anger

Experienced discipler and church leader, Jonathan Dodson, redresses defective forms of discipleship and offers a practical model for creating a reproducible alternative in his book Gospel-Centered Discipleship.

Join Dodson and Matt Chandler below as they discuss the topic of discipling through anger.


Interested in learning more? Read an excerpt or find out more about Gospel-Centered Discipleship.

Related Posts:

November 6, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Church Ministry,Discipleship,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life,Video | Author: Lindsay Tully @ 8:00 am | 0 Comments »

The Heart of a Disciple-Making Pastor

Bobby Jamieson, author of the 9Marks Healthy Church Study Guide series, had an article featured in the most recent 9Marks Journal. We thought it was a great exhortation to true discipleship. Jamieson writes:

What do you think is the essential quality of a disciple-making pastor? Here’s my best shot: rejoicing in others’ ministry.


In his book The Art of Pastoring, David Hansen paints a striking picture of this when he describes the parallel between a great “spiritual director” and a great fly fishing guide:

The very best quality of the very best fishing guides is the very best quality of the very best spiritual directors. The very best fishing guides, the top of the heap of that profession, all love to watch clients catch fish as much as they like catching fish themselves. It gets to the point of silliness sometimes the way a truly great fishing guide starts to laugh, even giggle like a grade-school girl, when a client starts catching fish.

Hansen continues:

Likewise, the characteristic that sets the great spiritual directors apart is childlike joy. Out of pure love they give you their undivided attention, and when you catch your fish, when your net is full, there’s always that smile, that glint in their eye that tells you they’ve just spent the best hour of their day with you.

In keeping with his somewhat mystical, contemplative spirituality, Hansen sees the role of a spiritual director as discerning God’s work in someone’s life and drawing attention to it. I think that’s certainly an element of pastoral discipling, but Scripture goes further. Ephesians 4:11-13 says that Christ gave “…the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.”

In other words, a pastor’s job is to equip the church members to do ministry, to build each other up in maturity. To tweak Hansen’s image, a pastor’s job isn’t merely to fish for his people—though that’s certainly part of it—but to teach them to fish. And I’d suggest that a fitting litmus test for a pastor is how much joy he takes in others’ works of ministry, and how well he builds his ministry around that joy.

After taking a look at the practical implications (which you won’t want to miss), Jamison concludes: 

Pastors who delight in others’ ministry will soon find that their ministry consists more in multiplication than addition. If you give ministry away, encourage others’ efforts, and constantly think a “generation” or two further out, you will, by God’s grace, raise up disciples who make other disciples. And that’s just the beginning.

Be sure to take full advantage of the wisdom in this article by reading it in its entirety here.

October 4, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Church Leadership,Church Ministry,Discipleship,Life / Doctrine | Author: Crossway Author @ 7:00 am | (2) Comments »

10 Helpful Books for Church Leaders

While this list is by no means exhaustive, we think the following 10 books would be valuable for every church leader to read and have in their library. Feel free to leave a comment and let us know which books you would add to the list—we’d love to hear your recommendations.

Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan K. Dodson

Everyone’s idea of discipleship is different. Some people emphasize evangelism—sharing their faith. Still others promote a hierarchical system for spiritual growth, a way for older Christians to pass on best practices to younger believers. Yet, both ideas are incomplete. Real discipleship is so much more.

Avoiding extremes and evaluating motives, Jonathan Dodson insists on a way of following Jesus that re-centers discipleship on the gospel.

This book helps us understand and experience the fullness of discipleship as God intended. It combines the mess and the weight, the imperfection and transformation, the honesty and wonder of being a disciple who revolves around Jesus. Here is a practical guide to discipleship that is Spirit-filled, Christ-centered, field-tested, and easily implemented.

Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God by Bob Kauflin

Nothing is more essential than knowing how to worship the God who created us. This book focuses readers on the essentials of God-honoring worship, combining biblical foundations with practical application in a way that works in the real world. The author, a pastor and noted songwriter, skillfully instructs pastors, musicians, and church leaders so that they can root their congregational worship in unchanging scriptural principles, not divisive cultural trends. Bob Kauflin covers a variety of topics such as the devastating effects of worshiping the wrong things, how to base our worship on God’s self-revelation rather than our assumptions, the fuel of worship, the community of worship, and the ways that eternity’s worship should affect our earthly worship.

Appropriate for Christians from varied backgrounds and for various denominations, this book will bring a vital perspective to what readers think they understand about praising God.

Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

“Church is not a meeting you attend or a place you enter,” write pastors Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. “It’s an identity that is ours in Christ. An identity that shapes the whole of life so that life and mission become ‘total church.’” With that as their premise, they emphasize two overarching principles to govern the practice of church and mission: being gospel-centered and being community-centered. When these principles take precedence, say the authors, the truth of the Word is upheld, the mission of the gospel is carried out, and the priority of relationships is practiced in radical ways. The church becomes not just another commitment to juggle but a 24/7 lifestyle where programs, big events, and teaching from one person take a backseat to sharing lives, reaching out, and learning about God together.

In Total Church, Chester and Timmis first outline the biblical case for making gospel and community central and then apply this dual focus to evangelism, social involvement, church planting, world missions, discipleship, pastoral care, spirituality, theology, apologetics, youth and children’s work. As this insightful book calls the body of Christ to rethink its perspective and practice of church, it charts a middle path between the emerging church movement and conservative evangelicalism that all believers will find helpful.

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson by D. A. Carson

D. A. Carson’s father was a pioneering church-planter and pastor in Quebec. But still, an ordinary pastor-except that he ministered during the decades that brought French Canada from the brutal challenges of persecution and imprisonment for Baptist ministers to spectacular growth and revival in the 1970s.

It is a story, and an era, that few in the English-speaking world know anything about. But through Tom Carson’s journals and written prayers, and the narrative and historical background supplied by his son, readers will be given a firsthand account of not only this trying time in North American church history, but of one pastor’s life and times, dreams and disappointments. With words that will ring true for every person who has devoted themselves to the Lord’s work, this unique book serves to remind readers that though the sacrifices of serving God are great, the sweetness of living a faithful, obedient life is greater still.

Am I Called?: The Summons to Pastoral Ministry by Dave Harvey

Many men have the skills to lead a church, but only some are called. Dave Harvey helps men considering pastoral ministry to see God’s active role in the process of discerning their calling.

God’s Word offers a clear framework for evaluating one’s call, especially within the context of community. Harvey offers six diagnostic questions to help prospective pastors process their calling, and what they should be doing now if they aren’t sure. Illustrated with personal and historical stories, Harvey explores biblical and practical principles for determining the pastoral call.

Over the past twenty-four years of ministry, Harvey has enjoyed assisting many men in discerning whether they are called into ministry. This book will guide you through that all-important process with wisdom and confidence in God’s faithfulness in your life.

Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Dennis E. Johnson

Given the evermore apparent failure of modern psychotherapies and a growing discomfort with pharmacological strategies, many churches are reaffirming the sufficiency and power of the Scriptures to change lives.

To aid churches in ministering to broken and hurting people, the authors of Counsel from the Cross present a counseling model based on Scripture and powered by the work of the wonderful counselor, Jesus Christ. Through careful exegesis and helpful case studies, they demonstrate how to provide consistently biblical, gospel-centered counseling and explain why it is important to do so.

The authors’ combined backgrounds—one, a woman trained in biblical counseling and the other, a male professor of practical theology—bring balance to this work, making it relevant for those who counsel as part of pastoral ministry and for all involved in mentoring or discipleship.

Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft

If the Christian life is like a race, we must admit that too many Christian leaders stumble, burn out, or veer off the track. Clearly it is not automatic that a leader will finish well.

Based on Dave Kraft’s thirty-five years of leading, teaching leadership, and coaching dozens of Christian leaders, Leaders Who Last moves through three stages of leadership: foundations, formation, and fruitfulness. Concise, anecdotal, and packed with wisdom, this book will help you aim your ambitions, refine your character, and position yourself to be an effective leader who endures.

Kraft’s brief, down-to-earth guide to Christian leadership will inspire readers to finish the race well-to hit the tape in full stride with an energetic burst of speed and receive their commendation from God.

Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti M. Anyabwile

Every church leader knows the qualifications for elders and deacons that are spelled out in the Bible, but actually finding other leaders who fulfill the biblical qualifications can be difficult.

Thabiti Anyabwile writes from his expertise as a pastor and elder, showing how to identify and reproduce legitimate leaders and willing servants throughout the ranks of the local church. Balancing thoughtful analysis of pertinent passages with thorough application for practical use in a contemporary context, Anyabwile answers the questions, “Who should we look for to lead and serve in the church?” and “What should they do to fulfill their calling?”

Economy Bible

With the ESV Economy Bible it’s easier than ever to impact lives through the distribution of the Bible. The most affordable Bible on the market, the ESV Economy Bible features the clear English Standard Version text, making it compelling and readable to those receiving a Bible for the first time.

This paperback edition of the full ESV Bible is ideal for bulk distribution. The ESV Economy Bible has a suggested retail price of $2.99, but is available for only $1 per copy when ordered in a minimum of five cases of 48 copies each. The ESV Economy Bible features not only the full text of the ESV Bible, but also an article on What the Bible Is All About, a reading plan, and a plan of salvation. Highly affordable and designed especially for outreach, the ESV Economy Bible is a great resource for reaching the world with God’s Word.

Coming Soon from Crossway:

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Paul David Tripp (Forthcoming – October 2012)

After traveling the world for many years and speaking at hundreds of churches of all kinds, Paul David Tripp is concerned about the state of pastoral culture. He is not only concerned about the spiritual life of the pastor, but with the very people who train him, call him, relate to him, and restore him if necessary. Dangerous Calling reveals the truth that the culture surrounding our pastors is spiritually unhealthy—an environment that actively undermines the wellbeing and efficacy of our church leaders and thus the entire church body. Here is a book that both diagnoses and offers cures for issues that impact every member and church leader, and gives solid strategies for fighting the war that rages not only in the momentous moments of ministry, but also in the mundane day-by-day life of every pastor.

Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis (Forthcoming – September 2012)


ns are increasingly aware that we live in a post-Christian culture. We recognize the need to adapt, but are unsure of the way forward. This book offers practical ideas for engaging with secularized society and does so in a way that is enfranchising, helping churches rely on their members instead of one leader with a dynamic personality or specialist skills. Che

ster and Timmis contend that the solution is an “everyday church” doing everyday mission with no signage except our lives. They organize the book around a missional reading of 1 Peter, since Peter’s first-century readers faced a similar situation as aliens and strangers. Gifted communicators and experienced pastors, these authors have proven their ability to be winsome and enlightening, especially in view of their success with Total Church and You Can Change.

Which titles would you add?

Related Posts:

May 30, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Church Leadership,Church Ministry,Corporate Worship,Discipleship,Life / Doctrine | Author: Lindsay Tully @ 8:00 am | (9) Comments »

Discipleship 101: How to Disciple a New Believer

By Justin Buzzard, author of Date Your Wife (original post here).

Discipleship involves a lot, but one of the most important things you can do with a new believer is read the Bible with them–teaching them how to read, understand, respond to, and apply God’s Word.

There are two men in their 20s who came to faith in Christ in recent weeks through the ministry of our church. I’m discipling these guys right now. I baptized them a few weeks ago. One of the core ways I’m discipling them is through weekly Bible reading meetings. This is how I do it:

  • Every Wednesday night these guys come to my house to join in our Neighborhood Group with a bunch of other people from our church and neighborhood.
  • I have the guys come 30 minutes early so that the three of us can read the Bible together.
  • Each week we read one paragraph of Scripture together and talk about it. Right now we’re reading Philippians because it’s the book I’m preaching through, it’s the book all of our Neighborhood Groups are studying, and because I think Philippians is a pivotal book to master for new believers.
  • Each week I ask the guys two questions about the text: 1) What did this text mean in its original 1st century context? 2) What does this text mean for our lives today? As we work through these two questions I connect our thoughts to Jesus and the bigger storyline of Scripture.
  • From 30 minutes of Bible reading and these two questions we end up covering a ton of theological and practical ground. Last week’s study of Philippians 1:3-11 led to conversation about the Trinity, the second coming of Christ, how to pray, and God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.

Most believers have never been intentionally discipled and most believers have no clue how to go about discipling a new believer. The problem is that people don’t have a good understanding of what discipleship is. Here’s a definition for you: Discipleship is truth transferred through relationship.

It’s that simple. What I’m doing with these two men on Wednesday nights is transferring truth through relationship. I love these two men, and they know it. In relationship with them I’m teaching them the truth, and at the center of that process is teaching them how to read, rejoice in, and apply God’s Word.

What are you waiting for? Find two people you can start doing this with.

Justin Buzzard (MDiv, Fuller Theological Seminary) is founder and lead pastor of Garden City Church in Silicon Valley. Buzzard is the author of Date Your Wife, writes about culture and the church at JustinBuzzard.net, speaks widely, and is part of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network. He resides in Silicon Valley with his wife, Taylor, and their three young sons.

Related posts:

May 23, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Church Ministry,Discipleship,Life / Doctrine | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 2:25 pm | 0 Comments »