Two are better than one, . . . If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. . . . Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecc. 4:9–12)
Let’s start with a confession. About four years ago, I came to the humble realization that while I had been attempting to follow Jesus for about seventeen years, I was not becoming the kind of person I wanted to become. Despite working as a pastor and having studied the Bible and theology extensively, I was not becoming significantly less self-focused nor was I dramatically more loving, and I was not experiencing the kind of transformation that the Scriptures seemed to describe as both possible and readily available. Is the Bible wrong or was I missing something? Given that I believe unfailingly in the authority of Scripture, it must have been the latter. But what was I missing?
As I prayed for clarity, the Lord began to reveal something to me that seems obvious in hindsight but wasn’t at the time. I was going about most of my spiritual life alone. I was attempting to do and be the right things in an effort to appear to others better than I really was. When it came to my relationships, I was relying on others only at significant moments of stress, crisis, illness, or when I needed God to come through for me. I would have told anybody the importance of groups, the deep need for community, and the significance of honest and vulnerable friendship, but I had somehow written myself off as an exception to the rule. I didn’t have significant spiritual friendships consistently in my life. It’s not that I hadn’t participated in many types of groups over the years, it’s that over time they had all fizzled out or failed, leaving me back at square one. It was time to try something different.
This is when I got together with a couple of close friends in my life and began to experiment with what was an early Methodist practice called a band meeting.
What do you think of when you hear the word band? Most people think of a group of musicians. But in this case, let’s consider a rope, a rubber band, or a wedding band—essentially, material put around something to hold it together.
A discipleship band is just that—a group of three to five people that are held together by a common purpose of growing in depth as followers of Jesus. It is having, as the writer of Ecclesiastes put it, a person to help you up when you fall, a person to have your back. This world is vying for your gifts, your money, your time, your attention, and your heart. In short, so much is working against your spiritual life. What if you had a few others in your life helping you engage the battle?
The content shared in this introductory guide will help you begin your banded discipleship journey. We are not suggesting that a discipleship band is the best and only means of spiritual growth you will need in your life, but we are convinced it is as good a model for relational spiritual growth that you can find. We think of the band as being like a fireplace. It isn’t the actual fireplace that makes fire, but it can be a safe place to start one. So it is with a discipleship band; it’s a really helpful context to light a fire of spiritual transformation.
My band made ourselves human test-cases in adapting this old practice for a modern setting, we practiced, failed, modified, practiced, and modified some more until a routine unfolded that really began to bear fruit in our lives—major life-changing fruit! As the discipleship bands model has taken shape, many others (thousands, actually) have begun a discipleship band of their own. This guide is meant to be your lighter fluid as you begin yours.
Jesus, I pray that you will put the desire in my heart to grow in my relationship with you. God, there are things in my life I want to change, and so often I have gone about this alone. I confess I have not relied on your Holy Spirit to do the transforming. I pray this in the name of Jesus, amen.
Consider sharing today the top three things you hope to get out of being in a discipleship band.
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