And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. (Heb. 10:25 NLT)
Did you notice in the passage that the writer of Hebrews seems to be implying that people were giving up on meeting together? Apparently getting a group together, starting out strong, and then slowly falling away from regular meetings wasn’t any less common in the first century. The writer is telling us to stay close to one another by making it a habit to meet together regularly to love and encourage one another often. This is a great picture of discipleship and captures the real purpose of a band. But there’s a bit more to a discipleship band than just meeting together. Remember the definition?
A discipleship band is a group of three to five people who read together, pray together, and meet together to become the love of God for one another and the world.
Let’s take a closer look.
Whether you read for work, pleasure, daily devotion, or a little of all three, you probably already feel like you have too much in your queue. One thing is for sure. When it comes to discipleship, we do not have a content problem; we have a connection problem. What we need much more than another avenue for learning is the kind of relationship that can harness spiritual growth.
So why do we read together? In a word: support. Often in harried seasons of life, intentional time with Scripture and devotional readings can be the first thing to go. Consistency can be hard, but discipleship bands are about supporting each other toward establishing rhythms that help us grow spiritually. In my own life, I found a similar pattern emerge when it came to physical exercise. Like you, I know I need it. For a while you may even say I was convicted about my lack of an exercise routine, but that did not stop me from going years without establishing one. If I’m honest, I simply wasn’t sure quite how to do it successfully, which led me to feel defeated and prone to quit soon after starting. So I found a friend who was a personal trainer and paid him a humble amount of money to meet me at the gym three days a week. Suddenly, I began to enjoy exercise. It was not until I was in a supportive relationship that I truly began to cultivate this practice.
Reading the Bible can be much the same way. Part of the discipleship bands rhythm is to read short passages of Scripture or devotional content together daily. This is why we created this study. This is why we have the Seedbed Daily Text and why we are writing discipleship content aimed at bands with daily readings. The content is not meant to be the center of your group interactions; it is simply meant to be food for the spiritual journey you are traveling together. The true curriculum, as we often say, are the lives of those in the band.
God wants to transform us and to mature us to be more like Jesus (see Romans 8:29). Praying as a band is agreeing with God as he matures and grows you as disciples. We believe in God’s power. We believe he hears and responds to our prayers. So when a bandmate shares about his or her life’the good, the bad, and even the ugly—bring it before God’s redemptive mercy. Thank him for the good. Ask for his help where it is needed. Pray boldly for healing, for relationships, for forgiveness, for experiencing God’s presence, and for God’s assistance in your bandmate’s family and work. Whatever the need, bring it simply and plainly to prayer. No fancy words needed. No professional prayers required. When someone has a need or struggle, listen as they share, make mental notes about it, and ask God to answer.
Meeting together is the core practice of a band. Without that regular weekly practice, there’s no real hope of developing the kind of consistency and relationship that will be needed to truly encourage one another toward love and good deeds. The best approach is to find a standing time each week that you can meet. My band, for example, meets every Friday morning. In the event one of us cannot make it, we do not reschedule; we just skip. On average we meet together around three times a month. On weeks we cannot meet, we text each other a simple question: “Does anyone need the band this week?” In other words, we may miss the meeting, but we are not skipping out on our care for one another. Should one of us need the band, we might text the need for the others to lift in prayer, or we might find twenty minutes another day for that person to share and receive prayer.
Reading, praying, and meeting is the simple structure of what a discipleship band does. These elements are the core practices that help us go beyond thinking about or studying what it means to follow Jesus and actually embody communal practices that help us live out that mission and know Christ more deeply.
God, I acknowledge before you today that I need a few others with me on this journey. That I need help in praying, in reading, and in meeting together. I acknowledge that I need your help to sustain these core practices. I believe that you desire to shape me to be more like your Son, Jesus. I freely give myself this day to your love. Holy Spirit, empower me to be aware of your presence in my life and in the lives of those around me. Amen.
Consider sharing a time in your life when you felt the most supported by others in a community.
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