"One standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
Regarding discipleship, noted Christian researcher George Barna writes, "Among the barriers to spiritual growth are the tendencies to focus on Bible knowledge (i.e., memorize verses, know the stories of key biblical personalities) but not character development; the lack of a clear and specific idea of what meaningful discipleship is; and unrealistic expectations regarding the role of small groups in the disciple-making process.” Barna acknowledged that most churches have many programs and classes that represent the discipleship effort. "Offering programs is not the issue. We discovered that surprisingly few churches have a well-conceived model of discipleship that they implement. The result is that churches feel they have fulfilled their obligation if they provide a broad menu of courses, events, and other experiences, but such a well-intentioned but disjointed approach leaves people confused and imbalanced."
Biblical Evidence for 3-Strand Discipleship
Scripture paints a clear picture of a God who not only lives in community but embraces and seeks after it. First, with Adam (Gen.1:26), then with the people of Israel (Deut.6:4) and finally in the Godhead itself (John 1:1-3). There is power in a cord of three and this concept runs throughout God's Word. Since God Himself lives and works in community, and we are made in the likeness of God, then we too are created to live in and for community. To be human is to hunger for community.
Additionally, Jesus and the disciples modeled a closely knit community. Christ Himself came to provide community and live with us (Mth. 1:23) and then He called a small group of disciples to live and walk with Him (Mark 3:7-10,13-14). Jesus knew that the multitudes had great needs, but chose to minister to the twelve and especially the three (Peter, James and John). By walking with and training a few, He ultimately transformed many lives.
This cord of three strands is Christ’s highest dream for His Church. It is seen in His prayer for us that we may be one as He and the Father and Holy Spirit are one (John 17:11). Additionally, Christ sees our unity and community as our message to the world that He came and that He is love, and if we, the Church, fail at community, we fail our mission (John 17:21, 23).
Relational Evidence for 3-Strand Discipleship
There is relational evidence that God created us to crave relationships and community:
• God wants us to seek a relationship with Him (Acts 17:24-27)
• God wants us to have relationships with others (Genesis 2:18)
• God reveals His emotions to us (Ephesians 4:30; Zephaniah 3:17)
• God intervenes when we can’t communicate (Romans 8:26-27)
There is also blessing that comes from community:
• Strength for storms of life (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
• Wisdom for making good decisions (Proverbs 15:22)
• Confidentiality and accountability for spiritual health (Proverbs 27:17)
• There is strength, reliability and assurance in community (Proverbs 18:24)
Structural Evidence for 3-Strand Discipleship
As churches are planted to accomplish God’s work in the world, organization becomes a necessity to ensure community. The Core Discipleship process and groups are a way to ensure that this done in a life-giving manner by “doing life together” - everyone is cared for and no one cares for too many (not more than four). Just as is true in a natural family, the Core Discipleship Process enhances spiritual parenting to ensure that no one stands alone, struggles alone, serves alone, develops alone, seeks alone, or grows up alone.
The Core Discipleship Process and groups are a God-ordained way to provide infrastructure within any church to assure the development of disciples (Matthew 28:18-20), where the workload is shared (Exodus 18:9-22), where everyone receives care (Acts 6:1) and where leadership can be determined, equipped and repeated (Titus 1:5).
Finally, the Core Discipleship Process provides a structure for “mutual membership” to promote unity in the body (Ephesians 4:1-6, 11-16), a sense of belonging to one another (Romans 7:2-4) and a place to edify, bless, grow, serve and challenge each other through the exercise of each person's spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 12:12-27).