Bible discussions are a central part of discipleship groups and Bible studies.
Unfortunately, many times our Bible discussions do not go deep enough or have much impact in our life. We have all been a part of Bible studies where everyone talked about the things in the text they liked, and then they finished the study and went back to life as normal.
Here at Life on Life, we want to push discipleship groups to go further, and to more closely follow the model that Jesus used while on earth. We use an acronym to describe the 5 key elements of a life-changing Bible discussion, and that acronym is “TEAMS.”
The five elements of transformation that make up TEAMS are Truth, Equipping, Accountability, Mission, and Supplication.
We see each element of TEAMS demonstrated in the life and ministry of Jesus as we find it described in the Word. That being said, TEAMS is not a biblically scripted model; it is our model and lens.
Jesus didn’t use TEAMS as his template for ministry. To be sure, what Jesus did during his earthly ministry went deeper and wider than our acronym. But we believe our template, although certainly not the first or the only or even the best means of discipling others, is a close derivative of the original.
It’s not complete. It’s not perfect. It’s not even unique.
It’s just close enough for us to know we are not doing our own thing. We’re following in the footsteps of Jesus in our bible discussions and discipleship groups.
In this article, we’ll look at each of these keys to Bible discussions and see how Jesus modeled them in the New Testament. We’ll also explain how these elements apply to us today.
At first, it seems everyone –lawyers, scribes, Pharisees, the sick and disabled, the parents of dying children, tax collectors, the disciples–called Jesus Teacher or Rabbi. According to Mark 6:34, Jesus taught the crowds because “he had compassion on them”” and, in his estimation, “they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
But Jesus did not confine his teaching to the masses. His teaching narrowed at times so that the disciples got both additional clarity about his teachings and the full brunt of his challenges. He reserved time away with his inner circle of followers to dispense truth more completely. His disciples counted on him to interpret his enigmatic parables. In Matthew 13, Jesus “left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field'” (v. 36). And again in Matthew 15:15, Peter asks, “Explain the parable to us.”
Truth was central to the relationship Jesus established with the Twelve, and he took great pains to translate it into usable form in their lives.
In our Bible discussions and discipleship groups, we always want to ensure we get a healthy dose of truth. Where does this come from? We find the truth in God’s Word, and so we study it and discuss it.
In Matthew 10:5-8, Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs. The verbs he used in his instructions mirror his own ministry: “go,” “preach,” “heal the sick,” “raise the dead,” “cleanse the lepers, and “drive out demons.”
These verses tell us Jesus not only called the disciples to this task; he gave them the authority to carry it out. Add this authority to the months of living examples they had observed while in his company day in and day out, and it is clear Jesus went beyond teaching these men. He equipped them.
In the same way, when doing life-on-life missional discipleship, we want to ensure we’re equipping people for ministry before sending them out on mission. We want our Bible discussions to massage the truth into people’s lives to make it understandable and usable.
Mark 6:30 offers a follow-up on this story: “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.” Not only did Jesus delegate tasks to his followers, he encouraged them to report back to him. As we know from the record of a failed healing attempt in Mark 9, this also included their “less than successful” outcomes.
Of course, Jesus had a distinct advantage when it came to accountability. Even if the disciples didn’t accurately share what had happened, Jesus “knew what they were thinking” (Luke 6:8).
He could speak to their motives without asking a single question. There is no one else who can do this.
That being said, we can still help hold our own discipleship group members accountable. We can ask them hard questions and encourage them when they do the right thing. We can follow up when they have prayer requests or set goals. As people, we need accountability and a life-on-life discipleship group is one of the best places for this.
Keep in mind, we’re aiming for gospel driven accountability, not behaviorism. The gospel transforms hearts, and transformed hearts have transformed desires for obedience.
The mission Jesus gave his disciples was inherent in his ministry. By living his life in full view of the disciples, he readied them for the next step. During his last Passover with the Twelve, Jesus made it clear that truth isn’t the only element of discipleship:
“You call me “Teacher’ and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:13-15).
But Jesus gave the disciples more than his example; he gave them a crystal-clear edict, a commission. Nothing could be plainer than the now-familiar words Jesus used to send his followers on mission:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).
Today, it’s not enough for us to simply study or discuss the Bible. When we learn the truth and are equipped for ministry, then we are called to go out and make disciples.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray by modeling prayer for them. He invited them to join him in prayer, even up until the end, when several of his closest disciples joined him in the Garden of Gethsemane. And he taught them how to pray by giving them words to say, teaching them a language for prayer.
It’s doubtful the disciples called the prayer recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 “the Lord’s Prayer,” but they understood that the basic elements of prayer were all included in this example.
Throughout their relationship, Jesus elevated prayer in such a way that Peter later prioritized it for leaders in the church: “[We] will give our attention to prayer” (Acts 6:4).
When we gather for discipleship groups, it is always important that we spend time in prayer. We want to begin our Bible discussions and study by asking God to illuminate the Scriptures, and we want to always spend time praying that the truth would take hold of our lives and change us to be more like Him.
As we have trained churches all over the world, we have seen the way that TEAMS has enabled leaders to hold their groups to an appropriate, healthy standard, one modeled by the Master.
The acronym itself is not the key, but the elements of transformation are. And when nutrient-packed seeds like Truth, Equipping, Accountability, Mission, and Supplication are planted into both the individuals and the culture of our Bible discussions, they cannot help but produce fruit.
If you’re interested in leveraging the TEAMS lens for your Bible discussions and study, then checkout the Journey Curriculum. Each week, the curriculum is built around all 5 elements of TEAMS. This means that each week, you and your discipleship group will learn truth, be equipped, be challenged with accountability, be encouraged towards mission, and be given space for supplication.
Want to learn more?
- This post was inspired from a section from the book, Insourcing by Randy Pope.
- Looking for Bible study topics and explanations? Check out How to choose a Bible study curriculum
- Video Series: How to Train Disciples: A Biblical Guide