Copyright © 2023 by Emily Johnson and Editor Christopher Sciullo.
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Dear Sisters in Christ,
I am overjoyed to introduce this book, an earnest and heartfelt call to action for our women to step forward boldly into leadership roles within Small Groups and In-Home Bible Studies. In my journey as a follower of Christ, I have witnessed the immense power and potential that women possess in influencing lives and nurturing spiritual growth.
Throughout history, women have played pivotal roles in shaping communities and impacting hearts with their unwavering faith and love. Still, I recognize that there are barriers and challenges that have held some of you back from fully embracing your calling as leaders. This book aims to address those hurdles and ignite a fire of confidence within each of you, by following our simple outline
Discipleship and spiritual growth are at the very heart of the Christian walk. In our journey of following Christ, we are called to grow in love, compassion, and understanding. To lead effectively, we must first be willing to be led, to learn, and to listen. As women, you possess a unique and beautiful ability to nurture and cultivate spiritual depth in others. This book will equip you with practical tools, biblical wisdom, and heartfelt encouragement to step into your leadership roles with humility and grace.
You might have been told that leadership is not your place or that your voice does not carry as much weight. But let me assure you, God has designed each of you with a divine purpose. There is no limit to what you can achieve when you embrace the calling God has placed upon your life, by following the “Footprints of Mary Magdalene”.
This journey of leading Small Groups and In-Home Bible Studies is not one of isolation but of unity. Together, as sisters in Christ, we can create a safe space for transformation and growth. Under your Leadership, your group will delve into the Word of God, seeking wisdom and guidance, and, most importantly, your group will lift each other up in prayer and support.
As you embark on this adventure of leadership, remember that you do not walk alone. God is with you every step of the way, empowering you with His Spirit to lead with love, wisdom, and strength. Embrace your uniqueness and let your light shine bright, illuminating the paths of those you lead.
I believe in you, my dear sisters. I believe in the incredible potential you hold within your hearts. Let this book be a guiding light, igniting the confidence you need to overcome any obstacles and become powerful agents of change.
With love and excitement for the journey ahead,
A Divorced Mother of 5, scraped together all her savings and purchased a company where she worked. This woman was my mother. It was 1970, and I was only 10 at the time. I remember helping her put out her product. She sold a Subscription Service that delivered 8 Pre-Recorded Cassette Tapes from the most famous Preachers of that Time.
The entire collection of Thesis Theological Cassettes is available today at Vanderbilt University Library 50+ years later.
My mother worked a full time job, and every month I helped my mother pack and ship her Packets of Cassettes until I left for College. I remember asking her why she was so driven, she replied, “Strike 1, I’m a Woman, and the churches are still a Male Driven Place. Strike 2, in business, Women just don’t own Businesses. Strike 3, I didn’t go to college or business school. By all accounts, I should have failed. But here I am 10 Years later, selling my business to Houghton Mifflin.”
When asked why she did it, even when everything was against her, she replied, “I just followed the Footprints of Mary Magdalene.”
Mary Magdalene was a vital figure in building the early church. Her transformation through encountering Jesus showcased the power of God’s grace and forgiveness, setting an example for all believers.
I often use John 20: 1-18, as a point of inspiration, I often turn to this passage where God uses Mary Magdalene to first see the Risen Savior, and gives her the honor of saying, “He is Alive”.
As one of the first witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection, she played a crucial role in spreading the message of hope and salvation. Her devotion, faithfulness, and willingness to proclaim the good news exemplify the importance of women in God’s plan for the growth and expansion of the church.
A Women’s unique gifts, perspectives, and contributions are essential in building a vibrant and diverse body of Christ, reflecting God’s love for the world.
To honor my mom, with the help of my friend, Emily Johnson, I put together this book that gives all women a pathway to rebuilding the church.
Chapter 1: The Call to Spiritual Leadership
Embracing God’s Plan for Women in His Kingdom
Greetings in the love and grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ! Today, I am filled with joy as we delve into the matter of serving in His name, leading small groups, and hosting in-home Bible studies from a woman’s perspective. In God’s Kingdom, there are no small roles or insignificant tasks. Every act done for His glory is vital. It warms my heart to see you exploring the path of spiritual leadership, guided by the wisdom of Proverbs 31:26, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” It is you, dear sisters, who are called to guide others in Christ’s teachings.
Let us now look to Mary Magdalene, a splendid example from the Bible, and her powerful testament to women’s roles in the early Church. She wasn’t just a follower of Jesus; she was a disciple, a leader. Her faith was strong, her devotion unwavering. Her witness to the Resurrection on that blessed Easter morning offers us a unique lesson in faith. Being the first to see Jesus after His resurrection, He entrusted her with the proclamation of the resurrection, making her the ‘Apostle to the Apostles.’
Mary Magdalene’s story is a testament that women have a significant role in God’s plan. If Jesus had confidence in Mary Magdalene to be the first to know of His resurrection, then He has the same confidence in you, dear sisters. God can and will use your influence, wisdom, strength, and love to bring others closer to Him. You have a key role in spreading the Word, nurturing faith, and building His Kingdom right where you are.
Just imagine the warmth of fellowship in your homes, hearts gathered to learn, share, and pray. This is not just a gathering; it’s a mini-church, where two or more gather in His name. As you lead these small groups, remember you are following in the footsteps of Mary Magdalene. Be proud and encouraged, knowing that just as God used her, He will use her in extraordinary ways.
May blessings be upon you as you step into this meaningful journey of discipleship and leadership. May you grow in His love, grace, and knowledge, and may you be an instrument of His peace, joy, and love in every life you touch. May God bless you all abundantly!
Chapter 2. Understanding the Gospel
Matthew, The Tax Collector
Matthew, once a tax collector, had a life-changing encounter with Jesus, leading him to become one of His twelve disciples. She penned the Gospel of Matthew to portray Jesus as the promised Messiah, emphasizing His teachings and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Matthew’s focus was on the Jewish audience, presenting Jesus as the King and the rightful heir to David’s throne.
Mark, a Man of Action
Mark, also known as John Mark, may not have been among the original twelve disciples, but she worked closely with the apostle Peter. Mark’s Gospel emphasizes Jesus’ actions more than His teachings, depicting Him as a servant who came to save and sacrifice Himself for humanity. It’s a concise and straightforward account, likely written for the Christians in Rome to encourage them in their faith and commitment to follow Jesus.
Luke, The Physician
Luke, a physician and a companion of the apostle Paul, authored the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. She thoroughly investigated the life of Jesus and the early Christian community, addressing Theophilus, possibly a high-ranking Roman official. Luke’s Gospel provides a detailed and orderly account of Jesus’ life, emphasizing His compassion and concern for the marginalized and the outcasts.
John, The Theologian
John, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, was often referred to as the “beloved disciple.” She wrote the Gospel of John with a specific theological focus, emphasizing Jesus’ divinity and His eternal nature. John’s Gospel highlights the spiritual significance of Jesus’ teachings and miracles, aiming to lead readers to faith in Jesus as the Son of God and the source of eternal life.
The Heart of the Gospels
In the Gospel of Matthew, we find the heart of Jesus as the King and Messiah. Matthew emphasizes Jesus’ teachings and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, revealing Jesus as the long-awaited Savior. The heart of this Gospel lies in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus imparts profound lessons on living a righteous and transformed life. Matthew shows us that Jesus came to establish His Kingdom, teaching us to love God and others wholeheartedly.
In the Gospel of Mark, we encounter Jesus as the Servant. Mark’s account is action-packed, highlighting Jesus’ miracles and His mission to serve and save humanity. The heart of Mark’s Gospel is exemplified through Jesus’ sacrificial nature and His call to discipleship. This Gospel encourages us to follow Jesus’ humble example, to serve others selflessly, and to remain steadfast in our commitment to the Lord.
The Gospel of Luke presents Jesus as the Son of Man, emphasizing His humanity and compassion. Luke’s heart centers on Jesus’ parables, which offer profound insights into God’s love and mercy. This Gospel demonstrates Jesus’ desire to seek and save the lost, showcasing His heart for the marginalized and the broken. Luke teaches us to embrace humility and to extend God’s love to all people, just as Jesus did during His earthly ministry.
Finally, in the Gospel of John, we encounter Jesus as the Son of God. John’s heart is set on revealing Jesus’ divinity and His eternal nature. Through powerful “I am” statements, miracles, and profound discourses, John paints a picture of Jesus as the Word made flesh, dwelling among us to bring light and truth. The heart of John’s Gospel is to lead us to believe in Jesus as the Savior, the source of eternal life, and to deepen our relationship with Him.
In summary, each of the four Gospels captures a unique aspect of the heart of Jesus: Matthew presents Him as the King and Messiah, Mark portrays Him as the Servant, Luke highlights Him as the compassionate Son of Man, and John reveals Him as the divine Son of God. Together, these Gospel accounts offer a complete and profound understanding of our Lord’s character and His invitation to follow Him in discipleship and spiritual growth.
Delving into the Core Message of the Gospel and Its Life-Changing Potential
Delving into the core message of the Gospel is essential for every Christian seeking spiritual growth and transformation. As women, we find great comfort and strength in understanding the depth of God’s love and grace, as displayed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the central message of Christianity, revealing God’s plan for our redemption and restoration.
The life-changing potential of the Gospel lies in its power to bring salvation and reconciliation with God. As we embrace the truth of the Gospel, we are invited into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Through faith in Him, we experience the forgiveness of our sins and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to live a new life marked by love, joy, peace, and righteousness.
As women, we have unique roles and responsibilities in our families, communities, and workplaces. The Gospel equips us to face the challenges of daily life with hope and confidence, knowing that God’s love and guidance are always available to us. When we encounter difficulties or uncertainties, we can turn to the Gospel for wisdom and comfort, finding strength in Jesus’ teachings and example.
Christian discipleship, as rooted in the Gospel message, calls us to follow Jesus wholeheartedly and become more like Him. As we grow in our understanding of the Gospel, we discover the depth of God’s grace and mercy, leading us to repentance and transformation. The Gospel compels us to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves, expressing God’s love and compassion to the world around us.
Through the Gospel, we find purpose and meaning in life. It gives us hope in times of difficulty and challenges, knowing that God is with us and has a plan for our lives. As women, we are invited to use our gifts and talents to serve God and others, impacting lives for the better.
In conclusion, the Gospel is the heart of Christian discipleship and spiritual growth for women. Its life-changing potential lies in its power to bring salvation, reconciliation, and transformation to those who embrace it with faith. As we delve deeper into the core message of the Gospel, we experience God’s love, find purpose, and become ambassadors of Christ, sharing the good news with others and impacting lives for eternity. Let us continue to immerse ourselves in the transformative power of the Gospel and allow it to shape us into women of faith, hope, and love
Chapter 3: The Need for Small Groups
As a woman following Christ, I understand the great need for small group or home-based Bible studies in Christian discipleship and spiritual growth. It’s not just about believing but also about growing in our faith and understanding of God’s Word. Small group studies provide an intimate and supportive environment where we, as believers, can come together to learn, discuss, and apply the teachings of the Bible.
The Power of Community and Accountability
In these small groups, we can build strong relationships with one another, fostering a sense of community and accountability. It’s a safe space where we can share our struggles, victories, and questions, finding encouragement and support in our journey of faith. Witnessing practical examples of how God’s Word is transforming lives within the group inspires and motivates us to apply those teachings to our own lives.
Embracing the Comfort of Home-based Bible Studies
Home-based Bible studies offer a more relaxed and comfortable setting for people to engage with Scripture. This environment fosters open and honest discussions, allowing participants to freely share their thoughts and seek understanding without fear of judgment. As we delve into the Bible together, we gain deeper insights and see how God’s truth applies to our unique circumstances and challenges.
Prayer and Unity in Small Groups
Furthermore, small group studies provide a space for personal prayer and the opportunity to lift each other in prayer. By interceding for one another, we experience the power of collective prayer, fostering a stronger sense of unity and dependence on God. Through these gatherings, we can grow in love, knowledge, and application of God’s Word, strengthening our faith and becoming more Christ-like in our daily lives.
Why Focus on Small Groups?
Focusing on small groups is essential for Christian discipleship and spiritual growth. In the Bible, Jesus Himself gathered a small group of twelve disciples to mentor and teach, setting an example for us to follow. Small groups provide a context where believers can come together in a more intimate setting, building strong relationships and fostering a sense of community.
A Space of Support and Encouragement
Within the small group, individuals have the opportunity to share their struggles, victories, and prayer requests, creating an environment of support and encouragement. Through transparent and honest relationships, we can be held accountable for living out our faith, making it more practical and transformative in our daily lives.
A Deeper Understanding of God’s Word
Moreover, small groups provide a platform for deeper biblical understanding. As members discuss and explore the Scriptures together, they gain fresh insights and perspectives, enriching their understanding of God’s truth. This collaborative study fosters spiritual maturity, equipping individuals to apply God’s Word effectively in their unique circumstances.
Safe Space for Personal Growth
Small groups also allow for a safe space for accountability. As we journey together in faith, we can hold each other accountable for living according to biblical principles and following Christ’s example. This accountability fosters personal growth and transformation as we support one another in the pursuit of holiness and obedience to God.
The Early Church: A Model
Using the Early Church as a model for Christian discipleship and spiritual growth is essential because it provides us with a direct connection to the teachings and practices of the first followers of Jesus Christ.
Emphasizing the Word of God, Prayer, and Fellowship
The Early Church’s emphasis on the Word of God, prayer, and fellowship allows us to grow closer to God and one another. Studying the Scriptures and meditating on God’s Word helps us understand His will for our lives and develop a personal relationship with Him. Prayer is our direct communication with God, enabling us to seek His guidance, share our joys, and pour out our concerns. Furthermore, genuine fellowship, where believers come together to support, encourage, and hold one another accountable, fosters a strong sense of unity and belonging within the body of Christ.
An Example of Evangelism and Outreach
Modeling our Christian discipleship after the Early Church also highlights the importance of evangelism and reaching out to others with the message of salvation. The early believers were bold in proclaiming the Gospel, leading many to embrace faith in Jesus Christ. Their dedication to spreading the Good News challenges us to be active in sharing our faith and making disciples in our communities and beyond.
Looking at the Biblical Example of Small Groups in the Early Church
As we look at the Bible, we find numerous instances where believers came together in close-knit communities, encouraging and supporting one another in their walk with the Lord.
Acts 2: 42-47 – Devotion and Fellowship
One of the most prominent examples is found in the Book of Acts, in Acts 2: 42-47. Here, we witness the birth of the Early Church after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. They gathered together in homes, sharing their lives, needs, and spiritual experiences. This intimate fellowship fostered spiritual growth as they continually encouraged and challenged one another to follow Christ more deeply.
Mentoring and Discipleship – Paul, Timothy, and Titus
Another powerful illustration of small groups in the Early Church can be seen in the relationship between Paul and his trusted companions, Timothy and Titus. In Paul’s letters to them, we witness a beautiful mentorship and discipleship dynamic. In 2 Timothy 2: 2, Paul exhorts Timothy to pass on what he has learned to faithful men who will, in turn, teach others. This multiplication of discipleship relationships through small groups allowed for the spread of the Gospel and the strengthening of believers across various regions.
Personal Fellowship – Philemon, Apphia, and Archippus
Lastly, we can look to Philemon, a short yet profound letter in the New Testament. In this letter, we see Paul writing to Philemon, Apphia, Archippus, and the church in their house. This small group of believers gathered in Philemon’s home provided a setting for mutual encouragement and spiritual growth, as they navigated real-life challenges and lived out their faith together.
In conclusion, we see throughout the Early Church that small groups played a pivotal role in nurturing Christian discipleship and spiritual maturity. Just as they did in those early days, small groups continue to be a powerful means for believers today to grow in their faith, support one another, and impact their communities for the glory of God. May we also seek to embrace the beauty and effectiveness of such gatherings as we pursue a deeper walk with our Lord Jesus Christ.