Growing At First Family

Discipleship through small groups.

Discipleship is a word that describes a process of willingly following someone. In the case of a believer, you are willingly submitting yourself to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. Biblical discipleship is so much more than simply becoming a follower, however; it is also a supernatural process that is the work of the Holy Spirit at work in you. The biblical term for this process is sanctification, and this process begins at the moment of your salvation. [You can learn more about what it means to be a disciple by reading this article.]

If all of these words and phrases seem foreign to you, don’t worry. By following the discipleship roadmap outlined at First Family, you will slowly begin to understand what the Bible is all about, who the people of the Bible are, the history of both the people of the Bible and the Church, and how all of this applies to you, today, in the 21st Century. The Bible is one, continuous story connected by a ribbon of love and written by God, who not only loves you deeply but gave us the Bible to communicate His love to us and to teach us about Him.

Throughout this journey, you will find the theme of a tree symbolizing our own spiritual growth. The Bible uses the tree as a word picture to help us understand what growing spiritually is like. In the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, the Lord tells us,

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8, ESV)

As you think about what these verses of Scripture are telling us, you soon see that the Lord is comparing the person who places his or her trust in the Lord to a tree that is planted by a stream of water, so regardless of the exterior conditions, this tree remains watered, fed, healthy, and fruitful.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, we are like this tree. As you grow and mature in your relationship with Jesus, you will find in Him the hope, strength, and peace to withstand the storms of life. Does this mean there will never be storms? Not at all. It simply means that you will find strength and hope in Christ to weather the storms.

A tree is also a good picture of our life for another reason—like a tree, we begin our journey of faith as a small seed. When you see a majestic, giant oak tree, you are seeing a lifetime of growth. It’s difficult to remember that this majestic tree started as a little seedling decades ago. So it is with our spiritual growth. Whether you place your trust in Christ as a child, or you are well into your earthly life, your spiritual faith in Jesus Christ begins small, and it is a lifetime process of growing and maturing.

This brings us an important lesson: don’t become discouraged. You have a lifetime of growth ahead of you, and there will be times when you will become discouraged. Don’t allow your discouragement to defeat you. Remember, the growth that is happening within you is the work of God Himself, and He will not give up on you! In fact, in the New Testament book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul tells us, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

So, it is with faith and confidence in our Lord Jesus Christ that we begin this journey together. Take hold of my hand as we take the first steps of faith. I promise you, this will be the journey of a lifetime!


Discipleship Characteristics

Becoming true followers of Jesus Christ–disciples–is the overarching goal of everything we do at First Family, and influences the decision-making process we follow.

From birth to senior adults, we want to teach and model what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. We have identified 30 different characteristics of the Christian’s life that are deeply rooted in a biblical description of a disciple. These characteristics are divided into three areas–Core Beliefs, Core Practices, and Core Virtues. You can learn more about each of these areas below.

Through the teaching and equipping ministries of FFC, we seek to help prepare you as an individual, as a family, as a servant of Jesus Christ, and ultimately as a church to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, which we believe is summarized by the phrase discipleship.

Here are three things to keep in mind as you begin:

  • Discipleship is a journey. Don’t expect to fulfill your quest to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ in a day, a month, or even a year. Discipleship is a life-long journey that will carry you into your old age. Regardless of how old you are, you will always be growing and maturing in your Christian walk until you enter into God’s eternal rest.
  • Discipleship is accomplished in community. The Bible clearly describes the type of biblical community we desire here at First Family in the second chapter of Acts. Biblical community is rooted in small groups and in large group worship. Through your Small Group, the weekend worship, and your own individual quiet time, you will see spiritual growth and fruit. Discipleship cannot be accomplished in isolation.
  • Discipleship is a work of God’s Spirit, not a program. Spiritual growth is not the result of a program. Sermons, classes, books, and other teaching materials will help in the process, but true spiritual growth is only accomplished when the Holy Spirit works in coordination with God’s Word to produce fruit. While it is important to be disciplined and to study, your goal must be spiritual transformation, not simply the acquisition of knowledge or information.

If you have any questions regarding what it means to be a disciple, don’t hesitate to talk with any of FFC’s Elders. 


Discipleship Objectives

Below are the overarching objectives of discipleship at First Family Church. We believe each of these is a descriptive component of what we believe it means to be identified as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Each of the Core Beliefs, Core Practices, and Core Virtues contribute to these objectives.

  • We know Christ as Lord and Savior (John 8:30).
  • We have an assurance of our salvation (John 20:31).
  • We have a thirst for God’s Word and to grow spiritually (John 8:31).
  • We communicate with God and know Him personally (Luke 11:1).
  • We have been scripturally baptized and exhibit personal stewardship in a local church (Ephesians 4:11-12).
  • We can apply biblical truths of Christianity to everyday life (John 13:33-34).
  • We have come to a point of forsaking all to follow Christ (Luke 14:33).
  • We model lifestyle behavior consistent with scriptural teaching (Romans 12:1-2).
  • We are actively drawing non-believers to Christ (John 15:8).
  • We are effectively reproducing disciple makers (John 15:16).


10 Core Beliefs

  1. The Bible (2 Timothy 3:16–17): We believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God, and the final authority in all matters of faith and conduct.
  2. God the Father (Psalm 121:1–2): We believe God is personally involved in and cares about the daily lives of His children.
  3. Jesus Christ (John 1:12): We believe in Jesus Christ, His deity, virgin birth, sinless life, vicarious death, burial and bodily resurrection, His ascension to the right hand of the Father and His personal future return in power and glory. We are significant only because of our position as children of God.
  4. The Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14): We believe the God of the Bible is the only true God and is eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  5. Humanity (John 3:16): We believe all people are born separated from God by sin, but God in his love sent his Son Jesus Christ as their savior.
  6. Eternity (John 14:1–4): We believe there is a heaven and a hell and that Jesus Christ is returning to judge the earth and to establish his kingdom. We believe in the resurrection of the dead: the believer to life everlasting and the unbeliever to the resurrection of judgment.
  7. The Church (1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Ephesians 4:15-16): We believe in the church as the body of Christ, which is composed of all believers who have accepted Christ as Savior. We believe the church is God’s primary way to accomplish His purposes on earth today.
  8. Stewardship (1 Timothy 6:17-19): We believe that everything we have, including our very life, belongs to God.
  9. Salvation by Grace (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:23-25; 8:38-39): We believe a person has a right relationship with God only by His grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. This makes believers eternally secure in Jesus Christ.
  10. Compassion (Psalm 82:3-4): We believe God calls all Christians to show compassion to those in need.

10 Core Practices

  1. Worship (Psalm 95:1-7): I worship God for who He is and what He has done for me.
  2. Bible Study (Hebrews 4:12): I study the Bible diligently to know God, to become like Christ, and to discern His will for my life.
  3. Service (Colossians 3:17): I give away my time to fulfill God’s purposes.
  4. Witness (Matthew 28:18-20): I live to tell the story of Jesus and to make disciples of Him even to the ends of the earth, knowing he is with me always.
  5. Biblical Community (Acts 2:44-47): I fellowship with other believers in a small group to accomplish God’s purposes in my life, others’ lives, and in the world.
  6. Prayer (Psalm 66:16-20): I pray to God to know Him, to lay my request before Him and to find direction for my daily life.
  7. Spiritual Gifts (Romans 12:4-6): I know and use my spiritual gifts to accomplish God’s purposes.
  8. Authenticity (John 13:33-34): I know and understand biblical truths and transfer these truths into everyday life. Who I am on the inside and outside is a pure reflection of Christ and His Word.
  9. Simplicity (Matthew 6:33): I seek to live a simple life focused on God and his priorities for my life.
  10. Possessions (Luke 16:11–12): I seek to maintain an eternal perspective on money and possessions, realizing God has given me all that I have, and that he expects me to manage it wisely for His glory.

10 Core Virtues

  1. Gentleness (Philippians 4:5): I am thoughtful, considerate and calm in dealing with others.
  2. Faithfulness (Proverbs 3:3-4): I have established a good name with God and with others based on my long-term loyalty to those relationships.
  3. Hope (Hebrews 6:19-20): I can cope with the hardships of life and with death because of the hope I have in Jesus Christ.
  4. Joy (John 15:11): I have inner contentment and purpose in spite of my circumstances.
  5. Love (1 John 4:10-12): I sacrificially and unconditionally love and forgive others.
  6. Peace (Philippians 4:6-7): I am free from anxiety because things are right between God, myself and others.
  7. Self-Control (Titus 2:11-13): I have the power, through Christ, to control myself.
  8. Humility (Philippians 2:3-4): I choose to esteem others above myself.
  9. Patience (Proverbs 14:29): I take a long time to overheat and endure patiently under the unavoidable pressures of life.
  10. Kindness/Goodness (1 Thessalonians 5:15): I choose to do the right things in my relationships with others.