A Theology of DNA Groups
When we come to Jesus, one of the primary changes that takes place in our identity is that we become His Disciples. As Jesus walked this earth He called disciples to follow Him and led them to go into the world and make more Disciples (Mt 4:19, 28:19-20). All Christians are, at their core, disciples of Jesus. A disciple is someone who has believed the gospel and now lives in submission to Jesus.
One of the true confessions of a disciple is that Jesus is the Christ, or the ‘anointed one.’ (Mt 16:15-20). This is the New Testament word for the Old Testament concept of the Messiah. In the Old Testament there were three offices that were ‘anointed,’ prophets (1 Ki 19:16), priests (Ex 40:15, Nu 3:3), and kings, (1 Sa 9:16, 1 Ki 1:34,39). The OT promised an anointed one to come who would be God’s Messiah, anointed by the Holy Spirit (Is 61:1, Da 9:25, Ps 2:2). This ‘anointed one’ would be the ultimate prophet, priest, and king to God’s people. In confessing Jesus as the Christ, or messiah, we believe Him to be God’s ultimate prophet, priest, and king to us as God’s people. It is this understanding of Jesus that lies at the heart of discipleship and what it means to live under submission to Jesus.
Discipleship is rooted in the foundational belief that Jesus is the Christ and by His life, death, and resurrection, He has redeemed God’s people, and one day all of God’s creation, that God might be all in all (1 Cor 15:28). This is the meaning when we confess that Jesus is both Savior and Lord. But, it is the understanding of Jesus as our prophet, priest, and king which lies at the heart of both discipleship, and our DNA Groups.
The Vision of DNA Groups
As Jesus becomes our Prophet, Priest, and King, He, through the power and work of the Holy Spirit, leads us into increasing holiness, or the process of discipleship. This process of discipleship is really the submission of our lives under the rule and reign of God, i.e. to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). It is to live in accordance with who He is as God and to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength while loving others as yourself (Matthew 22:37 – 40). Through Jesus, and power of the Spirit, we are led increasingly into this sort of life, and DNA Groups are intended to be a catalyst and checkpoint for this process of discipleship.
DNA Groups center around Jesus as our Prophet, Priest, and King as He transforms us through the process of discipleship. The DNA stands for Discover, Nurture, Act and each of these correlate to the offices that Jesus holds for us.
Discover (Jesus as Prophet)
In the role of Prophet Jesus reveals God to us. Jesus is the Word of God and is the full revelation of God the Father. Through Scripture (with Jesus at the center) and the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus reveals to us the truth of God. We then through Christ, His Word, and the Holy Spirit Discover more about God in order that we might grow in our knowledge and understanding of who He is and what He does. This understanding informs how we live and our transformation as Disciples (Rom 12:2).
Nurture (Jesus as Priest)
In His role as our priest, Jesus mediates our relationship with God. He does this primarily through His atoning sacrifice for sins (Heb. 9:11 – 14), His work of intercession on our behalf (Heb. 7:5, Rom 8:24), and His continuing to bring us into the presence of God to worship (Heb 6:19; 10:19 – 22). We then, through the work of Jesus and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, grow in our relationship with God, seeking to grow in greater love and obedience to Him. As His disciples, Jesus transforms us into people who grow in our worship of God by learning to turn from our sin and glorify Him in all we do (1 Cor 10:31, Col 3:17).
Act (Jesus as King)
In his role as King Jesus rules over God’s creation, in part now through His church, and one day fully when He returns. The Kingdom of God is wherever the reign and rule of God is. This is primarily in the hearts and lives of His people. Jesus, therefore as our King, not only brings us into the Kingdom of God but also rules and reigns of our lives, in short, His rule informs how we live our lives now and on into eternity. As our King, we submit our lives under Jesus and seek to live in accordance with His rule and reign. This tangibly means we are always seeking to live in a way that accords with His kingdom. As disciples, we seek to live the actions of our lives in line with Christ and His kingdom and are continually seeking to “seek first His kingdom and righteousness” (Mat 6:33).
Therefore, DNA groups exist to allow Christ to lead us increasingly in the process of discipleship, so that we are transformed more and more into people who know and love God, live in right relationship with Him, and serve Him as our great King.
The Practice of DNA Groups
So what do DNA Groups actually look like and how do they function.
First, what is a DNA Group?
A gender specific group of 3 - 4 people who gather weekly to encourage one another as disciples of Jesus, by discovering scripture, nurturing faith, and pursuing action.
How do DNA Groups relate to Missional Communities?
DNA Groups are a rhythm of missional communities. Therefore they are developed through and should remain connected to a specific missional community to ensure that the members are also living as part of a larger family and living on mission with their community.
How do DNA Groups foster Discipleship?
We believe that there is both an organic side to discipleship and also an organized side. Jesus taught and led his disciples in both of these ways. DNA groups seek to be a connecting point for both of these aspects of discipleship. Discipleship happens in the everyday stuff of life but DNA Groups seek to bring these things in connection with Scripture, Prayer, and other Christians, which help us grow in our relationship with Jesus.
So, what do DNA Groups actually do?
DNA groups get together on a weekly basis to be a catalyst for the work of being disciples of Jesus. They focus on this process of discipleship through three tangible activities together. These activities are built into the name.
Discover (Study Scripture) – A group will focus part of their time around discovering more about God as He has revealed Himself through Scripture. While this can take various forms, i.e. groups might study certain passages of scripture together, a topic/theme of scripture or they might study on their own and then share what God has been teaching them individually. The important thing is that groups spend time learning from Jesus as He teaches them through the Word illuminated and guided by the Holy Spirit.
Nurture (Nurture Gospel Truths in our hearts) – a group will focus part of their time around nurturing their love for God and others. A key rhythm to nurturing is the acts of confession, repentance, and renewal. This is also a place where members of the group can exhort, encourage, challenge, care for, and love one another, helping to build each other up in the Gospel and in their relationship with Christ.
Act (Encourage discipleship action in our lives) – a group will focus part of their time dealing with what they feel the Lord is calling them to do in their lives. Discipleship is part of how we bring all of life under the reign of Jesus our king, and so we spend time each week listening to the Spirit and seeking to walk in obedience to Jesus. This is also a place where members keep each other accountable for how we are living out our faith.
How long does this take?
Ideally, a group of 3 – 4 will take anywhere from 75 – 90 minutes to walk through these aspects. This provides anywhere from 20 – 25 minutes a person to talk and walk through what God is teaching them, how they are nurturing their walk with Christ, and what things the Lord is leading them to do.
Do groups just go around a circle and talk?
The structure of how a group walks through these actions is not important. What is important is that they are giving time and space for each person to deal with how Jesus is leading and shaping them as His disciples, specifically as their prophet, priest, and king.
Why 3 – 4 and not more?
We feel that by keeping them intentionally small that people are able to process through Scripture and one another’s discipleship journeys well and in a timely manner. This allows for greater depth and intimacy in the journey of discipleship, which we think is imperative. Even Jesus had an intimate group of disciples (Peter, James, and John) within his larger discipleship core. We seek to replicate that in DNA groups.