3/3rds discipleship groups

3/3rds discipleship groups help Christians be active and accountable in their faith.

What started at a small table has turned into thousands of testimonies. 

Southeast Christian Church members Eric Barry and Terry Sanders have seen their first 3/3rds discipleship group take flight and bear much fruit since 2015.

“We had six guys to start,” Sanders said. “In 2015, we had two groups, and it started exponentially growing. Last time I counted, we had 471 groups and over 2,700 people in 15 countries—all from one group. God has so surpassed my expectations. When we started the first group, I’m looking around, and we have a small table. We’re growing a bit, and I was thinking, ‘I’m going to need another table.’ I was thinking little. God was thinking 471 groups. It’s been a ride.”

Sanders first heard about 3/3rds from Barry, who focuses on training others in this disciple-making movement through Team Expansion, a missionary agency working to multiply disciples and churches among unreached people groups worldwide.

“My thinking was, ‘Well, I’m training missionaries to do this all over the world; let’s see if this will work at Southeast,’” Barry said.

Barry took the official 3/3rds training from MetaCamp Discipleship Leader Curtis Sergeant in 2015.

“Once I got to Louisville, we began to look at that disciple-making movement as an organization,” Barry added. “We had always said we want to make disciples who make disciples and churches that start other churches. When we saw the training we use now, it was like, ‘Oh my goodness. This is amazing. These are fantastic tools that give legs or form to discipleship.’ We all know we should be reading the Word, praying and sharing our faith … but we weren’t as clear and intentional with the process as what we’re using now.”

What is 3/3rds?

It’s been said that experience is the mother of illusion, meaning we think we are good at something just because we’ve been doing it a long time.

3/3rds attempts to break that conviction.

“When I was discipling and matching people to be discipled, I didn’t really have a recipe on how to do that,” Sanders said. “3/3rds is not knowledge-based; it’s obedience-based. Say that you’ve got a guy who’s been a Christian for 10 years and—if you’re looking at a bar chart—he has a lot of knowledge, but he’s only using a little of it. You’ve got another guy who’s only been a Christian for six months, but he’s using all of his knowledge. So, who’s being obedient? 3/3rds gave me the outline I was looking for to do discipleship.”

The 3/3rds group outline is structured into three segments, which is the basis for its name.

1. Look back: Ask each person how their personal relationship with God has been this past week.

2. Look up: Pray and ask God to teach the group about the passage going to be read and then discuss it with each other.

3. Look forward: Pray for the Holy Spirit to show each person how to answer the following three questions: How will you obey this passage? Who will you train with this passage? With whom will you share your testimony or the Gospel?

Barry said 3/3rds groups desire to get Christians out of the stands and onto the playing field.

“I’m a Bible nerd, but Bible knowledge isn’t as crucial as Bible obedience,” Barry said. “What really is transformational for people is to obey Jesus: to forgive others, to be generous, to walk in holiness, to have faith, to be strong, to be compassionate, to not judge, to put aside anger and bitterness. That’s what builds us up. The rub is really putting that into practice, not understanding it.”

Sanders said they don’t pressure people to evangelize others, but keep them accountable in their faith.

“Since it’s all Holy Spirit driven, we don’t twist arms,” Sanders said. “I wouldn’t say, ‘Who are you going to give the Gospel to?’ That would be kind of presumptuous. We pray and ask, ‘Did the Holy Spirit place someone on your heart?’ If you say, ‘No,’ that’s OK. We don’t want people to feel pressured, but if they say, ‘Yes,’ the next week we hold each other accountable and ask, ‘How’d that go?’”

Groups meet for about an hour and a half in homes and online at different days and times throughout the week. As groups grow, they multiply and split into new groups.

3/3rds at Southeast

As a Southeast decision guide, Sanders connected new believers to people willing to disciple them.

He started getting more and more requests from Barry for people to disciple.

“Eric would tell me, ‘Hey, if you can’t find anyone to disciple, just give them to me, and I’ll do it,’” Sanders said. “I said, ‘Wait a minute. You’re going to take them all?’ After a while, I thought, ‘I need to know what he’s doing.’ I had a meeting with him about 3/3rds.”

Sanders, who previously discipled people one-on-one by reading through the Gospel of John with them, fell in love with the 3/3rds movement because it explained the nuts and bolts of discipleship.

Sanders and Barry began co-leading the original 3/3rds group in 2015.

“I know the church is saying we’re going to do discipleship, but I wanted to do it right, and I wanted to find something that can help me do it right—that’s where Eric came in,” Sanders said.

Southeast has roughly 70 3/3rds groups that meet throughout the week.

For more information, visit www.3thirdsmovement.com. To join a group, contact Southeast Connections Pastor Josh Brown at jbrown@secc.org or Sanders at (502) 552-8055.