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Recently I was told of a pastor who shared in his message that 81% of all evangelical churches have no discipleship in their churches of any significance. While not knowing the source of the statistic, I must admit that, unfortunately, I am not surprised. We seem to know how to talk discipleship, but when you dig deeper into many ministries you cannot find of evidence of a clear and easily reproducible process. There is a huge difference between aspirational values and actual values. If we really do value discipleship we will be discipling someone.

Have we valued “decisions” so highly that ongoing discipleship was not as highly valued as it should have been? Please hold back your disagreement with that statement for a minute please. We certainly think we agree with discipleship but is there evidence of it happening and multiplying? If we do not reproduce disciples we will never reproduce leaders. If we do not reproduce leaders we will never reproduce churches. If we do not reproduce churches we will never see a movement.

Have we turned the “faith” into what we believe instead of our actual actions and behavior? It seems that many have turned the word faith into what a person agrees with more than a trust that turns into action by the believer. Jesus made it very clear that we are to “follow” Him not just “believe” in Him.   James says that faith without works is dead. True discipleship is not just stating that we have “faith” but is demonstrated by our willingness to deny all and follow Him.

We must return to the biblical foundation of true faith that leads to action. Jesus said that if we love Him we will keep His commandments, we will do whatever He asks of us, and we will go wherever He asks us to go. Bill Hull says this about discipleship, “The church is up to its eyeballs in agreement, and that moves nothing and poses a threat to no one.” In John 6 Jesus makes this clear, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and don’t do the things I say?” Genuine faith leads to following!

Hull describes this problem of faith verses follow by saying, “A faith that embraces discipleship distinguishes itself from mere agreement or intellectual assent with demonstrated proof.” He describes five distinct characteristics of a disciple in the first century. First, a disciple submitted to a teacher who taught them how to follow Jesus. They also learned Jesus’ words and His way of ministry. Then a disciple imitated Jesus’ life and character. Lastly, a disciple found and taught other disciples to follow Jesus.

Today most discipleship sees very little of a disciple submitting to a teacher/mentor and even less of disciples making other disciples. We have enabled discipleship to become more about information transfer than actual life transformation. Everyone needs a Paul in their life and then they need to begin looking for a Timothy to disciple and mentor.

Discipleship is not a program nor is it an event. Biblical discipleship is a way of life that continues our entire lives. It is not only for beginners but also for all believers and is to be process that multiplies more believers, disciples, and leaders. Discipleship is not to be just one of the things a church does but the main thing it is commanded to do, “Go make disciples.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”

Before we protest or desire to debate, we must be willing to take a closer, honest, and unbiased look at Luke 9:23-25. Jesus makes it clear that the very essence of the Christian walk is following Him and that requires total obedience and humble submission to His commandments. What does it involve to implement that kind of discipleship? Jim Putman says there must be an intentional leader, a relational environment, and a reproducible process.

Putman describes this process beginning with those who are dead in their trespasses and sin. This individual is lost and does not know it. This is where discipleship begins by sharing the gospel with them. When they believe and are born again, discipleship continues by a disciple sharing their life, new truth, and new habits with this infant in Christ. As they grow they will then move from being an infant to becoming a child.

The infant needs everything done for them, but a child can begin to learn how to do things for themself. As a child, discipleship focuses on connecting them with God, a small group, and their purpose. They are still self-centered but as they grow they can then become a young adult. They are becoming more and more God-centered. Now you equip them for ministry, provide them ministry opportunities, and release them to do ministry. Now, as they are growing in Christ, they are focused on serving others and not on being served.

Young adults then become parents where, as mature believers, they reproduce. They become disciplemakers themselves because they have been shown the process, had discipleship modeled for them, and are released to multiply. The real litmus test of discipleship is disciples who are making disciples who are making disciples! Think of discipleship as a clear reproducible process moving those who are dead to salvation and becoming an infant in Christ.

The infant then must be shown how to grow and develop into a child. The child is taught by example to learn how to move into becoming a young adult. They are constantly maturing from being self-centered to being God-centered. Then parenthood is not far behind but mandatory in the process because without reproduction multiplication will never occur.   Our goal is to facilitate a discipleship based multiplication movement by multiplying disciples, leaders, and churches.

Biblical faith leads to godly actions not just verbal agreement!