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Healthy Churches Focus on Discipleship

Disciple Makers

Every follower of Christ needs to be discipled.  Discipleship is mentoring or coaching someone on what it means to obey and serve Christ.  The Apostle Paul invested in the life of Timothy because God wanted Timothy to go where Paul had already been.  Are you personally involved in the spiritual development of someone else?  Every Christian should have a Paul who disciples them and a Timothy whom they disciple.  Where is your Paul and who is your Timothy?

Discipleship really is an easy process (Matt 4:19) but difficult for many to complete:

  1. “Follow Me” (Jesus) – A disciple knows and follows Jesus!
  2. “And I will make you” – A disciple is being changed and transformed by the Holy Spirit!
  3. “Fishers of Men” – A disciple is committed to the mission of God!  (Making more disciples!)

What does the process of discipleship look like in your church?  We know the biblical characteristics of a disciple, but how do you get the new believer there?  Dynamic Church Planting International training says, “There needs to be an easily explainable process of the steps, opportunities, and experiences your church offers to help unbelievers find Christ and grow into spiritual maturity.  Discipleship will not occur without a plan and intentionally preparing your church to be involved in the process.”

In a recent national survey of evangelical church attenders 24% said they are sliding backwards spiritually while 41% said they are static and not growing.  That means 65% are not growing spiritually.   While a healthy church must be strong in discipleship it seems to be one of the greatest weaknesses.  Something is wrong when there is a gap between what we say we believe and what is actually happening.  Bill Hull in The Disciple-Making Church calls us to the three D’s of disciple making: “Deliver them, Develop them, and Deploy them!”

  • Deliver Them: Discipleship begins with pre-believers.  They come with baggage but they are not just delivered “from” their past.  They are also delivered to their present community of believers.  Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can change a heart and transform a life from the inside out!
  • Develop Them: Discipleship requires that you have a step-by-step process for helping new believers to become maturing saints over time.  Dynamic Church Planting International defines a spiritual growth system as, “When people come to Christ, our job is to partner with the Holy Spirit in helping them grow in Christlikeness.”
  • Deploy Them: The goal must be to make disciple who are disciplemakers.  The real litmus test for discipleship is when we see those we disciple discipling others!  Is it reproducing to the 4th generation? (II Tim 2:2)  Do you currently have a simple process in place that leads a clueless unbeliever to a committed, mature, reproducing disciple?

Discipleship requires someone willing to teach and someone willing to learn.  We must be careful not to overcomplicate discipleship but make it easily attainable and reproducible.  Discipleship is not gaining knowledge and getting a certificate to prove we have been “discipled” but rather it is learning what we need to know and then doing it.  Jesus spent his time preparing the disciples for greater responsibility so that His influence could be multiplied.

In Transformissional Coaching by Steve Ogne and Tim Roehl they reveal the following:

  • 5% of learners will transfer a new skill into their practice as a result of theory.
  • 10% will transfer a new skill into their practice with theory and demonstration
  • 20% will transfer a new skill into their practice with theory, demonstration, and practice within training.
  • 25% will transfer a new skill into their practice with theory, demonstration, practice within the training, and feedback.
  • 90% will transfer a new skill into their practice with theory, demonstration, practice within the training, feedback, and coaching.

Where is the best place for this kind of training to take place?  In a local New Testament Church!  Equipping our members to be the ministers, members, and missionaries God has called them to be.  The work of the church belongs to every believer in that community of believers (Eph 4:11-12).  We must equip and empower every follower and then release them with accountability to make disciples within their network of relationships!!!

“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”  2 Timothy 2:2

A disciple is a lifelong learner and follower of the ways and commands of Christ!

IS IT REPRODUCIBLE?

Follow the Leader

I Thess. 1:6

“And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord,”

Every church’s mission is to carry out the great commission.  Our biblical values cause us to want to be obedient and join Him in His mission.  A great sounding vision statement paints a picture of what we hope our part of the mission will look like.  It is easy to talk about what we should be doing but many are struggling with getting it done.  Without an easily reproducible process of discipleship we will struggle with how to carry out that mission.

Does your church have an easily reproducible and repeatable process of discipleship?  Does it come to your mind right now without going to look or asking someone?  We are not talking about programs and activities but rather a well designed map that shows a believer where they are, where they need to go, and how to get there.  It is a clear concise strategy to move from being a new convert to becoming Christ-like?  If our vision is to make disciples that transform their communities for Christ we must work diligently to develop an uncomplicated strategy of reproduction.

Reproduction has always been a part of God’s plan.  From the very beginning man was told to be fruitful and multiply.  Godly families were to raise godly children who would then raise their own godly children.  When we receive Christ as our Lord we start out as spiritual babes and immediately begin the process of maturing into Christian adults.  Every church has the responsibility to provide their family with a developmental process that shows them where they are and where they need to be.  Making disciples really is all about reproduction.

First, Followers are to be Imitators!

Followers in 1 Thess. 1:6 means imitators.  Followers are to be imitators of other believers and more importantly Jesus Christ.  We are not to be impersonators, trying to be someone else, but rather imitators by focusing on learning the characteristics of the one we are striving to imitate.  Imitation is a fundamental part of discipleship because it is learning from others and using them as guides.  Reproduction occurs when the imitator becomes a model for someone else to imitate but the million dollar question is how does that happen and what does that process look like? 

Second, Can it be Easily Duplicated?

Will Mancini in Church Unique said, “It’s not about what you can do, but what you can duplicate.”  He tells us that 98% of all North American churches are functioning without an easily reproducible process of discipleship and that 50% of the people in our churches have never taken a step beyond the worship service itself.  How many people in your church are moving from the worship service to serving others?  Is there a map in place that a follower of Christ can chart their progress and that shows them how to move to the next step?

Third, Keep it Simple!

The steps and expectations of where a “follower” needs to be must be clarified and simplified.  In Simple Church (in my opinion a must read) Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger give us this definition; “A simple church is designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth.  The leadership and the church are clear about the process (clarity) and are committed to executing it.  The process flows logically (movement) and is implemented in each area of the church (alignment).  The church abandons everything that is not in the process (focus).”

The challenge is to know what kind of disciple you want to produce and how that will occur in your church.  Keep it simple but remember it will not be easy.  Your work is cut out for you as you begin designing a map, a blueprint, that will guide believers to maturity in Christ.  It must be clear, uncomplicated and easily reproducible but it will not come without a lot of effort.  Pray, read, learn from others, find a church with a simple discipleship process, or give me a call; but most of all refuse to settle for anything less than reproducing disciples who reproduce disciples!