If your church is struggling with discipleship, maybe these words from my book, Disciple, will help today:
Most churches need to change in order to do better disciplemaking. Still, I think there’s something to be said for building on your church’s current efforts. Approaching it that way can be less chaotic than simply starting over, and your members may be more inclined toward change if it’s less dramatic.
I view discipleship as occurring at three levels, which should all be components of the disciplemaking process in your church:
The corporate level. Through all that takes place in worship services, we should be teaching believers to grow in their faith. This is likely the broadest level of our discipleship, but it is also difficult to walk personally with everyone sitting in our worship services.
The small group level. Almost every practitioner and writer I know who emphasizes discipleship also identifies small groups as a significant platform for that task. The size and purposes of the groups vary by church, but they’re generally the primary place to build life-on-life relationships; hence, groups are the “backbone for discipleship.”* They are also the best place to ask the types of scorecard questions we don’t often ask:
- What percentage of our members are reading the Bible regularly?
- How many have been trained to share the gospel this year? How many have done it?
- How are our members and their groups reaching out into the community? How many members have taken a mission trip in the last year?
- How many new leaders have we raised up this year?
- What percentage of members know and use their spiritual gifts?
- What percentage of fathers are intentionally leading their families in discipleship?
- How many members are in a discipling relationship?
We have to know our church body if we want to assess where they are spiritually, and a small group is usually the best place to do that.
The mentoring level. Mentoring is the most personal level, and it ideally leads to disciples who make other disciples. In many cases, accountability—a critical component of disciplemaking—is deeper at this level than any other.
Most churches already have the first two components in place, even if they’re not always done well. They have at least some structure in place to move forward if someone leads them well. If you want to improve your church’s disciplemaking, it may be that you will have to start where your church is and try to improve what you are currently doing. Build strategically and intentionally on components already in place.
Chuck Lawless, Disciple: How to Create a Community That Develops Passionate and Healthy Followers of Jesus (Church Answers Resources) (pp. 83-85). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.
*Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington, DiscipleShift, 186.