It seems like everyone is talking about discipleship today. Pastors are preaching about it, conferences are devoted to it, and church members are interested in it. What is my response to the recent interest in making disciples? Honestly, I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, the dialogue that is taking place thrills me. For the first time, people, particularly ministers, aren’t looking at me with a confused look on their faces as I speak of our mandate to make disciples.
On the other hand, the dialogue taking place scares me. My concern is that discipleship will become a fad like the Z Cavaricci’s of the 80’s or the fanny packs of the 90’s (aren’t you glad those are gone).
So what steps can be taken to hedge against discipleship becoming another 40 day study or the program du jour?
1. Determine Where You’re Heading and How to Get There
Before beginning any discipleship ministry, you must map out your destination.
If you’re like me, I am notorious for not writing down directions when someone shares them with me. Have you ever done that before? In the days without iPhone Maps (yes, there was such a time), my recall skills unraveled a few years ago at a Collegiate Event. After the event was over, I set out for the hotel, or so I thought. “Where is the hotel?” asked Kandi, my wife. Tentatively, I replied, “Calm down. It’s right up here on the right.” The left turn led us into an empty field, not the Embassy Suites. Needless to say, it was the last time Kandi allowed me to travel without directions.
Sadly, many churches begin their discipleship ministries without a plan. “If you fail to plan, you can plan to fail.”
Prior to challenging our people at Brainerd Baptist to gather in small discipleship groups, I, along with our leadership team, defined discipleship. We realized that a definition of a disciple needed to precede a process for disciple-making.
For months, I met with dry erase markers in hand in front of a whiteboard listing and erasing terms that described a faithful follower of Christ, a disciple. The finished product: a picture of a disciple looking upward with a worn out Bible in one hand and a passport in the other.
As a result, 3 things transpired:
- The picture encapsulated our mission statement: Deliver the Word, Disciple the Believer, and Deploy the Discipled.
- The picture established our core values: Authentic Worship, Expository Preaching, Intentional Discipleship, and Strategic Missions.
- The process encouraged our people get involved in discipleship groups.
Have you defined what a Disciple looks like? If you aim at Nothing, You’ll hit it every time. Do you have a Disciple-Making strategy? Is it working?