The article is a part of the Easter Aftermath series.
You’ve had someone surrender their lives to Christ as a result of hearing the gospel, and they have decided to become part of the church family. So what process do you have in place that will move those individuals from their decision toward becoming disciples? In many churches, this process involves pointing people in some haphazard way to a group or encouraging them to seek help for their hurts and issues. Church leaders may even ask them to attend a class to learn more about the church. These are good, but none on its own is an intentional plan to make disciples.
For generations, churches saw the Great Commission as a command to evangelize the nations. As a result, evangelicals felt the goal of their work for Christ was to save souls. As a young pastor, I remember attending a Monday morning Pastor’s Conference at the local associational office. The highlight of the meetings seemed to be when pastors reported attendance and decisions made the previous day. We celebrated when individuals accepted Christ, rededicated their lives, or were baptized, but those meetings made the end goal of my work my ability to report salvations and baptisms.
The truth of the Great Commission is that we are to make disciples of the nations. This involves not only inviting people to put their faith in Christ but also teaching them “to observe everything I have commanded you.”The truth of the Great Commission is that we are to make disciples of the nations. This involves not only inviting people to put their faith in Christ but also teaching them “to observe everything I have commanded you.” Click To Tweet
So how do we move them from decision to discipleship? You must have an intentional pathway for individuals to walk that includes both onramps and guardrails for the discipleship process.
The Onramp to the Pathway: Membership
Whoever desires membership at Long Hollow attends Membership Matters before being a full member of the family. This usually involves approximately three hours on a Saturday or Sunday morning sitting around tables with three other couples or individuals, one of which is a deacon couple.
Our Deacon Ministry is a part of Member Care, and these men (and their wives) discuss the Pathway with each person and to determine where they are on it. The information we gather is designed to help us get them to the next point.
The meetings themselves contain a description of our Discipleship Pathway, and then in four sessions of approximately 15 minutes each, we describe each stop along the pathway and its importance. We use the following outline:
Know God: Authentic worship and expository teaching
Phil 3:10 – That I may know him and the power of his resurrection and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.
Find Community: Life Groups and the need to “do life” with others.
Hebrews 10:24-25 – Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Make Disciples: Gender-specific groups focused on accountability and life change
Matthew 28:18-20 – And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Change the World: Serving in our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the World.
Acts 1:8 – But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria and to the end of the earth.
The Gospel is presented with an invitation to respond. To ensure that they understand their position in Christ and how to move to the next step on the Pathway, each person or couple is interviewed by an encourager and asked to share a brief testimony, ask questions of the encourager, and receive information on how to move through our Pathway.
The ultimate goal of our membership process is that everyone who becomes a member of our family knows that they have a personal relationship with Christ. Beyond assurance of their salvation, everything we do in our membership class is focused on moving people onto the pathway and to the next step on the pathway.The ultimate goal of our membership process is that everyone who becomes a member of our family knows that they have a personal relationship with Christ. Click To Tweet
The Guardrails on the Pathway: Member Care
Every means of caring for the church family should keep people on the pathway and move them to the next stop along the way. Each area of care should focus on meeting people with support and encouragement where they are and guide them into God’s word as their all-sufficient source of truth. By doing this, we point individuals in their walk with God through discipleship. Several of the Member Care tools that we use are as follows:Every means of caring for the church family should keep people on the pathway and move them to the next stop along the way. Click To Tweet
CR is a Christ-centered, biblically based program that provides support and encouragement for any hurt, habit or hang up.
Support Groups can begin as needs arise. Examples of support groups are: Divorce Care, Grief Share, Hope through Cancer, and Mental Health support.
In our Couples Ministry we use trained couples to do both Pre-marital counseling and to walk along with other couples that have experienced various marriage struggles.
As individuals come across specific issues in their Life Groups or Discipleship Groups, it may be necessary to be in a counseling relationship that requires more structure and accountability. This is especially true if the issues being dealt with are ingrained habits in the person’s life. We counsel with the goal of returning individuals to a discipleship group and continue with those relationships. To quote from MacArthur’s book on Biblical Counseling,
“Biblical Counseling is a part of discipleship. It is not the distinct entity the world and many Christians make it. In fact, much of what one would say about discipleship could be said equally about counseling.”
The goal of each of these ministry areas is to assist our church family members to stay on the pathway when times are difficult and to return individuals to their appropriate life group or discipleship group as soon as possible.
In every case, we strive to help members understand their walk with God and guide them to be on the Pathway for ongoing support and growth. Each area of member care is either an onramp or a guardrail to assist individuals in being on the discipleship pathway. This intentional process enables us to help move people from decision to discipleship. When God brings people to your church family, tune every encounter to become support for their journey on the discipleship pathway.