Have you ever driven down the road and seen a sign in front of a church that says, “Discipleship Training on Wednesday Night at 6pm”? It probably conjures the image of a programmatic class for the faithful few who show up to learn information or practice techniques like how to read the Bible or how to share your testimony.
While these things are not bad things by any stretch, and while discipleship certainly is training, that’s not exactly what Jesus had in mind when He told His followers to make disciples. Unfortunately, though, that’s the image that is stuck in people’s minds when they hear “discipleship.” We’ve reduced it to a one-hour class once a week for twelve weeks.
Yes, discipleship is training, but the true measure of discipleship’s effectiveness is how well the people you invest in reproduce what they’ve learned. Every person in the process is either fumbling the handoff or is passing it on with passion.The true measure of discipleship’s effectiveness is how well the people you invest in reproduce what they’ve learned. Every person in the process is either fumbling the handoff or is passing it on with passion. Click To Tweet
There are five reasons that people aren’t making disciples today, so let’s talk about the first one: We are in untraveled territory.
When I was a kid, I grew up in a neighborhood that had a large area of woods behind the house. We used to think that there were people living in the woods, monsters hiding in hidden caves, and all kinds of spooky things lying in wait behind the trees. So when I was a kid, I never ventured into the woods by myself.
Once or twice a year, though, my dad, my uncle, and my grandfather would take us into this forest. They’d lead me on trails, walk us through creek beds, show us all of the beauty that was inside of this territory that kind of scared me.
One day, dad told me to “take the stick” and lead them. So I took the stick the leader carried to sweep away some of the underbrush that covered the trail we were walking—just the way I’d seen them doing it. Before long, I found myself getting swept away in it, beating a path deep into the heart of the woods. But because I came from a long line of tricksters, when I looked back, I saw that I was alone.
I ran back to the main trail to see if they were there waiting for me, but I was completely lost and they were nowhere to be seen. Holding back the tears, I felt my mind racing to try to figure out what to do in this situation I’d never been in. Finally, my dad came out and revealed the joke, much to my relief. And then he taught me how to find out where I was, then took me by the hand and led me out of the woods.
Many people today are in the same boat I was in when it comes to discipleship. They see the forest, but it looks big and complicated and full of uncertainty; they’ve never been shown how to do it for themselves. You can read all the books you want on how to make disciples, but until you’re out in the middle of it leading people down a new road, you have no idea what to expect.
Get In the Game
We see this all the time when teaching pastors how to make disciples. A huge number of pastors—even senior pastors—tell us at Blueprints and Cohorts that they’ve never been discipled, themselves. How can we expect them to do something they have no idea how to do?
We think the answer is simple: we can expect it because it’s what Jesus commanded us to do. He modeled how to pour your life into a few close companions and how to turn them loose to do the same with others. Following His example, I’ve personally seen discipleship spread like wildfire in three different contexts and watched as it did the same all over the world—simply by doing what Jesus did.
When making disciples, we should have three end-goals: First, we should want our disciples to become a maturing follower of Christ. Second, we should want them to practice godly disciplines. Third, we should want them to see what they’ve done with a handful of believers be replicated by the men or women they invested themselves into.
If there are two encouragements I can give as you attempt to get the plane of discipleship off the ground, it is these:
Be a lifelong learner
You don’t have to be the pastor or a deacon or a leader in your church to make disciples; all you have to be is a lifelong learner. Always be looking for new ways to improve your walk with the Lord and new methods to teach others to do the same.
Get off the bench.
Discipleship can seem daunting when you’re standing on the edge looking in, but the only way to begin is to begin. Identify three to four men (if you’re a man) or women (if you’re a woman) in your life that you can begin praying for. Then invite them to spend the next twelve to eighteen months studying and memorizing Scripture, praying together, and learning together so that they can go and do the same.Discipleship can seem daunting when you’re standing on the edge looking in, but the only way to begin is to begin. Click To Tweet