This post is part of our Why We Don’t Make Disciples series

Reason 2: An Uncharted Destination

When a new leader comes into a company or a business and wants to implement a new strategy, three things have to happen. They must: 

  1. Define reality

They have to figure out exactly where the company is right now. They might ask a few questions: What sorts of things are we doing? How well are we doing them? What are our current priorities and goals? 

  1. Determine a destination

With the current reality in mind, they figure out where they want to go. They might ask: What do I want the end result to look like? What principles or actions should we embody? 

  1. Develop a plan of action. 

With the end result in mind, they will reverse-engineer some measurable, doable steps to get there. 

Last week, we talked about how discipleship being uncharted territory is one of the reasons that we aren’t making disciples. This week, we’re going to take it a step further: when making disciples, few of us have done step 2. We are headed toward an uncharted destination. We have no idea where we’re headed. 

The Big Picture

A 2018 study from Barna revealed some disheartening statistics about the reality of today’s Church: 51% of churchgoers had never even heard of the Great Commission. On top of that, 32% of churchgoers said that they’d heard of it, but they don’t have any idea what it means. This is a statistic that should motivate us as we seek to equip the saints to do the work of ministry.

A few years ago, I went on a retreat with some of the Long Hollow leadership where we asked the question, “What do we want a mature member of Long Hollow to look like?” We ended up drawing a picture: a person with a worn-out Bible in one hand and a stamped passport in the other, eyes looking up to God and feet moving to the people who need to encounter Jesus. 

What we realized is that this person is the product of discipleship. So we also developed a definition of discipleship that would help us create the kinds of people we wanted to see. 

This is the definition we came up with.

Discipleship is intentionally equipping believers with the Word of God through accountable relationships empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to replicate faithful followers of Christ. 

Discipleship is intentionally equipping believers with the Word of God through accountable relationships empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to replicate faithful followers of Christ. Click To Tweet

Let’s look at each part of this definition a little more closely. 

Intentionally equipping believers

This statement has two things built into it: 

  1. Discipleship does not happen by accident. It is a process you have to set out to do, not one you stumble into. 
  2. You cannot disciple an unbeliever. If someone is a believer, they can be discipled—formed into the image of Christ. If they are not a believer, we are not engaged in discipleship, but evangelism. Discipleship and evangelism go hand-in-hand. One feeds the other, and we need both—but discipleship can only be practiced with someone who trusts in Jesus as their Savior.
Discipleship does not happen by accident. It is a process you have to set out to do, not one you stumble into. Click To Tweet

With the Word of God

A Disciple is a learner, and the Bible is our textbook. That is not to say that we can’t supplement our learning with other resources, but we do not rely on an external curriculum to do the work for us. Instead, we drink directly from the source: God’s Word. 

Through accountable relationships

Accountability is the bedrock of the way disciples interact with each other. We hold one another accountable to be continually learning, and we also hold each other accountable for our personal sin. This is a reason why discipleship should be done in groups of men or women. It is far easier for a man to confess sin to brothers than it is if women are in the room, just for instance. We deal with each other through trust, honesty, openness, and accountability so that we can help each other grow into men and women who reflect Christ’s image. 

Empowered by the Holy Spirit

Some Chinese Christians came to visit America once to see what it was like to do ministry in the States and, when they came back home, they said something that has haunted me: “It is amazing what they try to do without the help of the Holy Spirit.” We tend to reduce everything to prescribed methods or fancy programs, when maybe what we need to do is start from a position of absolute dependence on the Holy Spirit, prepared to do what He calls us to do, go where He calls us to go, and behave how He prompts us to behave. 

In order to replicate faithful followers of Christ.

The discipleship process is not complete until the mentee becomes the mentor—until the player becomes the coach. This is the end-goal of discipleship: that those we pour into and help become faithful followers of Christ turn around and do the same thing with other people, not stopping until those disciples have done it, too. It is a self-replicating process and will begin an exponential movement creating disciples of every nation, tribe, and tongue. 

The discipleship process is not complete until the mentee becomes the mentor—until the player becomes the coach. Click To Tweet

Perhaps you are a pastor or a churchgoer who is not making disciples because you don’t know the direction to take someone. Let me encourage you to begin with the end in mind. Start with what you know you want to be, and then work out a plan to get people there. 

Discipleship and evangelism go hand-in-hand. One feeds the other, and we need both—but discipleship can only be practiced with someone who trusts in Jesus as their Savior. Click To Tweet

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