Discipleship is enjoying a resurgence in US America. While it has long thrived in other parts of the world, US Pastors have been content to ride the wave of church growth for decades. While there’s nothing wrong with growing a church, our obsession with it has distracted us from our primary calling: making disciples.
After years of repeatedly ignoring the topic, pastors are now wrestling with how to accomplish this task or admitting they’ve never been discipled and therefore have no idea where to begin. Both are healthy, honest responses.
We’ve come a long way since 1963 when Robert Coleman wrote The Master Plan of Evangelism. Coleman’s book put discipleship on the map. While other books were published before and have been since, Coleman is the rare author that gets noticed, getting his resource to more than three million pastors and Christians committed to the cause.
Today, authors—living and deceased—like Jerry Bridges, Ken Shigematsu, Gary Thomas, Bryan Loritts, Bill Hull, Dallas Willard, Leonard Sweet, and Pete Scazzero have produced dynamic resources that invite, challenge, and equip us to make disciples.
Organizations like The Navigators, Cru, and InterVarsity continue to equip the church by having a presence on college campuses. Discipleship.org gathers like-minded individuals for an annual conference, and individuals like Justin Gravitt, Robbie Gallaty, and David Putman create outstanding podcasts and webinars.
Discipleship is back.
But still, there is reason to be cautious, as churches have hired an influx of discipleship pastors to lead the charge. While that might appear to be the most encouraging sign of all, seeing churches put their money where their mouth is by making staffing a priority, it also has the potential to initiate the beginning of the end of our disciple-making revival.
Hiring a discipleship pastor could signal to the church that they no longer have to worry about making disciples because it’s been delegated: there’s now a professional for that.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are two commitments to prevent delegating disciple-making.
Give every staff member a new title
While you don’t have to print new business cards or nameplates, cast a vision that every staff member is a disciple-maker. In other words, tell your youth pastor she is no longer the youth pastor. Instead, she is now the Disciple-making Youth Pastor. Your Minister of Music is now the Disciple-making Minister of Music, and your Senior Pastor is now the Disciple-making Senior Pastor.
Carry this vision to your congregants. Get rid of your members, and invite them to be Disciple-making members. Remove your Small Group leaders and ask them to be Disciple-making Small Group leaders.
But, this initiative will not gather any momentum unless you make the second commitment:
Create a church-wide disciple-making culture
It’s crucial to shift from an activity-based mindset to a disciple-making culture. Don’t limit disciple-making to a class or activity at the church once a week. Instead, infuse every church activity, budget line, and ministry with disciple-making as the goal.
Everything should be viewed and evaluated through the following filter: How does this help us make disciples?
Admittedly, this is the hardest step. Cultures are not made by adding water and bringing it to a boil. The change you seek will not happen overnight, but you might lose your job overnight if you force the issue.
Creating culture takes time (lots and lots of time), intentionality, teammates, prayer, and patience. Let’s ruminate on this topic for a bit, and in the meantime, consider the following resources:
- Have you read my eBook, Choose Your Adventure? If not, this is a great place to begin.
- 1 Daring Decision That Will Change Your Church
- 1 Tip and 2 Warnings That Will Make Your Church Better
- 3 Simple Goals to Help Your Church Make Disciples
- Do You Crave Comfort or Hunger for Adventure?
- Be Clear and Specific
QUESTION (leave a comment below)
If you’re a pastor, how does this article excite you or frighten you?
If you’re a church member or attendee, how do you think your pastor will respond?