I’m surprised how many church planters have their launch strategy in place but haven’t thought much about their strategy for discipleship. To plant a healthy church, the two must go hand and hand. How you reach and disciple people, including your launch team, will determine your Discipling DNA. Scripture tells us to “be fruitful and multiply” and “Make disciples of all nations (people).” Clearly what we produce matters! My concern is that church planters get sidetracked and focus most of their time, energy and resources on the following:
1. Equipping people to be event planners to help plant a worship service
2. Producing disciples for the church and not the city and the world.
When our focus becomes the launch and equipping a team of people to ensure the launch is successful we lose sight of what it is we are trying to produce. I’ve seen way to many church planters experience a successful launch with no short-term and long-term plan to nurture and disciple the people that show up. In fact, what often happens is we get overwhelmed by the success of the launch and introduce more events and programs as the primary strategy to disciple people. The problem is that discipleship isn’t best accomplished through sexy events and extravagant programs; discipleship is best achieved in the environments and culture we create for people.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you focus on a strategy to produce healthy disciples, while launching a vibrant church:
1. Healthy discipleship results in natural multiplication. A recent study reveled that only 4% of churches in the United States have “intentionally” planted a church within the last 10 years. My heartbreaks when I hear this, 100% of churches should be regularly reproducing and multiplying the fruit they produce. This isn’t a result of a poor church planting strategy but rather an ineffective discipleship strategy. If you want to multiply at the smallest unit (the individual) or largest unit (the church), then you must have an effective strategy and environment for discipleship. In my opinion, the greatest way to measure the success of the church is by how well we multiply.
2. Discipleship is not linear, not a process. Discipleship is about the environment and culture we create. The church in the west has gotten to fixed on the “learn, grow and go” model of discipling people. Instead, we need to embrace the idea of “hear and obey.” I would even argue that hear and obey is good definition for discipleship. The bottom line is that many of our programs, curriculum and events actually hinder the discipleship process.
3. Don’t mistake participation for transformation. As the great coach, John Wooden, always told his players, don’t mistake activity for achievement. We often celebrate the wrong things and use the wrong metrics to measure success. Be careful NOT to link your success on the weekend to your success in discipling people. Discipleship is the divine purpose of the church, not the weekend gathering. The enemy loves to perverts our purpose and cause us to focus on the wrong things.
4. Make disciples that change society not just serve the church. Disciples in the church show up to church; Disciples for the world are released to change it. The Great Commission is for every follower of Jesus – Not just paid Clergy. Be careful not to create a culture where the people you disciple only serve the very programs and events you create. God has given us responsibility to use the army of people he gave us to reach our city and transform society, this only happens with an effective discipleship strategy focused on the Great Commission and Genesis 1:28.
5. Start early, don’t wait! It’s simple, the discipleship culture, strategy and processes you launch will be embedded in your DNA from day one. Don’t wait until the masses gather to decide on your strategy, if you do, the chances are you will end up with a strategy you don’t like.