What is your mission statement? It may be worded differently or expressed differently or put forth with a unique emphasis, but the basic mission of any Christian church is always the same: to make disciples. After all, that’s what Jesus left us to do:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Those were his last words to us—and last words are lasting words—” Make Disciples.” It may sound simple, but creating systemic ways of making disciples as an organization certainly has its challenges.
Discipleship is Different
Discipleship is different from mentoring. Mentoring helps someone become more like you by teaching them the strategies you used to get where you are. Mentoring is great in corporate settings. Discipleship helps someone discover who they are in Christ and live into who God made them to be.
It’s a much bigger job than any one person can do alone. Let’s look at six steps to making disciples within your church while engaging in a process that is intentional about being reproductive.
Six Steps to Make and Multiply Disciples
First you’ll need to determine the micro-level picture of making disciples. This is not as simple of a task as you might expect. It’s not a simple matter of running people through a curriculum and calling it done.
When you’ve been a Christian for a length of time, culture seeps into definitions. Challenge yourself to study and look at a disciple of Christ with fresh eyes. What is a disciple? What does one look like? How would you know one if you saw one?
Then go back and look again through the lens of the demographic you are trying to reach. How can you honor the redemptive analogy God placed within the culture or even microculture? In what ways might this look different from the definition of disciple that you are used to? What are the non-negotiables? Which strategies might effectively communicate God’s love to this culture?
Jesus interacted with his disciples on a personal level. He allowed them to process and discover. His relationship with Peter is a beautiful picture of this. Take time to hone interpersonal skills in yourself and in your team. Disciplemaking requires asking good questions and active listening. Spend time in listening prayer. Effective disciple-making partners with what God is already doing. This means listening well to the people you are discipling and simultaneously to the Holy Spirit. What steps can you take to grow in these skills?
Next, dive into using those skills. Engage in relationships and see what God does. Practice meeting people where they are at, letting them explore where they are spiritually, helping them to learn to listen for the voice of God, and helping them engage in learning the scriptures for themselves. Being intentional and open at the same time can yield some amazing results.
As you are developing disciples, encourage them to begin making disciples of others. No one is too early in their relationship with God to begin this step. Look at this early example (John 1:40-42) of one of Jesus’s newly called disciples immediately going to get another:
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.
As disciples multiply, you’ll need to train those disciples in how to make more disciples. That means teaching skills like those you identified in Define, Refine, and Engage. Develop a way to communicate those skills to others and pass them on in ways that people can use. If they can’t turn around and use the skills, they don’t have them yet. Although some of this can be done in classroom training, a more effective method is modeling by existing disciplers. Showing is almost always better than telling, but why not show first, then tell, then let others show what they have learned? It’s a much more hands-on method of developing disciple-making skills.
As disciples and disciplers multiply, you’ll have a need to start new communities of faith. Initially, this may look like starting more small groups, but eventually—if it’s working—it’ll mean starting more churches. No one church alone is enough to get the job done… no matter how great that one church may be. Eventually, the disciples must be multiplied and spread across communities, regions, and the world. That requires more than just one community of faith.
The Discipleship Difference– Every person is different, and we all reflect God in different ways. So why is our typical approach to discipleship the same across the board? The Discipleship Difference lays out an intentional, holistic, and relational approach to discipleship that is individualized to meet each person wherever they are and help them take their next best step toward God.