What many churches call discipleship, or disciple-making is a far cry from what Jesus had in mind when He gave us the Great Commission. What you are doing may be the very reason your church is struggling when it comes to reaching non-Christians with the gospel.
I work with dozens of churches each year, helping them align their strategies and programming with their disciple-making results (measures). My observation is that most churches have three core components when it comes to their strategy. Most often, it consists of 1) a gathering where worship takes place, 2) groups where people connect and study the Bible, and 3) a place of service in the church. It may look like some variation of the drawing below.
This model most often assumes that people find their way into our gatherings, and the rest will take care of itself. The challenge to this assumption is that in today’s culture that people are no longer finding us. We have reached everyone like us or who is wants to be like us. If we are frank about our situation, if we are experiencing growth at all, it is usually the result of doing things better than the churches around us and reaching their attenders and members. In essence, we are growing at the expense of the churches around us, with little or no actual kingdom growth.
Think about it for a moment. We encourage disciples to gather for Christian worship on the weekends and then gather with a smaller group of Christian in our homes during the week for Bible Study. You may be wondering what’s wrong with this? Well, I’m glad you asked. Jesus didn’t save us to spend our lives in a holy huddle. The very commission he gave us begins with an imperative to “go.”
For Jesus, there was no separation in evangelism and disciple-making. Evangelism is simply the first part of a holistic process we refer to as disciple-making. Whenever I think of disciple-making, I process it through our pipeline that includes: pre-disciples, new-disciples, growing, disciples, multiplying disciples, and catalytic disciples. A healthy disciple-making culture will have both pre and new-disciples flowing through it.
A more open system for disciple-making might look like the one I use when working with leaders or catalytic disciples who are interested in catalyzing disciple-making movements.
This is what we call a strategy map, and it consists of five components. Here’s a super quick overview. I will save a fuller discussion for future writings.
Enter the Field
Jesus calls us to enter the fields that are already "white unto harvest". We must be intentional about equipping disciples at every level of our pipeline to enter the harvest field. This may require a rethinking of how we relate to people where we live, work, and play.
Plant the Gospel
We plant the gospel by proclaiming the good news that in Christ, God did for us what we could not do for ourselves in that He redeemed us, He is renewing us, and He is ultimately going to restore all of creation. We plant the gospel by telling our story and telling His story of redemption. While the gospel may be demonstrated non-verbally through our actions, be not mistaken, the gospel is verbal. The gospel is a good news announcement that must be proclaimed.
Once someone is open to the gospel, disciple-making begins. I was reminded the other day of a young man I disciple for two-years before he became a Christian. I did this by engaging in a relationship with him, having an honest dialogue where I answered his question, and introduce him to my broader Christian community. My disciple-making efforts consisted of exposing him to Gospel Truth, Gospel Community, and Gospel Mission. We did life-on-life, life-in-community, and life-on-mission together.
Form the Church
Once you begin making disciples, you can then form new communities or new churches around those disciples. When I first started this journey of church planting, I thought I needed to form a church and then go make disciples. What I have discovered in the post-church era is we have to make disciples and then form the church around those disciples.
The final part of our strategy is to reproduce. We reproduce other disciples, groups, churches, ministries, and networks. However, it’s important to note that reproduction begins in the pre-disciple phase. If we meet someone open to the gospel, then we can ask that person if he has family or friends that might be open to the gospel. When they do, we can encourage them to invite us into their network, and when this happens, they are learning to reproduce from day one.
Now let me ask you a question: Which one of these approaches to church is going to allow us to make disciples of people far from God? Hopefully, both, but certainly the open system, is going to be more effective in today’s context.
Let's face it; you don't have to have a disciple-making pipeline to make disciples. I would say that very few churches have an intentional pipeline. At the same time, there may be some benefits that you might want to consider when it comes to a disciple-making pipeline.
Let's start by looking at what is a disciple-making pipeline? A disciple-making pipeline is a structure for identifying and moving disciples from one level of development to the next. Our goal in developing and implementing a disciple-making pipeline is more and better disciples. We encourage churches to develop their unique disciple-making pipeline. The table below represents a generic disciple-making pipeline for beginning our conversation and for the development of your own disciple-making pipeline.
The benefits of an intentional disciple-making pipeline are numerous. Here are a few:
1. It depicts a clear pathway for growth. I can remember being a brand follower of Christ, thinking I want to be a good citizen. I had no clue what it meant to be a disciple or that as a disciple, I needed to grow. Imagine having a clear pathway with clearly delineated measures or competencies at each level of discipleship. Regardless of how you program around a pipeline, just having one would benefit any church serious about making disciples.
2. It allows you as a church to evaluate your disciple-making effectiveness. Once you develop your own disciple-making pipeline based on your disciple-making dream, you have a built-in tool for assessing your effectiveness. For example, if you don't have any pre-disciples, it is a good indication that something is off about your overall disciple-making culture. The same could be true of any level of your pipeline where you may have a deficiency. A healthy disciple-making culture will have disciples at every level of the pipeline.
3. It integrates both evangelism and disciple-making. A common mistake that churches make is separating evangelism and disciple-making, but for Jesus evangelism was always a critical part of His disciple-making. His disciple-making always began with pre-disciples. Creating a disciple-making pipeline should always begin with pre-disciples.
4. It encourages the disciple-maker to focus on his/her area of greatest strength. We all have different passions and giftedness. I may have a passion for working with pre-disciples, while you may be gifted at working with multiplying disciples. Having a disciple-making pipeline gives us multiple areas and places to plug into the disciple-making process as a disciple-maker.
To learn more about a disciple-making pipeline make plans to join us for our next webinar in our Planting the Gospel Webinar Series, September 24 at 11 AM. Our special guest will be David Rogers, Pastor of Crosspointe Church in Valdosta, GA. You will want to hear how David planted and grew a church of 2000 in a rural Georgia community by maximizing his very own disciple-making pipeline.
It is my privilege to have Pastor Ken Adams from Crossroad Church in Newnan, GA joining me on my next Webinar scheduled for August 20th at 11AM EDT. Ken and I go way back to our very first church plant. I was serving as a Church Planting Missionary in an area just south of Atlanta. My role was to catalyze a movement of church plants. I did this by using my catalytic gifts to start churches, and at other times, I came along other church planters and helped them as they started. Crossroad Church was my very first church start. I spent about a year doing the many tasks required to prepare for a church plant, and we launched weekly worship service in an elementary school on March 26, 1989, with 178 people in attendance. After several months, we had a solid core of people, and I handed it off to Ken Adams, who became their first and only pastor. I include this image as visual proof. At the time, we were on the cutting edge of church planting complete with overhead transparencies, a six-channel soundboard, and a guitar-playing worship leader. I had a budget of $10,000 to launch the church, which was unheard of, and I spent $6,000 of it.
Pastor Ken showed up early in the summer of 1989 and has been making disciples ever since. What started in an elementary school has become a disciple-making movement. One of the critical factors leading to this is that Ken is a disciple-making pastor. If you want a disciple-making church, you must become a disciple-making pastor. Recently Ken was speaking at a pastor event where he asked the pastors how many of them had been discipled by someone. The majority of those in the room had not. Maybe you can relate and want to join us in this webinar where we will give you practical steps for being discipled and catalyze a movement of disciple-makers.
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Wow! I just returned from Cuba where I was working with a group of church planting leaders where I was training them to catalyze their disciple-making, church planting movement. I must confess I always receive so much more than I have to offer. This particular church planting network started in 2004 and now consists of 300 churches and missions with a vision of planting another 200 over the next two years. This is what we call exponential multiplication.
One of the lessons I walked away with is if you don’t have disciple-making values you are not going to have a disciple-making movement. God used this specific trip to solidify PTG’s disciple-making values and I can’t wait to share them with you.
I have been saying that the western church is perfectly designed to get the results we are getting, religious consumers. I am more convinced than ever that we need a new operational system that includes values that shape our culture into a disciple-making culture. It is my observation that many of our popular values found in our churches actually work against the very mission that Jesus left us.
Let me challenge you to join our free webinar on April 17, at 2PM EDT. Once again, I want you to send me your existing values where I can choose one to review and improve on our webinar. My promise is I won’t be brutal, but my intent is to edify all. You don’t want to miss this webinar it could be the difference between more and better religious consumers and more and better disciples. If I don’t use your values my offer stands I will be more than glad to do a phone call to review and help align your values with your disciple-making vision.
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How do we transition from a weekend only culture to a disciple-making culture? This is the question we seek to answer in this webinar series.
Last month we focused on mission. We concluded that in order to make disciple we must embrace our disciple-making mission. This disciple-making mission is our great permission with the Great Commission. But, at the end of the day we all have one and only one mission to “go make disciples”.
This leads us to the second of our disciple-making questions: What are our disciple shaping values? If our disciple-making mission serves as our compass then our disciple shaping values serves as our fuel or passion. Let’s face it when you are transitioning from a weekend only to a disciple making culture it is going to take plenty of fuel and passion.
In this webinar we will…
Join us on April 17th at 2PM EDT for “What are our Disciple Shaping Values?” webinar. Click the image below to register!
I want to respond to a frequent question. “What is a good disciple-making mission”? While I appreciate and even understand the question, a better question is “What is our disciple-making mission”? The best disciple-making mission is always going to be your unique disciple-making mission.
Every church is unique! At the same time, it is true that our bias is that the big “C” Church has one and only one mission, and it is always a disciple-making mission. A good mission is our always our great permission with the Great Commission. Here at Auxano, we believe that “God is up to something cosmically significant and locally specific” in our church. I will say when taken out of your unique context most mission statements come up lacking.
In developing a mission statement, we begin by taking a deep dive into process work around a specific church’s identity. We want to look at the unique people, unique place, and the unique passion of the church and specifically where all three of these intersect. It’s after we do this in-depth process dive into your identity that you are prepared to begin discovering that unique mission and its articulation.
The challenge so often is we fail to have the capacity for this kind of deep processing work. There are many reasons for this, but three common “thinkholes” that keep us from it includes what we call the ministry treadmill (too busy), competency trap (to smart), and the denominational rut (too stuck).
Also, any articulation of mission or vision language should always pass the “5 C’s Test”. You can use this test to go ahead and evaluate your current mission. The Five C’s are: is it clear, compelling, concise, contextual, and catalytic.
Take a moment and evaluate your mission statement on a scale of 1-5 using the C’s. How did you do? It’s vital that you did well. Your mission is what we call the answer to question zero. Question zero is “What are we doing?” If you get this question, wrong everything is going to be wrong.
I’ve got so much I want you to know, but limited time and space to communicate it. However, there is one final thing I will add; a mission is always going to be spread by people, not paper. Therefore it is critical that you build a team and go on a profound collaborative journey that at the end of the day taps into the collaborative genius of your leaders.
Join me on March 5, at 2 PM EST for our monthly webinar. This month we will address the DNA of a Disciple-Making Mission. You can register for this free webinar by clicking the image below!
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and 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 28:19-20).
Disciple making is our one and only mission, as a church. This mission-based pursuit means that our measure of success is more and better disciples that are making more and better disciples. More and better disciples means have a growing pipeline, when it comes to disciples. A generic disciple-making pipeline consists of pre-disciples, new disciples, growing disciples, multiplying disciples, and catalyzing disciples. Therefore, a healthy pipeline means that we have a healthy number of disciples at every level, as described in the chart below.
The Disciple-Making Pipeline can be a good tool for assessing your overall effectiveness when in comes to making more and better disciples. A simple place to begin an assessment is by identifying the percentage of individuals that fall into each of these categories that attend your Sunday Morning Gathering. In a healthy disciple-making culture the results may look more like a normal bell curve.
The Disciple-Making Pipeline is one tool, among others, when it comes to assessing our overall health and effectiveness in the area of a disciple-making culture. Other areas that you will want to include in an assessment are culture, leadership, mindset, and strategy.
Join us on February 5, 2019, at 2 PM for our free Webinar on Assessing Our Disciple-Making Culture We will also be releasing an updated, Disciple-Making Assessment.
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Assess Your Disciple-Making Culture
Today we are having more conversations and producing more and better resources when it comes to disciple-making, but we are mostly getting the same results. Why? Because we don’t have a disciple-making problem, we have a disciple-making culture problem. The current operating system we are running in our churches are designed to provide religious services for religious people, and until we install a new system, we are going to see minimal results, no matter what the programming or strategy.
Zooming out and doing an assessment of our current culture around the five vital disciple-making questions is a significant first step. These questions include:
• What is our disciple-making mission?
• What are our disciple shaping values?
• What is our disciple-making strategy?
• What does a disciple look like in our context?
• What is our disciple-making dream?is link.
Discover Your Disciple Making DNA
First, we must embrace the reality that we have one and only one mission, and that is to make disciples that make disciples. To replicate a culture of disciple-making, you have to drill down to the cellular level or what I’m referring to as disciple-making DNA.
The Venn diagram below illustrates three core elements that make up the disciple-making DNA of a church. It includes spiritual truth, life-on-life relationships, and missional engagement. Where you find a disciple-making operational system, you will always find these three elements in some form replicated throughout the entire church organization.
Establish Your Disciple Making Foundation
Here I am referring to our core belief rooted in a healthy Christology, missiology, and ecclesiology. I reframe these three core beliefs into three practical questions: What is the gospel? What is a disciple? And, What is a church? In doing so, I answer these question in the order I’ve listed them understanding that each one builds on the other. The Gospel Lens below illustrates their relationship with one another and how together they form a worldview lens. This is key because at a very core level disciple-making is about worldview conversion. It’s about taking a mind that is rooted in some other core ideology such as humanism or some different western or eastern worldview and through a process of sanctification seeing it transformed into the “mind of Christ” or a gospel-centered worldview.
Develop Your Disciple Making Strategy
Creating a disciple-making culture involves knowing your disciple-making culture at the system level. If you zoom out, there are five systems you need to consider. While each of our terminologies might be more reflective of our unique process, the five areas will be reasonably consistent. I use the following phrases to describe each of these five systems and to conduct training at the field area they include: Entering, Planting, Making, Forming, and Reproducing.
Build Your Disciple-Making Pathway or Pipeline
Disciples are at different points along the pathway of maturity that requires a very intentional and specific response for each one. This pathway at its most general state might include pre-disciples, new disciples, growing disciples, multiplying disciples, and catalytic disciples.
At each of these milestones along the journey, it requires unique character, competencies, relationships, and levels of missional engagement to advance to the next.
Determine Your Disciple Making Dream
Ultimately, we must ask “Where is God taking us?’ Someone suggested that everything is created twice, first in the heart and then in reality. For developing this disciple-making dream, we use a tool developed by Will Mancini called the Horizon Storyline. It’s not enough to have a culture of disciple-making, but if we want to turbocharge our efforts, we need a strategic and tactical plan. The Horizon Storyline consists of four-time horizons we refer to as the “1414”. The drawing below illustrates it. These visionary tools assist us in answering four-time sensitive question: 1) What is a 5 to 10-year disciple-making dream? 2) What are the four big rocks we must address over the next three years? 3) What is the one thing we must focus on over the next year? And 4) What are the four 90-Day Initiatives we must accomplish to achieve our one-year milestone?
Installing a disciple-making operational system is a marathon, not a sprint. Perhaps this is why many choose to implement change at the service or programming level with no real lasting change. You can start a journey today. Please take a moment and fill our Disciple-Making Culture Assessment and schedule a free 30 minutes phone call today.
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Disciple making at its core is about worldview transformation. A person's worldview is the way they see and understand the world. Our worldview is based on our core beliefs. These non-negotiable beliefs determine our behavior. In other words, what we believe determines our behavior. As a disciple of Christ we might frame it this way, “What we believe about the gospel determines how we follow Jesus”.
I use a simple tool I created called the “Gospel Lens” to illustrate this. This tool is based on three questions that I believe have a very unique and specific relationship to one another.
These questions are:
It is essential that we begin with the gospel, move to disciple, and finally to the church in the order we ask and answer these questions. In other words, the gospel informs our understanding of disciples, and our understanding of disciples informs our understanding of the church.
Most often when it comes to worldview formation we begin with the church. When we do this it always distorts the image. The gospel informs the church, not the other way around. This is why Mike Breen says, “If you make disciples you will always get the church, but if you try to build the church you rarely get disciples”.
Our tendency to typically begin with our understanding of church is exactly why I’ve written a new eBook that we are making available, One-Hour Theology. This eBook gives a brief answer to all three of these questions beginning with the gospel. For a free copy of One-Hour Theology attend our next webinar.
This webinar, Developing A Disciple-Making Worldview is schedule for November 27 at 2:00 PM EST. In this 20 minute webinar I am going to lay out what I believe is the DNA of disciple making and how to integrate it into every aspect of your church. This webinar builds off last months webinar, Transitioning from a Weekend-Only Culture to a Disciple-Making Culture. If you missed it you may want to download and watch it before our next webinar. Download the webinar here! You don’t want to miss either one of these as we lay a foundation that will transform your disciple making efforts.
Peter Drucker is credited with the statement, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. This statement is especially true when it relates to the church and how we approach disciple-making. Many churches have what I call a weekend only culture. This weekend only culture is when most of our energy and resources go into creating and sustaining a weekend service that attracts a large number of worshipers who mostly come merely to consume.
I know this approach well. I spent most of my early church planting efforts planting this kind of church. As one of my buddies put it, “I think we planted a lot of weekend services, but I’m not sure we planted many churches”. Mike Bream sums it up well when it says, “If you make disciples, you always get the church. But if you make a church, you rarely get disciples”.
This may explain why no matter what program or strategy we import into your church we fail to get the disciple-making results we desire. Is there any hope?
One of our challenges is we often start with the wrong question, “How do we make more and better disciples?” The better question is, “How do we transition a weekend only culture to a discipleship culture?”
The reality is we need to install a new disciple-making operational system. This new operational system begins with an intentional process of reshaping our culture. The process below represents a set of master tools developed by Will Mancini of Auxano. These tools are the best in class for shaping your culture. As a Lead Navigator with Auxano, I have spent the last five years mastering these tools and seeing some amazing discipleship results. Let’s take a few moments to look at them through our disciple- making lens.
We must begin by confronting the brutal facts. Do we have a disciple-making culture? Chances are you don’t, or you would know it. Matter-of-fact welcome to the club. Very few churches actually have a disciple-making culture. You may have some disciples, but are you really making more and better disciples? Why not take our simple Disciple-Making Culture Assessment. This tool will help you identify whether or not you have a disciple-making culture and where to begin your disciple-making journey.
One of the keys to a disciple-making culture is to discover your unique disciple-making DNA as a church. This disciple-making DNA is informed by your unique passion, place, and people. Once you discover your DNA, it is time to replicate it in every living cell of your church by reshaping a culture that replicates your DNA.
To have a disciple-making culture, you must do a deep dive into your identity as a church and develop your disciple-making identity. Here are some key questions you need to ask:
If you, your leadership, and the entire church can’t answer these questions, you probably have an identity issue.
Once you have developed your identity it time to discover your disciple-making dream. Ultimately, where is God taking you collectively on this disciple-making journey? What is our disciple-making dream? Once you understand God’s dream for you as a church, you can then and only then begin developing a tactical plan to accomplish that dream.
Culture is the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an organization. Key to developing a disciple-making culture is the intentional integration of disciple-making from the top-down and the inside-out. For a disciple-making culture to replicate throughout an organization, there must be deep ownership and buy-in at the senior staff level, leader level, and ultimately member and attender level. This kind of integration must be intentional and takes time.
Start you disciple-making journey by completing Disciple-Making Assessment and join me for our upcoming Webinar on October 23 at 2 PM EDT on Transitioning a Weekend Only Culture to a Disciple-Making Culture.
David is the founder of Planting the Gospel and Lead Navigator with Auxano the category leader in vision clarity. When David isn't writing or consulting he enjoys staying fit and competing at Crossfit.
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