If I use the words discipleship or disciple-making they come with a lot of baggage. If I ask 100 pastors if they are making disciples in their church only 1 or 2 would be brave enough to say they really are not making disciples. The other 98 would all say they are making disciples, but they would have completely different ideas about what it means to make disciples.
For those who say they are making disciples I would ask them this question, “Where are they?” Churches are generally shrinking. Those that are growing are usually growing by taking from other churches. Where are the disciples we are making?
Discipleship has become a word we throw around a lot, but that we do not really understand. I did not understand it for years. I had grown up in the church, and been discipled by my parents over 18 years, but other than raising my own children I didn’t really have any ideas about how to really disciple someone. I had even served overseas as a missionary, but I still didn’t get it. Thankfully, God begin bringing people who did understand into my life in order to teach me. The more I learned about disciple-making the more clear it became how important it was.
If we as a church understood disciple-making, we would either start really making disciples or we would at least be honest about not being interested in making disciples.
Let’s take a few minutes and talk about what discipleship is not. It is not:
-A program where someone goes through a book on Sunday evenings
-Teaching knowledge or facts to someone
-Teaching a large group of people
-Cooperating with what God is doing in their lives to turn them into passionate followers of Him
-Helping them learn the truths of God and learn how to apply them in their lives
-A friendship where we encourage and spur them on toward growth
-A small group that has relationships with one another and where everyone is known
-Giving them opportunities to use what they are learning
-Modeling what it means to follow Jesus
-Walking with them through hard times.
I think I could just keep writing the latter list. The keys are it is relational, intentional, and customized to each person. Even if I am discipling a small group I am still looking to make sure each individual has what they need to be growing.
The best way to understand disciple-making is to start looking at Jesus’s life. How did He make disciples? Is there anything I or my church is doing that looks like what Jesus did with His disciples? If the answer is no, then it is probably time to start studying the dash.
What is the dash? You can read about the dash of discipleship here .