Over the last month, I have been asked a half of dozen times what are the steps to implementing a discipleship program in a local church. Discipleship is not a program rather it is a lifestyle. Discipleship is not a “silver bullet” rather it is getting back to the message and methods of Jesus Christ. If you are looking for a program then discipleship should not be your first choice.
Here are some practical steps to consider:
1. Pray hard about starting this journey.
This journey will cost you your life (Luke 9:23-26). This is not an easy journey. Most members have their own concept of what “church” should be. For most it is the Attractional Model. This is where members come and are entertained and mused by the church staff. Overcoming member’s existing concept of what “church” should be will be an on-going battle.
Another reason this journey will be hard is because you, as pastor or staff member, have not been discipled. How do you disciple others when you have not been discipled? Another issue is where do you begin the journey with a church full of members who needs to be disciple?
Once you feel the call of God to go in this direction then you are ready to take your next step.
2. Study the life of Jesus
Every year I would change the vision of our church because I was always searching for the right vision. However, I am proud to say that for the last 3 years and counting that I have stayed true to our vision – Disciples Making Disciples. This past week I was at Exponential Conference in Florida. I was able to learn and enjoy the conference because I was not looking for the NEXT big vision for our church. We have the biblical vision….Disciples who make disciples who make disciples.
Why have we stayed the course with our vision? It comes from the life and ministry of Jesus. It was His final command to us (Matthew 28:18-20). How did we study the life and ministry of Jesus.
A. We started with the workbook, Real Life Discipleship Training Book This book is essential for the journey. We took over a year to take all of our key leaders through this book.
B. We attended the DiscipleShift 1 Conference: Become a Disciple Making Church This is where we witnessed the power of modeling. The team from RLM model for the participants what “relational discipleship” looked like. We experienced this first hand.
C. We then study the classic book by Dr. Robert Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism. This book extracts the eight principles of discipleship from the life of Jesus.
D. Our next book on our journey is DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church Make Disciples Who Make Disciples by Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert Coleman.
3. We joined the Relational Discipleship Network (RDN) which coached us through the relational discipleship process. I would highly encouraged you to join the RDN or find a discipleship coach that can help you to make the shift. I am a HUGE advocate of having a coach in your life and ministry because an outside perspective is worth 50 IQ points.
This is NOT the only path to becoming a disciple making church rather it is the path we are taking. Now we are reading other books to help us to deepen our learning on discipleship. For example, I am currently reading “Building A Discipling Culture: How to release a missional movement by discipling people like Jesus did” by Mike Breen.
We do not have it figure out at Eastside rather we are enjoying the journey of learning and watching lives be transformed.
What are the steps you are taking to create a discipleship culture? What would you add to this discussion?