Written by Mark Donnell, MBC Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist
Editor’s note: The following is adapted from“Becoming a Disciple-Making Church,” by Steve J. Williams. It has been updated and is used by permission. This is the first of three articles.
1. Disciple-making is not a program.
Some churches have equated discipleship and disciple-making with a church program for so long that it’s hard for them to think any other way. That’s too bad because biblical disciple-making is just too big for any one church program or ministry to handle. Worship, evangelizing, nurturing, Bible study and fellowship are all a part of disciple-making.
That doesn’t mean some ministries can’t take the lead responsibility for certain aspects of disciple-making. Churches should, however, guard against letting disciple-making become the sole responsibility of any single program or ministry. That’s because disciple-making is not merely something a church should do; disciple-making is what a church should do.
2. Disciple-making is not limited to a time on the church schedule.
When I was growing up, I remember going to Training Union on Sunday nights at 6 o’clock. (I’m a little young to remember BYPU. Do you?) Later it became known as Discipleship Training. Unfortunately, many people began to believe that all disciple-making took place on Sunday nights at 6 o’clock.
Biblical disciple-making cannot be contained to any one time-slot on the church schedule. Disciple-making experiences and activities can and do occur in many churches throughout the week, at a variety of times. And individual believers set their own schedules for private study, meditation and reflection.
3. Disciple-making is not for new converts only.
Disciple-making is important for new converts, but they are not the only ones who need it. Every believer has room to grow and should take advantage of every opportunity to advance in maturity. Anyone who believes he doesn’t need to grow is the one most in need of growth.
Disciple-making churches should take great care to offer experiences that help all believers, young and old, to grow. That means tailoring discipleship experiences to the readiness level of its members. A new believer should never be expected to master a Leadership 301 course. But then neither should a more mature believer be expected to continue repeating the same experiences over and over. Heb. 6:1 says that, eventually, we need to grow up and move on.
4. Disciple-making is not a substitute for personal discipleship.
In recent years there has been a transfer of responsibility for discipleship from the individual to the church. That’s unfortunate because a church can never do enough to take the place of private and personal discipleship.
Believers can grow in groups but they can never grow as a group. Discipleship is personal, and any believer who limits her disciple-making only to what she receives at church will find her growth toward Christ-likeness severely stunted. There is no substitute for the individual practice of spiritual disciplines.
You are blessed indeed if you’re part of a disciple-making church. If you’re not, you have two choices. One, you can find a disciple-making church and join it. Two, you can help your church become a disciple-making church. I hope you will choose the second option. In the next article of this Pathway series, we will look at four steps a church can take to become a disciple-making church. For help in developing a disciple-making strategy for your church go to www.mobaptist.org/discipleship or call 1-800-736-6227, ext. 331.