In this fallen world—even in this very complex, post-modern world—people are desperately hungry to hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. “The typical churched believer will die without leading a single person to a life-saving relationship with Jesus Christ,” said Jim Putman from Real Life Ministries.
Yes, there are many willing Christians who have no plan for discipleship because it is work for them. But before we go there, we must acknowledge that Christians don’t practice discipleship because they have no idea how.
We are not speaking of becoming kinder and nicer, although those values matter. We need a radical, revolutionary reshaping of what it means to make disciples and follow Jesus. Church leaders need to inspire, equip, and empower people.
Don’t Announce the Revolution
Change is extremely difficult, especially in an established church. When momentum is strong and energy is high, the last thing most churches are thinking about is changing a culture. Therefore, do not announce the revolution. Begin to converse with the people in your circle. The conversation can change the culture and bring awareness to the issues.
Leadership must involve people through layers of culture-promoting discipleship. The language, stories, and methods we use should ingrain leadership development in their very core. Whatever we celebrate, we will replicate. As church leaders, we are not reactive, but we must be on the offense in our approach to discipleship.
Invest in a Few People
Now what? The answer is to invest in three people. You should go home, get around a table with three people, and ask them to go with you on a personal journey of discipleship for one full year. Then, if you think your desire is real and that you truly have something to offer the church, invite others to join you on the journey.
We are not talking crazy statistics that you find at a conference; we are talking about investing in just three people. In three years or so, you will have 15 or more people invested. The math works.
Although Jesus did what He could to help the multitudes, He devoted Himself primarily to a few men rather than the masses so the masses could, at last, be saved. If you’re a discipleship leader, your church will follow. It might take some time, but they will begin to follow you (or they’ll get fed up and leave, which is just fine).
Why not the entire church?
1. Crowd: 1/10th of Jesus’s time was spent with this group. Therefore, Jesus restricted 9/10th of His time to 12 Jews.
2. Committed: 70–120 people (Matt. 5, Sermon on the Mount)
3. Community: 12 disciples (Jesus worked the majority of His time with the disciples. Eugene Peterson said, “Jesus spent 90 percent of his life with just a few ordinary people.”
4. Cell: Triad group (Peter, John, and James)
5. Called: One-on-one (You will be hard pressed to find Jesus ministering one-on-one in a systematic relationship. He just didn’t do it. One-on-one happens outside the group, never in place of the group.)
LifeWay Research Group found that those in a smaller group context often pray more frequently, give more generously, study the Bible more consistently, and serve more faithfully than those who are in a larger group.