"Get Used To Different."  Rethink the DNA of Discipleship
 
Phil Miglioratti • The Reimagine.Network
 
"Jesus, give me a fresh set of eyes to see how you would be making disciples today.
 
Current models of living out our Lord's command to make disciples are rooted in applications designed for a world that preceded the technological era in which we live. Many of our modes and methods were birthed during the emergence of the Industrial Revolutionthe invention of the printing press and the dawning of the age of Science. Western civilization was changing. Transportation. Urbanization. Capitalism. Globalism. The impact on education? School buildings patterned after factories. Classrooms with rows of stationary desks. ​Lectures. Sermons. Sit. Be quiet. 
 
Now, once again, as the prophet Bob Dylan proclaimed, "the times they are a-changin.' These forms and functions from centuries past may no longer be the most effective means of teaching and communicating. The digital age has ushered in new ways to acquire knowledge. Everyone has access to the experts. Programmed approaches lead to regimentation rather than breed experimentation. 
 
We are no longer limited to in-person, learn-by-listening, experiences. We have discovered the power of interaction and collaboration to enhance learning. Questions have become as primary to the educational process as answers. Video, literally, opens eyes and minds. 
 
Like her perspectives or not, Oprah influences more people in one question-and-response interview than the sermons of a thousand preachers. TEDS Talks have been viewed by over 500 million (in over 100 languages), taking us back to the future by reviving true discourse, prompting debate over ideas that bring change (rather than rehearsing rules and regulations that protect status quo). The COVID pandemic has been a wake-up call as to the value of online connectivity for preaching, teaching, worshiping, praying, outreaching; even fellowship. Context in the technological era impacts, and sometimes upstages, content.
 
If we ignore new modes or mindsets of instructing, it is to our detriment. If we utilize only methods and programs of the past, we risk becoming irrelevant. Information, factual-based learning, produces Christ-believers (biblical indoctrination) who often have great difficulty becoming Christ-imitators (biblical lifestyle). Without transformation (Romans 12:2), information may convert someone to attend "church" but not necessarily to pursue Christ-likeness. Spiritual maturity is a​ lifelong​ process.
 
  • Text = the Holy Scripture and biblical teachings (the Truth
  • Pretext = the personality, worldview, gifting, calling of the person being discipled (the Person)
  • Context = the people, places, and circumstances present in the learning experience (the Culture)
 
We need to design environments that bring Christ-followers together to interact over Christ-focused content. Because the goal of discipleship ("ship" denotes the state or condition of whatever word it modifies) is not to simply believe more about Jesus but to behave more, act like, talk with, learn from, Jesus. Instruction + Interaction ==> Implementation.
 
To accomplish this, learning leaders must learn how to:
...ask questions, so that, those they disciple realize learning is more than reading and reciting, it is a journey of asking-seeking-knocking with their pastors, teachers, trainers, ​and ​coaches, as they study Scripture
...involve listeners and give opportunity for personal response in both small AND large group settings (sermons, seminars, and service/ministry) 
...facilitate small group experiences: conversing, praying, celebrating in formal and informal settings that provide opportunity to think-feel-respond
...equip learners with the tools to read and research Holy Scripture as a Spirit-led exploration
 
Jesus utilized a variety of methods as he discipled individuals, small groups and large crowds (personal conversations, dialog at meals, the Beatitude sermon, reading Scripture aloud in the Synagogue). He modeled those examples in an “as we go” style, teaching followers how to rely on the Holy Spirit to bring truth and power to different people in different settings with different needs. [Note: Matthew 28:19 is best understood, not as "Go! and make disciples" but "As you go, make disciples."]
 
A SKILL-SET for DISCIPLERS
  • Invite - learners into a process that is both factual (biblical content) and relational (the fellowship of the believers)
  • Inspire - learners through biblically based experiences that equip them to be filled, guided, by the Holy Spirit; a pursuit of wisdom that emanates from God's Word
  • Introduce - learners to people and ideas that will equip them to learn about and learn from our Lord and Savior
  • Interview – a variety of persons so that your students are exposed to the beautiful diversity of the Body of Christ
  • Include - students in all phases of ministry: prayer, planning, promoting, presenting/communicating/teaching
 
DISCIPLING ROLES
Making-disciples is never a one-person task. Mature-in-Christ disciples need to be influenced by and interact with:
  • Teachers: wise and effective communicators of the Scriptures and Christian teachings
  • Mentors: experienced and trusted spiritual directors who offer guidance in life-path decision-making. 
  • Counselors - persons who are gifted and/or trained to help individuals/couples make effective changes in areas of recurring problems or difficulties by applying Scriptural truths
  • Coaches - train individuals to "set meaningful goals and identify specific behaviors or steps for meeting them. The coach helps to clarify milestones or measures of success and holds the trainee accountable for them."  (internet description)
  • Facilitate - someone who convenes and assists a group of students in pursuing their common objectives (worship, fellowship, scripture study, service) without determining the outcome
 
COMPONENTS to BECOMING A DISCIPLE
Disciple-making is a combination of knowledge and commitment resulting in radical life-change
  • Information - "Do your best to win God’s approval as a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed and who teaches only the true message."  2 Timothy 2:15
  • Confirmation - "Beloved ones, be eager to confirm and validate that God has invited you to salvation and claimed you as his own. If you do these things, you will never stumble."  1 Peter 1:10
  • Transformation - "Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect".  Romans 12:2
 
SETTINGS that promote DISCIPLE-MAKING
  • Discussion
  • Discourse
  • Debate
  • Interview (believers, unbelievers)
  • Study
  • Seminar
  • Workshop
  • Workshop
  • Prayer (for and with one another)
  • Service (to the Body of Christ, in the community)
  • Meals
  • Onsite Visits (home, work, play)
ACTIONS of DISCIPLE-MAKERS
Click here to review the actions ("they followed," "they were sent") and reactions ("they were amazed") of our Lord's disciples. Then assess...
>As you encounter each scripture, prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit how to apply this truth to your present methods of building Christ-followers. 
>What can you do better? What must you do differently?
 "Lord, help you rethink how to design experiences that produce the same results." ... 
 "Give me courage to stop anything that has fulfilled its purpose" ... 
 "Transform our disciple-making by the renewing of how we think; we want to think like Jesus."
 
Get ready for different.

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    As a church leader, you probably spend a fair amount of time thinking about and practicing discipleship. But do you ever wish your congregation shared that passion?

    We do. That’s why Barna Group has partnered with The Navigators to create a new book called Growing Together: A Three-Part Guide for Following Jesus and Bringi....

    Through careful research, we studied three crucial topics:
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    The result is a guidebook filled with statistics, stories, insights from everyday disciplemakers and opportunities for self-reflection.

    We truly believe this resource can empower you to invite your congregation into discipleship at a deeper, more transformational level.

    If you’re ready to grow in your own faith and help others do the same, we created Growing Together for you.
     

     

  • OH!  FOR EVANLOGICAL SAKE!

    Sometimes, to emphasize frustration at lack of understanding, people may exclaim, “For Christ’s Sake!” or “For Heaven’s Sake!”  For Christians, these fall between, “That’s not nice,” and blasphemy, which is usually recognized by Christians after their personal “heat of the moment” subsides.

    Having thus expressed my mood, I say, “For our sake, START WITH JOHN 12:47!”

    John 12:47

    New International Version

    “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.”

    Christ Came with an Offer, not a threat!  I’ve never heard any better Good News than that!

    So, what ever media, structure or format you use, STOP GIVING THEM HELL!

     

  • ARE YOU A “DISCIPLE”?…A SUREFIRE LITMUS TEST

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    Last week we showed how Powerful Christians aren’t private, passive or pensive.  They don’t rail against all that is wrong with the world, nor are they quiet about what they believe.  They aren’t “pew potatoes” that check the proverbial boxes, showing up on Sundays and doing a few “church chores”.  They see compassion and evangelism as their personal responsibilities, and don’t leave it to the “professionals.”  Powerful Christians recognize that sitting on the sidelines isn’t an option when the consequences facing non-believers are so dire.

    Another word for a “Powerful Christian” is a “disciple”.  So…what is a modern-day disciple of Jesus Christ?

    Different people give different answers: a fully committed follower; a follower who reproduces more followers; a devoted student; an avid adherent.  All of those are true to a large extent.

    There is (at least) one reliable litmus test…how well do our lives align with the attributes of Jesus?

    In other words, are we…

    • not able to walk by those hurting and hopeless without helping them?
    • brokenhearted for the lost and bold in pursuing them?
    • selfless to the point of stepping far outside our comfort zones for Jesus?
    • wholly dependent on the Father, living and giving by faith?
    • willing to risk and sacrifice everything for the sake of the gospel?

    If you examine the lives of most Christians – for example, those who attend your church – do they look a lot like that?  How could their lives not be transformed if they truly get who Jesus is and what He did for us?  Yet many go to church on Sundays, then look like the rest of the world all week.  Many pray in the morning, then essentially forget about God the rest of the day.  Too many believers stop short of surrender.  They either don’t fully realize what Jesus is like or don’t try hard enough to imitate Him.

    Jesus’ Foremost Attribute

    To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, we should take on His greatest attribute – that of a humble servant.  In Jesus’ own words, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

    Jesus consistently modeled and stated (as did His disciples) that caring for the helpless and hopeless was the first step toward proving and living out our faith as Christians.  For example:

    When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he still lacked after obeying the commandments, Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor.” (Matthew 19:21)

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    When Paul and Peter went their separate ways, Paul said “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.” (Galations 2:10)

    James 2:15-16:  “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is that?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

    James 1:27:  “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…”

    Our faith is dead without action?  The only flawless religion is caring for orphans and widows? 

    Seriously?  Yes.

    Jesus showed His compassion first, so people listened to His words.  He demonstrated His love before telling people who He is – and many believed.  As we said last week, Powerful Christians are those who do likewise – Act and then Speak.

    Why aren’t more churches and Christians making service and evangelism to the helpless and hopeless their first priority?  How are they not getting that message when the Bible conveys it so clearly?  Look at the Facebook pages and websites of the average church in America – it’s all about Sunday services, classes, new campuses and sermons with little or no mention of serving struggling families in the community.  Churches are no longer the local food bank or the homeless shelter as they were for the better part of 1900 years.

    Your Great Commission

    Jesus’ disciples acted like Him.  Jesus was loving, selfless and compassionate.  As a result, He attracted a large following – and so did they.

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    That’s why Jesus spent most of his time discipling 12 men.  Through those first disciples, the Christian faith spread like wildfire.

    Nothing has changed.  Disciples are still the key to growing the Kingdom and your church.

    Discipleship is the means by which Jesus intends for people to come to Him and get to know Him.  It’s the most critical function of Christians and His Church.  Jesus made that clear in the Great Commission, His final words before His ascension.

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    • Living a prayer, care and share lifestyle
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    • Radically changed by what Jesus did for you, and thereby changing those around you
    • Possessing an infectious faith, leading to acts of compassion that catch others off guard
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    Question: Is Your Church a Disciplemaking Church?

    By Chuck Lawless on Feb 09, 2022 01:00 am

    Yesterday in our continuing series on healthy churches, I gave you a quiz about whether your church is an evangelistic church. Today, I ask whether your church is a discipling church.  

    1. Can your church leaders describe what a “disciple” looks like in your church? If they can’t describe what you hope to produce in your members, it’s likely that your overall goal is nebulous. That lack of clarity will hinder your church’s discipleship. 
    2. Does your church have a required membership class? A membership class begins discipleship early, and it sets expectations for further discipling as a member of a local body. 
    3. Does the church have a church covenant that is up-to-date, relevant, and utilized? A covenant that only hangs on the wall is nothing more than a picture in a frame. Churches with legitimate covenants also typically have a strategy to help members fulfill the covenant.
    4. How does the number of additions compare to the church’s increase/decrease in attendance over the past year? If the church gained 25 new members, but the corresponding attendance figures show an increase of only five, further assessment is needed. It’s possible the church’s back door is so wide open you’re losing almost as many people as you’re gaining.
    5. Are new believers discipled immediately? Young believers are sometimes the most teachable members of a church. Healthy churches start discipling them before they figure out they can be members without being discipled.  
    6. Are your members growing in godliness? This one’s more difficult to evaluate, but churches that produce disciples produce men and women who reject temptations and follow God fully. 
    7. Does the church offer small groups that include equipping and accountability for holy living? If you read yesterday’s post, you know that I recommend small groups that warmly invite the unchurched to participate. At the same time, I also encourage churches to have small groups that allow for significant life-on-life interaction and serious accountability.
    8. Does the church have an intentional strategy for teaching spiritual disciplines? Discipling churches don’t just tell folks to read the Word, pray, fast, and do other spiritual disciplines; instead, they teach and lead them to make disciplines a part of their lives. 
    9. Is the pastoral staff mentoring other believers? If the leaders of the church aren’t pouring their lives into other believers, they will lack credibility in asking others to do so. Strong discipleship churches are led by mentor-pastors. 
    10. Is the church strategically discipling teens and children?  Discipling congregations recognize that good discipleship begins early. They intentionally connect older members with younger members to promote mutual spiritual growth. 

    Is your church a disciplemaking church? 

  •  


    5 Solutions to the Challenges of Making Disciples Today


     

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    seyfi durmaz photo | Pexels


    By Bryan Rose 

    Discipleship is at the heart of our calling as believers. As framed by each gospel writer, the great commission stands as a clear, undeniable call to every Jesus follower. Yet over two thousand years later, why do church leaders still identify disciple making as a growth ar... and a deficiency in their churches? Shouldn’t Jesus’ followers have this figured out by now?  

    There are five challenges that significantly contribute to the pastor’s struggle with discipleship. Making headway in discipleship will require leaders to make moves in response to these challenges. The entire church must be aligned around the singular focus of helping believers grow in Christ-like maturity. Facing these five challenges will develop your discipleship leadership and guide your church toward full engagement in the calling to follow Jesus. 

    Challenge #1:  We operate from theory instead of first-hand understanding.  

    Your next move:  Seek two (people) for you. 

    A few years ago, I attended a gathering of prominent church pastors. Most of their disciple-making perspective had more to do with organizational advancement than personal growth. While it’s true that leadership development is a vital part of disciple making, walking alongside others in their spiritual development is the heart of discipleship. Most senior pastors today were never discipled growing up. For today’s pastors coming of age in the “do it yourself” church leadership era of the 70s through 90s, most disciple making was assumed and never modeled. 

    Your church must never become too large or your job too important f...CLICK TO TWEET

    To remedy this, begin to move away from the organizational to the personal, starting with yourself. Find one or two others, and read the Bible together simply and consistently. “Don’t over-construct growing together,” said David Putman, Auxano senior lead navigator. “Keep it simple each week by asking two questions: What did God say in this passage? What will I do about it?”

    Maybe it’s time to branch out beyond staff or critical leaders and start looking at your neighbors, or even your dermatologist, through the gospel lens. Your church must never become too large or your job too important for you to walk alongside someone growing in their walk with Christ. 

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    Challenge #2:  We transfer knowledge of Jesus instead of experience with Jesus. 

    Your next move:  Step into the messiness. 

    Early in my ministry journey, I began to model my schedule and activity after leaders who worked hard to not be interrupted. I watched them structure their days toward study and teaching preparation and thereby minimize the potential for sideways energy expended on people. In this way, church members sometimes represented a bothersome interruption of ministry rather than the awesome reason for ministry.

    This posture ultimately results in teaching—or transferring knowledge—as a primary discipleship tactic, rather than walking with people through the messiness of their lives. Yet, interruption was the way of Jesus. He was committed to studying but formed disciples by serving them, and His teaching emerged from walking with God and with people. 

    To remedy this challenge, follow Jesus in more profound, messier experiences with a few rather than prioritizing polished teaching to broad audiences. Indeed, we need to study, but there’s no substitute for applying the text through experience with people. As the apostle Paul instructed the Philippian church, “Do what you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9, CSB).

    What if Jesus’ time with the Father came when nobody else was awake because ministry is more about daily interruption than weekly instruction? Maybe it’s time to step out of the office and apply your knowledge of the Bible to the messiness of people’s lives. 

    Challenge #3:  We celebrate church activity instead of spiritual maturity. 

    Your next move: Shift your leadership priorities. 

    A lay leader recently described his church’s growth challenge: “We are a 1990s church trying to reach people in 2022.” This small group leader’s frustration was about more than the look and feel of their building. He described a mindset of ministry activity and church programming that reached its peak effectiveness at least 30 years ago.

    In walking with families far from Christ and His church, I’ve yet to find parents looking for more things to do. Family schedules are full of activity, yet meaning and purpose remain elusive. Many churches still operate from an un-networked, analog era of calendar-driven ministry that defines maturity as showing up three or more times per week. Today, bringing meaning to people and purpose to families through intentional spiritual development is of higher value than simply offering more activities. 

    Today, bringing meaning to people and purpose to families through i...CLICK TO TWEET

    To remedy this, change the conversation by shifting your leadership priorities. Make life change and transformation more than a five-minute celebration at the start of weekly staff meetings. Create consistent language that paints a picture of maturing believers helping to mature believers. For example, instead of cheering about Vacation Bible School (VBS) volunteer numbers, tell VBS volunteer stories. More important than the number of volunteers are the experiences of first-time VBS leaders.

    See also  9 Characteristics of Spiritually Healthy and Numerically Growing Churches
     

    Testimony is the currency of transformation, so commission your staff or leaders to seek and share stories in which people grow in their walks with Christ and lead others to do the same. When you anchor church activity to a larger continuum of spiritual maturity—not just the church calendar—every family understands what the church wants for them, not just from them. 

    Challenge #4:  We create complex processes instead of defining simple growth outcomes. 

    Your next move: Shape culture with a new scorecard. 

    Every week I meet another church or pastor who (in pursuit of simplicity) organized their website menus around three or more programmatic words (usually some form of “worship,” “connect,” and “serve”). However, simple ministry demands more than picking a few words to put on your marketing pieces and anchoring processes around them. True simplicity requires conviction about a calling to make disciples, the courage to assess effectiveness, and team competency to lead the way forward. It’s a simple thing to create complexity, but it’s a complex thing to create simplicity. It’s easier to count numbers and create programs than define and sustain spiritual growth. 

    To remedy this, pastors and lay leaders must shape culture by changing the scorecard of success away from the ABCs: attendance, buildings, and cash. While these are essential measurements (after all, healthy things grow), more people, more activity, and more money are not guarantors of disciple-making success. It’s possible to make a budget without making a disciple. We can build a building without building the church. Therefore, shared definitions of what a disciple is and does must exist in your church.

    It’s possible to make a budget without making a disciple. We ...CLICK TO TWEET

    Create a collective experience of personal scorekeeping as each member takes responsibility for their spiritual growth and the maturity of those around them. Define the outcomes of disciple making beyond attending, giving, or serving. Instead, create commonly held marks of maturity that are personal, observable, and reproducible. Start with the list of faith-builders in 2 Peter 1:5-7, knowing that, “… if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8, CSB). The complex work of defining the outcomes of spiritual maturity allows simplicity to flourish as every ministry aligns around a new discipleship scorecard of success. 

    Challenge #5:  We position discipleship as an activity happening to someone instead of toward something. 

    Your next move:  Saturate everything in multiplication. 

    Across the landscape of local churches, the word discipleship represents a classroom or meeting more than describes a way of living. Discipleship pastors launch, train, and maintain activities that happen to people, more than develop and focus on disciple making as a daily movement toward God’s ultimate calling on people’s lives.

    When Jesus called His followers to make disciples, it didn’t only mean “get as many people as you can to commit to at least an hour a week in some sort of small group or 1-1 setting.” Discipleship, modeled back in Deuteronomy 6, looks more like revealing God’s work in day-to-day living through the lens of God’s Word. Classes and groups are critical but must represent a waypoint of disciple making, not the entire journey.

    Develop a deep sense of calling in every family and follower of Jes...CLICK TO TWEET

    To remedy this, reposition disciple making away from a weekly moment that happens to people, and reframe it as a daily movement of people pursuing God’s calling on their lives. Growing in Christ-like maturity is a daily living action, not just a weekly experience. Equip more than just your group leaders to be disciple makers. Empower families to define and pursue a generational purpose through every sports practice or dance recital. Develop a deep sense of calling in every family and follower of Jesus at your church until their faith is expressed in every conversation, not just their weekly calendars.

    What would happen if you could saturate maturity and multiplication of faith in every area of life, not just in activities of church life? Disciple making then becomes something that happens toward a purpose, not just something that happens to a person. 

    Discipleship headway

    Making these five moves may not fully remedy the Church’s 2,000 year challenge to make disciples who make disciples. However, the challenges of the past two years remind us that making headway in disciple making in your church will take a new mindset, leading to a new priority, ultimately resulting in new practices around the timeless calling to multiply faith in every church member every day.

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    Bryan Rose

    @thebryanrose

    Bryan is director of communication/marketing and senior lead navigator for Auxano.

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