Recalibrate Discipleship to Lifestyle Learning

{This is one segment of the Recaliibrate Discipleship 101 mini-course ]

PHIL >>> Bill, dream with us... "What if we began to embrace disciple-making as our supreme purpose in life instead of a program of the church?" (p. 25) 

BILL >>> 

10484695083?profile=RESIZE_584xMost churches have what they call “discipleship programs” but develop very few disciple-making people. Here is the problem. Disciple-making is not a program; it’s a lifestyle. This one truth has the power to change your life and to literally change the world. Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Clearly, this was no call to join a discipleship program but an invitation to a lifestyle of disciple-making. According to Jesus, this lifestyle is the supreme purpose of every believer. 

Think about it. The early church was a church without walls. Unlike today, they had no church buildings or ministry budgets. However, they had something we often lack. The one thing these early believers knew how to do was the one thing Jesus taught them to do. They knew how to multiply. Jesus poured His short life into making disciples who make disciples.

Plain and simple, the early church was a grassroots disciple-making movement. With no buildings or budgets, these early believers multiplied greatly, and the fame of Jesus spread across the earth. The authorities of the world could not contain it. Not even the gates of hell could prevail against it. If only the gospel had continued to spread like that, the church could have accomplished the Great Commission many centuries ago.

For the first three and a half centuries of church history, this movement could not be stopped, but tragically, it did stop. A grassroots movement was replaced by professional clergy and disciple-making people were replaced with ecclesiastical programs. Consequently, the movement died. A church that once made Jesus famous was replaced by one that has often made Him infamous, and dark ages followed.

Throughout history, there have been times when godly people have tried to revive the movement, but it has never returned to the great force it once was when it turned the world upside down for Christ. In America today, the vast majority of our churches are declining or dying. The Great Commission is often viewed as merely a good suggestion, and disciple-making people have been replaced with ineffective discipleship programs.

If the church today wants to reestablish itself as a powerful force on earth for the gospel of Christ, it must return to the movement that Jesus began. The key to global evangelism is not the megachurch, but the many churches of all sizes willing to rekindle the flames of a once powerful disciple-making movement.

PHIL >>> Bill, you make a bold statement at the beginning of the book: "In authentic disciple-making, all these great works are joined together into one process."  (p. 12)  What are those "great works" and how does this one sentence give us a fresh perspective on making disciples?

BILL >>> 

According to John 14:12, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” What did He mean by this? How can anyone ever do “greater works” than the Son of God?

These words of Jesus have often been misunderstood and misinterpreted. Some suggest that we will do greater miracles than Jesus. However, Jesus walked on water, turned water into wine, fed over 5000 with a sack lunch, and raised Lazarus from the dead. Don’t take this wrong. I know that our God is still in the miracle-working business, but I don’t believe that anyone will ever do greater miracles than Jesus. But this is not what Jesus said. He didn’t say that we would do greater miracles than Him, but greater works.

What was the one main “work” that Jesus did during His three years of ministry? It was the work of making disciples. He poured His life into His discipleship group of twelve men. Disciple-making is the greater work.

Through the power of multiplication, we can do greater works of disciple-making than Jesus. He was only one person and had only three brief years of personal ministry. Yet, the small group of men that He discipled quickly turned into thousands as “the Word of God continued to increase, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem” (Acts 6:7). Jesus did not teach His disciples how to add but how to multiply. The key to doing the “greater work” and advancing God’s kingdom on earth is to return to the principle of “multiplying” disciples. Sadly, most churches today do not have any ministry that is truly and organically multiplying. This much change for us to do the “greater works” He said that we would do.

PHIL >>> Most who read what you are saying agree ... but "here is a painful truth: We like to talk about making disciples until it comes to the point of actually doing it. The temptation we face is to cherish our programs more than we value our mission. We are making Bible learners but not disciple makers. The Great Commission was an invitation to a lifestyle of disciple making." (38-39)

BILL >>>

In most churches, we do a lot of teaching. We teach and preach in our worship services. We teach the Bible to groups of people in classrooms and conference rooms. Most churches have a number of gifted teachers who love to teach the Bible and are very good at doing so. We even bring in special teachers to teach our people or we watch their videos in what we often call “discipleship classes.” However, these are not really discipleship classes; they are teaching classes.

Teaching is important, but discipleship requires mentorship. Both teaching and mentoring are absolute essentials to effective discipleship. This is why Jesus chose only twelve disciples. He could teach the masses, but He could only mentor twelve. Teaching was one part of Jesus’ mentoring relationship with His disciples, but they also went out together to put His teachings into practice. They learned to pray by listening to Jesus pray. They learned how to minister to others and share their faith by observing and participating in these things with Jesus. Jesus mentored them in all matters of Christian living and equipped them to live a life of mentoring others. This is true discipleship.

To confuse teaching with discipleship is a big deal. Again, the mission of the church is hurt by this grave error. We have congregations full of well taught and spiritually educated individuals who don’t really know what to do with all their knowledge. Their idea of discipleship is to look forward to attending the next “discipleship class.” We have created a charade of equipping the equipped who think their purpose is to continue to be equipped. All the while, outside the walls of the church, people continue to die without hope. This is tragic. 


PHIL >>> A vision or a new paradigm does not automatically produce a new culture.
               "The hardest part will be to step outside of the box others have built around discipleship. You must get outside the box and let Jesus teach you about disciple making.with fresh-eyes." (p. 46)
                    ...How do we begin to follow this wisdom?
                          ...How do we include the leadership of the church?

BILL >>> 

It’s often said that if you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time. Don’t aim for nothing. Set some big goals. You now have a process in place to make them achievable, and you want to see the fruit of your labor. This is the fun part. Work with your leadership team to develop SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

Your first priority is to set your disciple-making goals. This will give you the metrics you need to come back later and set goals for all your other ministries.  So, where do you begin in setting your disciple-making goals? First, you must answer two big questions:

• How many D-Groups can you start with?
• At what rate can you expect them to multiply?

10484695455?profile=RESIZE_584xTo answer the first question, you must train some leaders to start some D-Groups. Once you know how many D-Groups you can start with, you can begin to set your disciple-making goals. You will want to start with only those you feel are fully equipped and devoted to lead a D-Group for several years.

To answer the second question, you must work with your leaders to determine the rate that you can expect your D-Groups to multiply each year. Your “D-Group Multiplication Rate” (DMR) is very important and you must pray it through.

Answering these questions will likely lead to a crisis of belief. It will stretch your faith. However, with a true disciple-making process at the core of your church, you can experience the power of spiritual fission and multiply disciples at a rate unthought of before. Diligently seek God’s leadership, remembering that “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6a).

Once you know how many D-Groups you can start with and at what rate you can expect them to multiply, you are ready to set some exciting goals. Let’s consider a couple of goal setting plans for both a small and large church.

For a small church, beginning with 4 D-Groups and a 40-50% DMR is a realistic starting point. In the chart below, let’s look at a ten-year goal-setting plan for a church starting with 4 D-Groups and a 40% DMR.
Small Church starting with 4 D-Groups / 10-Year Growth Goals with a 40% DMR...




Year 1

4 24


Year 2

6 36


Year 3

8 48


Year 4

11 66


Year 5

15 90


Year 6

21 126


Year 7

29 174


Year 8

41 432


Year 9

57 342


Year 10 80 480


In the first column, you see your ten-year growth in the number of D-Groups from 4 to 80 groups. If you average 5 people in each group, you will go from 20 to 400 people participating in a D-Group where they are certain to “Grow in Spiritual Maturity.”
In the second column, you see your ten-year growth in the number of ministry projects your groups will do outside the walls of the church. If each D-Group does 6 ministry projects a year—as they are trained to do—you will go from 24 to 480 projects as your people “Serve in Missional Ministry.” Can you imagine the impact this will have on your community?

In the third column, you see your ten-year growth in new D-Group leaders from 2 to 32. Each year you are equipping new leaders to “Reproduce as Disciple Makers.”

Anyone can use a similar chart to determine your own goals for your church. Once you know how many D-Groups you can start with and the rate you expect them to multiply (DMR), you are ready to set your ten-year disciple-making goals. This will give you the metrics to come back later to set goals for all your other ministries. You want your disciple-making goals to complement all your ministries and to supply them with energy and power for growth.

A well-known pastor of a popular mega church talks about “catching spiritual waves” as a key to church growth. However, what if church growth was never meant to be that subjective? What if it was really about the objective hard work of living out the Great Commission? I believe it is.

Jesus never talked about catching a spiritual wave but about doing a greater work. Are you tired of waiting on a wave to catch? Let’s make our own waves by joining with Jesus in the greater work of making disciples who make disciples.

I want to encourage you again to check out D-Life ( D-Life is a true disciple-making process and a proven plan for making disciples who make disciples.

PHIL >>> Bill, write a prayer we can pray; a prayer for God's vision for disciple-making to become embedded into the culture of every ministry and family...and for courageous leadership to make this transformative transition a reality.

BILL >>>  
Father, forgive us for our feeble attempts to expand your kingdom by our own devises. Thank you for the example of Jesus, who modeled a multiplying process of disciple-making. Grant that our lives may bear much fruit for you as we commit ourselves to the greater work of making disciples who make disciples.

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  • #RESOURCE:  The Greater Work

    “Solid! Bill gives not only a biblical basis for our ‘greater work’ but a proven pathway to consistently live as a multiplying disciple of Jesus. I am a better disciple maker because of knowing Bill Wilks and reading this book.”

    —Dr. Scott E. Sullivan, Discipleship Catalyst and SPARK Conference Director, Georgia Baptist Mission Board

    “Bill has a passion to make disciples through the local church. This book is a reflection of the greatest work before us as we strive to make disciples. He outlines for us an easy path to a lifestyle of discipleship. He even made me remember my first Zebco 33.”

    —Dr. Jody Dean, Associate Professor of Christian Education, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

    “In the days when competition for our attention grows fiercer, Bill Wilks cut through the static to deliver what we need. The Greater Work is a clear and accessible call that will inspire and equip you as a disciple-making force for God’s work in the world. Read this book, accept its challenge, and go change the world by God’s grace.”

    —Dr. Philip Nation, Vice President and Publisher, Thomas Nelson Bibles

     About the Book

    Disciple-making is not a program; it’s a lifestyle.

    This is a big truth. Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Clearly, this was no call to join a discipleship program but an invitation to a lifestyle of disciple-making. According to Jesus, this lifestyle is the supreme purpose of every believer. It’s the “greater work” He has called us to do—anytime and anywhere.

    With no big buildings or budgets, Jesus launched a disciple-making movement that exploded upon the world. In comparison, the church today has discipleship programs but few disciple-making people.

    In The Greater Work, Dr. Bill Wilks walks us through the six practices of disciple-making that Jesus modeled for us with His discipleship group. Many books talk about how to run discipleship programs, but the goal of this book is to teach you how to actually make disciples who make disciples.


    About the Author

    Dr. Bill Wilks is lead pastor of NorthPark Church in Trussville, Alabama, where he has served since 1999. He is also the author and lead trainer for D-Life. Bill and his wife, Rondie, are passionate disciple makers and have trained thousands of believers for a lifestyle of disciple-making in churches, associations, and state conventions across the country.


    Pub Date: 2/1/2022

    ISBN-13: 978-1-63204-119-7

    Retail Price: $15.99

    Order Now

    Also Available from D-Life!



    Iron Stream Media 100 Missionary Ridge Birmingham, Alabama 35242 United States 1 (888) 811-9934


    Dr. Bill Wilks, D-Life Author/Lead Trainer
    652 MacDonald Lake Rd., Springville, AL 35146
    205-602-2888 |
    Kim McCulla
    Author Care Specialist
    Iron Stream Media
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    Chief Operations Officer | Iron Stream Media

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