Reviewing Your Discipleship Process

Over the last few years I have been speaking with leaders and teams about implementing a more serious approach to discipleship. One mid-sized church of about 600 people, is taking this process seriously. The leadership of this Church is working on a template based on the series of three books I have written on the subject of discipleship. They realize that they no longer function in the context of a Christian culture where people have some understanding of the gospel. Rather they are now encountering a secular pagan culture that has little or no understanding and they are seeking to deal with that reality. Their history tells them that their discipleship practices worked to some degree in the 20th century and they may still work for a time with some people. However, their current experience tells them that they are less and less effective. I believe the changes they are making hold important keys for their future ministry.

Here’s a taste of the basic premise they are working on:

During the 20th century, we made it relatively simple for people who had some understanding of the gospel to become converts and we followed this up often with a simple discipleship process. If we reflect on the ministry of Jesus we can see that making disciples is a fairly lengthy, committed process that takes a person from initial connection with Jesus and a growing relationship with others on the same journey, to dealing with issues in their lives and a complete change of lifestyle, including a willingness to die for their faith. Like Jesus, we can start the journey with people long before they understand what following Jesus means and, through a relational process, over time, see them make a meaningful connection with Jesus. Discipleship then begins with our initial interaction with a person and the journey merely continues as they are gradually brought into a relationship with Jesus and his church. We can walk beside people right from first contact to full participation in the life of Jesus and His church.

Here’s a brief overview of the series of books this Church is using:

Book #1: As You Go… Make Disciples:  This short introductory book is written for all believers to help them understand that they are commissioned and empowered to make disciples and it is not exclusively the work of paid leaders, and that discipleship starts in the harvest as we naturally connect with people every day and begin the discipleship journey.

Book #2: Making Disciples in the Postmodern Era: This longer, more in-depth book takes the reader through 2,000 years of church history and makes an argument for doing discipleship more the way it was done in the 2nd-4th centuries rather than the way we did it in the 20th century.

Book #3: Making Disciples in the 21st Century:  After briefly summarizing the first two books, this book serves as an implementation guide for how an in-depth, historical discipling process works. What are the stages to it? How can people be involved?

As I have helped this church and others implement the concepts, I have found that the people who have started the relational discipleship process described in the first book have found it to be reasonably easy and really exciting as they have cooperated with the Holy Spirit.  It’s not complicated getting started, and quite a lot of people have done it. It’s not out of reach for the average layperson.

If you want to check out the discipleship books, you can purchase PDF versions for download at https://resourcezone.com.au/   If you live in Australia you can also purchase printed copies at the same webstore. If you want to consider a more serious approach to discipleship with the current generation, I’d recommend starting with As You Go … Make Disciples and Making Disciples in the 21st Century, as together they will give you a complete overview of the discipleship journey.

Colin is the Director of ResourceZone International.  He has 30 years of ministry experience as a pastor, college lecturer and consultant/coach to consultants, denominational leaders and local church pastors.  He can be reached at info@resourcezoneinternational.com



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