My assessment is that many, if not most, churches have no intentional, strategic plan in place to disciple believers. Illustrating an image I use in my book, Disciple: How to Create a Community that Develops Passionate and Healthy Followers of Jesus, these churches may have “puzzle pieces” of discipleship—but these puzzle pieces are lying around the floor. No one has put the puzzle together.
Beginning to fix this problem, though, is not that complicated. We start by simply doing something now rather than waiting until the entire strategy and structure are in place. Here are some simple ways to do something to strengthen discipleship in your church:
- Enlist a discipleship prayer team. Their very existence is an admission that we cannot make disciples well apart from the power of God. Guide them to start praying now that your church will equip believers well.
- Read at least one book on discipleship within the next month. Take the initiative to learn. Take notes. Talk to others in the church about what you’re discovering. At a personal level, consider Robert Coleman’s Master Plan of Evangelism or Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life; at a corporate level, take a look at Jim Putman’s Discipleshift.
- No matter how long you’ve been a believer, find an older Christ-follower to invest in you. It may not be easy to find someone, but don’t give up easily. You need to be a growing, accountable disciple if you expect others to be the same. And, by the way, don’t hesitate to find someone who invests in you from a distance via electronic means if necessary. It works—I assure you!
- Begin investing in a discipleship group personally. If you’re a church leader but not personally discipling someone else, it will be harder for you to strengthen the overall discipleship problem in your church. On the other hand, leading just a few believers in your church to grow in Christ will make your church’s discipleship stronger. If you can’t find the few, find at least the one.
- If you’re a pastor, ask this question each week: “How will this sermon help believers—new and seasoned ones—grow in Christ?” If your sermons don’t guide listeners to apply the Word well, you’re missing a prime opportunity to help your church members grow in Christ. Make sure your members leave each weekend with specific action steps toward growth.
- Set up at least one training event to equip small group leaders to invest in their group members. I’ve known many churches who recruit small group leaders but give little attention to equipping them to walk with God and lead others. They allow willing folks to serve, but with little accountability or expectation of growth. That’s problematic.
- Do something. Start somewhere. Take the next step. Put at least two puzzle pieces together if that’s the best you can get. Maintaining status quo typically won’t strengthen your church’s discipleship strategy.
This article first appeared here.