Why Focus On Disciple-Making

Why Focus On Disciple-Making?

When I first started sharing with others that I wanted to write my thoughts about discipleship down into the form of a book, I often received the question, “why should there be another book on discipleship?” To be honest, I get the question. There seems to be way too many books written on discipleship. It seems like everybody has an opinion. Why add one more voice to the existing noise?

Here’s my reasoning. Even though everybody seems to have an opinion on discipleship, it seemed like, from my vantage point, that not many people were actually engaged in some kind of disciple-making. I can remember vividly engaging people in conversation and saying something along these lines.

“According to Jesus, the one thing that every believer has a responsibility to do is make disciples, right?”

They’d often respond in the affirmative. After hearing a yes, my follow up question was,

“So, what’s your personal plan for making disciples?”

Now, I know this is obviously a “gotcha” question. But the question did expose a vast disconnect between our responsibility as believers and our level of intentionality to carry it out, especially in the arena of making disciples.

Perhaps we have forgotten just how foundational discipleship and disciple-making is to the Christian faith. Without a disciple-making movement, the Christian faith will never grow. It’s not a secondary or preferential kind of activity for the genuine believer. It should be priority number one.

I’ve heard some describe disciple-making as something for the super-committed.

“Making-disciples isn’t for the average Christian,” they’d say.

As a result of this kind of thinking we’ve built churches full of professing believers who are trusting in Jesus for the forgiveness of sin but scarcely walking in obedience to anything he has commanded.

We’ve got churches full of undisciplined disciples.

Think about it. The capital “C” Church is larger and more powerful now than it’s ever been in recent history. We’ve got more people and more money than we’ve ever had. Yet, when it comes to influence and impact we are weaker than we’ve ever been.

We’ve become marginalized in our culture. The Christian vision of reality has less currency in our cultural marketplace of ideas. How did this happen?

It’s a discipleship problem.

Churches these days love to talk about reaching the Millennials. I’m all for reaching the millennials. I am one (I think… born in 85). All the new books on Millennials talk about how they’re leaving the church in droves and not coming back.

They accuse the church of no longer being relevant for them. They see a discrepancy between the claim that the Gospel changes everything and the largely unchanged lifestyles of many professing believers. How did that happen?

It’s a discipleship problem.

Pastors are just as much to blame as anybody else. Making-disciples, as far as I can tell, is the ONE THING Jesus gave us the authority and responsibility to do. But, when I graduated seminary, all I was thinking about was how to grow the church. (to be honest… I was just hoping it would stay afloat underneath my leadership!) Thankfully, the church did grow. And as it did I became even more consumed with seeing it grow even more. But, is the numerical growth of the church what Jesus meant when he gave us the Great Commission?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a “numbers” kind of guy. Every number represents a person. I think until every person in the city of Abilene is reached with the Gospel that our church needs to keep on getting bigger. I love big churches. In many respects, the bigger you are the more you’re able to accomplish for the Kingdom.

My problem isn’t on pastors building big churches. My problem is when pastors make building the church the main goal. Jesus never told us to build big churches. Jesus told us to make disciples. Jesus said HE would take care of building the church. We just need to worry about making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to walk in obedience to their Lord in all things.

As Mike Green said in his book on discipleship,

if you focus on building the church you rarely get disciples. But, if you’ll focus on making disciples then you’ll always get the church.

The church is the EFFECT of discipleship, not the cause.

My goal at Broadview isn’t to make us into some kind of mega church (although, if that happens, to God be the glory!) I simply want us to be a people who make disciples who make disciples who make disciples. Will that cause us to grow? You bet. And the growth will be healthy growth because the largesse will be the effect of discipleship not the cause.

We need to return to a vision of discipleship that sees it as a way of life. Discipleship demands a certain posture of the heart for believers.

It cannot be boiled down to a program in the church.

It cannot be accomplished through an event that you attend or a class that you complete.

  • Discipleship is NOT just a program in the church.
  • It is NOT just for the super-Christians.
  • It’s NOT something secondary or preferential.

A disciple-making culture of multiplication is the way that Jesus started his Kingdom movement. Shouldn’t we work towards the same thing? Shouldn’t we finish the movement the way that Jesus started it?

Discipleship is foundational to everything we do in the Christian life and the local church. It’s the ONLY thing we’ve been given authority to do. Most of the problems in the church today could be resolved if we would only return to biblical vision of making disciples. That’s why I’m writing these articles.

To be honest, I don’t care who reads them outside the confines of Broadview Baptist Church. My responsibility is to this congregation. I take seriously my calling to serve as your pastor. I’ll be held accountable for how I stewarded my leadership in this place.

I want to be able to say to our Lord with confidence that I did my best in leading us to accomplish what He asked for us to do. Don’t you want the same? If so, join me in this effort to see God create a disciple-making culture of multiplication in our church family.

In the next article, we will “define the terms” as we answer what a disciple IS and what a disciple IS NOT.

Towards a Disciple-Making Culture of Multiplication

Towards A Disciple-Making Culture of Multiplication

Broadview is a Great Commandment, Great Commission, Acts 1:8 Church. We exist for the glory of God by loving Him with the entirety of our being, loving others as we love ourselves, and making disciples in our own Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and uttermost parts of the world. Love God. Love People. Make Disciples who make disciples.

You might think of this in terms of three points on a triangle. The three points represent the relational arenas in which every disciple lives. Your relationship with God, your relationship with other believers and your relationship with unbelievers. To simplify, the three points on the triangle would be God, the Church, and the World.

When thinking through what it means to be a disciple, different people offer different definitions. Definitions are important. If the mission of a church is to make disciples but that church cannot agree on what a disciple is, then that church will have difficulty moving forward in her mission.

The purpose of this these articles is to put forward an agreed upon definition of what a disciple looks like, how disciples grow, and how disciple-making takes place in the context of this local church.

At Broadview we envision God using us to multiply disciples, bless our city, plant churches and send missionaries. The most central element of this vision is creating a disciple-making culture of multiplication.

What we envision God creating is not some discipleship program but a disciple-making movement.

If a movement is to be successful then the ideas supporting that movement must be simple and reproducible. If you think back to the great movements of the world, the ideas driving the movement were documented in some form or fashion. Let me offer just a few examples.

  • The Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson,
  • The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx,
  • The 95 Theses by Martin Luther,
  • Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky,

 

Movements, for good or for evil, have always had their ideas documented in written form. God himself, when choosing to begin the ultimate movement the world has even seen, saw fit to document the ideas behind that movement in written form (the Scriptures). That is the anatomy of a movement.

 

You’ll be hard pressed to find any movement in the past that didn’t canonize the ideas supporting the movement in some kind of written form. So, if we want to create a disciple-making movement in our church then we need to document the ideas supporting that movement.

  • We need an agreed upon definition of what a disciple is.
  • We need an agreed upon description of what a disciple does.
  • We need an agreed upon pathway for making disciples in this local church.
  • We need an common language for discussing all of the above.

 

Since I’m the pastor of this church I feel like it’s my responsibility to provide those things. The content isn’t original with me. I’m just trying to take what I’ve learned and pass along the ideas that are (1) simple, (2) biblical, and (3) easily transferrable. The goal is to show you a vision of disciple-making that is so simple that an uneducated fisherman from East Asia could do it.

 

We need a vision of disciple-making that is so simple you could draw it out on a napkin.

 

In reality, that’s how the idea for these posts were born. I was on a mission trip to East Asia helping host a conference on Disciple-making. It was a summer trip and I had spent that whole spring reading about discipleship and trying to discern what the Lord had for Broadview in that arena.

 

I had internally deemed that year “the year of discipleship.” I desperately needed a word from the Lord on how we should move forward in making disciples who make disciples in our unique context with our unique culture. The Lord showed me many things but it was that trip to East Asia that solidified everything.

 

I was discussing discipleship with a friend at Starbucks there in East Asia. After our discussion he drew out on a napkin the simplest, most biblical and reproducible vision for discipleship that I had ever seen. I knew at that point I had to put it into writing.

 

It’s been close to a year since that time. With the demands of the pastorate, getting these ideas into writing hasn’t been easy. I’ve done more than one sermon series around the ideas on that napkin. I’ve trained and am continuing to train a team of personal discipleship coaches in our church with the concepts that I derived from that napkin. Moreover, I’m fully committed to eventually getting it all down on paper so that the Lord might bring about that disciple-making culture of multiplication that we envision for our church.

 

The reasons why people don’t multiply are probably nuanced and complicated. But the major reason is probably because they don’t have a plan. That’s not to say that there’s a lack of material! It’s overwhelming when you begin to look at the content available for making disciples. What is lacking is a simple, biblical, reproducible framework for how disciples will make disciples at Broadview Baptist Church.

 

Ultimately, it is my responsibility as your pastor to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. That means it’s my responsibility to give you a workable plan so that you can get started being a disciple who makes disciples. These articles should be helpful towards those ends. At the very least, it will inform you about the disciple making process at our church. The majority of Broadview’s disciple-making plan revolves around six “my disciple” statements given to us by Jesus (Luke 14:26, 27, 33; John 8:31; John 13:35; John 15:8.)

 

I don’t see any reason to improve upon our Lord’s definition of discipleship.

 

What you’ll discover in the following articles is how we make sense of those passages and how we help disciples of Jesus in our own church fellowship take their “next step” on the discipleship journey.