Many churches see the need for discipleship, accept the call, and energetically institute programs only to see them quickly lose momentum and quietly fall by the wayside. The Great Commission is an urgent need in the body of Christ but has become obscured or neglected altogether. Christian bookstores have no lack of workbooks, manuals, programs and how-to books, covering all aspects of discipleship, but, as in the words of Jim Petersen of The Navigators, “Thirty years of discipleship programs, and we are not discipled.

In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus reminded His disciples that all authority in heaven and earth had been given to Him. In His authority they were commissioned to go out and make disciples. Disciple-making is not a perfectly polished church program, but a divine work of God in and through individuals who have already become His disciples. In our human wisdom, authority, power, organization or strength we will fail.

“…Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.”
-Zechariah 4:6

How then does a church build an effective disciple-making ministry, and achieve the balance of human organization that leaves room for God’s Spirit to work unhindered?

In The Church

1. Because discipleship should be a priority in the church, a discipleship-focused church
requires strong spiritual leadership and must have the support and endorsement of the senior pastor. Ideally the senior pastor will embrace the importance and reprioritize the ministry focus of the church. Leadership should review and discuss how they can assist in developing and implementing strategies to achieve this ministry goal.

2. Any effective work of God begins with prayer. Commit to pray with a small group from the church who share the burden for discipleship and believe they are called to this ministry.

3. Select discipleship material. The duration of the discipleship relationship will vary based upon the maturity of the discipler.

A good discipleship workbook should include the following:

A. Biblically sound.
B. Focuses throughout the book on the importance of a daily abiding relationship in Jesus.
C. Daily Scripture reading.
D. Daily writing or journaling.
E. Covers the 3 main pillars of our faith: Deity of Jesus, the Trinity, and atonement for our sins.

Your materials should include teaching them how to tend to the gifts God has given them: spouse, children, finances, and spiritual gifts. Sadly, most churches never prioritize and/or consider these areas and this is why our families are in the sad condition they are in today.

4. Establish a standard for eligibility, training, and follow-up accountability for disciplers. Jesus began with 12 men whom He personally invited, discipled, trained, sent out to minister and report back to Him. See Discipler Questionnaire at the end of the booklet.

It is so important for the pastor to make the time to take his leadership team through the materials he desires to disciple his people in. Many pastors are very shocked or surprised of the conditions of their leadership team when they invest the time to prepare them to disciple. I have received many emails and calls from pastors over the years expressing how apart from doing this they would not have known how many of their leadership were tending to their daily intimacy with God, their spouse, or children incorrectly…not from being defiant but mostly out of ignorance.

5. Establish a standard for who desires to be discipled and I recommend not making discipleship a requirement but a privilege for those who desire to grow in their faith. See Discipleship Questionnaire at the end of the booklet.

Note: People that need counseling for serious issues like besetting sins, drugs/alcohol, pornography, addictions, or major marriage problems should first receive help to work out these problems before being matched with a disciple. The fact is, these issues are often some of the negative consequences of not abiding in Jesus but if a disciple is not equipped to deal with these issues, then those issues can or will undermine their spiritual journey to maturity.

6. Pray for an opportunity to share the vision with the church body by teaching on the Great Commission from the pulpit or a Saturday or mid-week class.

7. After the vision for discipleship has been shared with the church body, provide an opportunity to those desiring to be discipled to come forward and ask for it.

8. Based upon the number of sign-ups, and the amount of mature believers willing to commit to disciple, make small groups and/or one-on-one discipleship available.

9. If the senior pastor is unable to be available to support the disciples, then appoint a mature Christian to monitor the relationships to keep the discipler on track, encouraged, accountable and to address questions or problems that might arise.

10. Keep praying, trust God and see Him be glorified.