If the last year with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board has taught me anything, it’s that our pastors and staff truly desire to lead disciple-making churches. Many have recognized that programs and personality have failed us in producing disciples who make disciples. Most stand at a crossroad looking for answers and begging for someone to help them chart the course for a disciple-making church. At this point, it is essential to remind you of the words of John Maxwell, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”
Will Mancini, in his new book, Future Church: Seven Laws of Real Church Growth, redirects our priorities by stating, “Real church growth is about growing people, not managing programs.” Robert Coleman shared in The Master Plan of Evangelism, Jesus’ ministry strategy was an explosive four-word phrase: “Men were his Method.” In other words, Jesus’ playbook is and always will be people, not programs. To that, Mancini adds:
Discipleship programs can be valuable environments where development happens, but the program does not do the developing. Anytime a disciple truly grows in a program it is because there is a leader relationally tied to them actively guiding them along the path a person whose life they want to emulate. In Future Church, programs are not the what but the where of disciple making.
Ministry leaders must be the who get the disciple-making ball rolling. So, where do you start in leading a disciple-making church?
Prioritize personal disciple making in your schedule.
Please understand, disciple-making pastors lead disciple-making churches. As a church leader, you are not exempt from the personal call of every believer to make disciples. Preaching and ministry were a part of Jesus’ disciple-making process. However, most of his time was spent personally discipling those who would carry his message forward and birth the church. Dan Spader reminds us, “Jesus didn’t come to reach the world but to reach and train disciples who would reach the world.”
Strategically choose those you disciple.
I know this can get a little sticky. Most of us were taught that pastors and staff could never show favoritism in the church. Many of us have distanced ourselves from our people and, therefore, never allowed ourselves to be close enough to anyone to personally disciple them. This has to end! Although Jesus had a tremendous impact on many people through his preaching and healing ministry, the most significant eternal impact came from his personal investment in a few men. After Jesus prayed and asked God for wisdom, he strategically sought out twelve men who he would personally invest in, who in turn would invest in others. Don’t miss this. He was strategic about who he chose.
Also, notice, out of the 12, Jesus invested a significant amount of time in three of them. Several times scripture reminds us that Jesus took Peter, James, and John “a little further.” Why did he spend this time so close to them? The answer should be evident because Jesus knew that these three would lead the disciple-making movement when he left this earth.
It is true, you cannot personally disciple everyone in your church. But you can pray and ask God to lead you to those who will have the most significant impact in the church and community and will, in turn, disciple others. Tim Elmore once said, “More time with fewer people means greater kingdom impact.”
Take advantage of regularly planned activities to affect the disciple-making culture in your church.
We are all afraid of adding more to our calendars. When thinking of leading a disciple-making church, it is easy to default to thinking of new things we need to add to an already busy calendar. While adding time to personally disciple others, most of what you are already doing could be redirected to focus on disciple making. Monthly brotherhood meetings, deacon’s meetings, and other regularly scheduled activities can be captured for disciple-making training.
Finally, just start where you are. Think small in order to reach more. Start with the man/woman in the mirror.
“It is difficult to train a disciple when you have not been trained yourself. Some of us were taught to train believers. Many of us were trained to teach them. But few of us were intentionally trained to train them.”
Our GBMB Discipleship Team is here to serve you. Join others who seek what you seek by becoming a part of one of our regional learning communities. Take the next step. We’d love to hear from you.
This article originally appeared on gabaptist.org.