Commentary: The ABC's of becoming a disciple-making pastor


Are you making church members or are you making disciples? Like every follower of Jesus, a pastor’s first calling is to be a disciple-maker. Although I regularly quoted the Great Commission in challenging our church toward kingdom work, I must confess that I did not really understand the difference between a good church member and a disciple. Because of that, I was not intentionally making disciples of Jesus.

Robby Gallaty defines disciple-making as “intentionally equipping believers with the word of God through accountable relationships empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to replicate faithful followers of Christ.” Making disciples involves equipping, training, and investing. My idea of disciple-making was getting people to listen to my messages and regularly attend a Bible Study. One element of Gallaty’s definition that was missing in my ministry was replication. I longed to see my congregation regularly reproducing themselves and helping others walk in Christlikeness, but I had no idea how to lead them to this goal.

A T-Net International study of 4,000 churchgoers found that 24% indicated that their behavior was sliding backward. Another 41% said they were ‘static’ in their spiritual growth. That is 65% of regular churchgoers who are either stalled or going backward in their faith. What can a pastor do to change this trend? Where do you begin?

Hope is found in four simple letters:

A - Admit the need to reassess my process and intentionally make the necessary changes to lead my congregation to be a disciple-making church.

We must be intentional about creating a disciple-making culture in our congregation. George Barna has stated, “Christianity would be incredibly influential in our culture if Christians consistently lived their faith. The problem is that millions do not live like Christians, partly because they don’t know how.” I am not talking about adding another ministry or program to an already busy calendar. What is needed is an honest examination of our current situation and a decision to make disciple-making a priority in the life of our church. How does your church define a disciple? At the Georgia Baptist Mission Board we define a disciple as “a committed passionate follower of Christ.” We further define discipleship as, “a lifelong process by which a disciple grows in Christlikeness and multiplies the process.” Is that what you are reproducing? If not, get serious about your next step.

B - Begin with Me

 A church will imitate what you celebrate. Is disciple-making a priority for you? Are you personally involved in discipling another believer? You cannot lead someone where you have not been. Most of us were never taught disciple-making strategies. The emphasis was preaching, counseling, and facilitating a program. Although of utmost importance, preaching, by itself, will not produce disciples who make disciples. Consider Jesus as the master disciple-maker. Although he preached to large crowds, his disciple-making strategy involved inviting and investing in individuals and small groups. Jesus spent 90% of his time with twelve Jewish men! Look at your calendar. It will show you your priority. Begin to pray and ask God to lead you to a few men who you can personally invest. Do not rush this process. God will lead you to those he has prepared.

C - Champion a Disciple-making Pathway in Your Church

 Begin to prioritize disciple-making in your church. Lead your church in creating a disciple-making pathway that is intentional and clear to all who visit your church. Chuck Kellye reminds us, “If we are going to reach people for Christ, we must be prepared to help them follow Him daily and become more and more like Him…If we do not grow disciples, and if we do not encourage and teach Christlikeness to our people, we cannot fulfill the Great Commission.” This involves more than knowledge. Although regular Bible study ought to be an expectation for your people, intentional modeling and mentoring is necessary for life change. This is the difference between teaching and training. Training involves regular contact and a close relationship. How do you and your church create pathways for believers to engage in regular relationships with other believers so that new believers can grow in Christlikeness and multiply the process?

D – Do Not Accept Defeat! Do not settle for the status quo. Take your next step in becoming a disciple-making pastor and watch the Holy Spirit breathe new life into you and your congregation.

For help establishing an intentional and biblical disciple-making process in your church, please contact the Discipleship Team at the Georgia Baptist Mission Board at (770) 936-5228.


Ray Sullivan is the Georgia Baptist Mission Board's Discipleship Consultant for South Georgia.