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One of the most revealing passages on discipleship in the early church is Acts 2:42. A lot of the things that the church does today are not listed here. Would we be better off to let them die a natural death instead of trying to keep them alive by artificial means?

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Teaching and fellowship in community . . . yep, that's how discipleship happens. I have personally found the resources of Greg Ogden, James Bryan Smith, Gary Moon, and some others from IVPress to be invaluable in doing this Kingdom Life with one another. I am also excited about the upcoming resource from Renovare . . . an annotated bibliography on spiritual formation and discipleship. Of course, none of these resources are useful without the communities of faith and grace in which to use them.
What things are you thinking of specifically Doug?
Hi Jenni - thanks for asking!

As Bill Hull writes, “The crisis at the heart of the church is a crisis of product.” Jesus made it abundantly clear that this singular product is the mission of His Church—“Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). According to Jesus, every church’s mission is one and the same: make disciples of Jesus.

Regarding children, George Barna writes, "By the age of nine, most of the moral and spiritual foundations of a child are in place." The culture we live in is greatly influencing our children's moral behavior and development -- the vast majority of Christian kids today have no spiritual foundation. In fact, current research indicates that nearly 70% of today's youth are leaving the church. It appears we've raised a generation of children who have missed out on essential Bible training. When the world comes calling, many fall prey to dubious activities and deceptive philosophies -- and they walk away from their faith.

Just like Israel wandering in the wilderness, there appears to be a lot of activity in today's church, but little being accomplished. Research would suggest that though there are a lot of good programs, we may be missing the mark of producing spiritually mature disciples. If we agree that the goal of discipleship is to make disciples who can then make disciples, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded or “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:13-15), then, what we do is measurable and accountable. As such, the current state of church discipleship may be lacking: http://www.coregroups.org/churchcrisis.html

Life is growth. When a child is not growing, we know immediately something is wrong. Growth is not optional, but essential (Gal. 4:19; Eph. 4:15).

We talk about discipleship, but how closely does our discipleship process model that which we discover in the Gospels and Epistles?

Discipleship is a lifelong process of growing in Christ-likeness. It begins when we are born again and continues until we die. Lots of ups and downs, starts and stops, detours and occasionally, pinpoint accuracy. We tend to think that growing in Christ primarily involves intellectual ascent. However, although learning is essential and knowledge is required that’s only a part of the process. Learning and knowledge must lead to new character and conduct reflective of Jesus. Moreover, it is only through the transforming power by the Holy Spirit and our obedience that disciples can truly enjoy abundant life (John 10:10).

So, if current research as reported by Barna is even remotely accurate, why are there so few New Testament-like disciples? I believe it is because we do not decide to be Jesus’ disciples.

I would be amiss to simply identify a glaring problem without providing a recommended course adjustment. I would suggest that if we want to establish a long-term, life-transforming, disciple-making process in His church, we would prayerfully consider the following:

• The senior pastor must personally champion discipleship in EVERY church ministry and department – this cannot be delegated and he/she must be personally involved in a discipleship group. Whether at home or when we gather together to worship, accountability begins with leadership. The call to make disciples is a call to build people through Jesus' love by equipping them for ministry between Sundays.

• There must be a strong vision to make a disciple of every person in the church – the church must embrace Jesus’ command to “make disciples” as their vision and the vision must be used as the “filter” for every activity. Believe the vision, preach the vision, teach the vision, and live the vision.

• Develop a sustainable discipleship ministry. We have a tendency to build big plans and we oftentimes are overwhelmed because it is so big. Carefully and thoughtfully consider the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Pray. Share your vision with two or three others. Start small and then dream big. Allow God’s Holy Spirit to lead and develop. Remember, in God’s economy His big things always started out in His small ways.

Practical considerations:
Starting with each new member’s class, the senior pastor/leadership should manage expectations by clearly and simply presenting a Biblical discipleship model. Communicate the following expectations with simple, practical and accountable measure put into place to realize the Great Commission:

• Every member strongly encouraged to read and study their Bible every day.
• Every member strongly encouraged to attend a corporate worship experience every week.
• Every member strongly encouraged to join and regularly attend a home fellowship group.
• Every member strongly encouraged to be involved in at least one meaningful Bible study each year.
• Every member strongly encouraged to be involved in at least one mission activity each year.
• Every member strongly encouraged to be in a meaningful discipleship group with two or three others of the same gender.

Jesus' last command is our most important mission.

I pray we return to a simple, devoted commitment to loving God and as a result, to make disciples.
Amen. I neglected to mention Bill Hull in my previous post, but his Complete Book of Discipleship is a must along with The Kingdom Life for those of us seeking to return to the original ways of discipleship. You have stated it well Doug, and here's to all of us participation in this "network" getting it and doing it in our own lives and places, wherever God has us right now. And, I would add that this is not and should not be viewed as some impossible burden, which is the way I think many see it? It's as simple as being a discipler to your young children in that season, to your friends and coworkers, to whomever God has placed in your life. Thanks for the affirmations and encouragement here, and I continue to recommend those resources I mentioned as helps/guidelines to incorporating discipleship into our own lives and that of our church families.
Part of the problem is that the church has been "sold" the idea that you have to entertain people to attract and keep them in our churches. Small groups are plentiful but they are based on people's preferences and activities of interest and many have no spiritual focus at all "because we don't want to alienate the seekers". Many of our churches offer a "buffet" of options but as young children would do, we tend to go for the "dessert" rather than the "meat".

I remember talking to a teenager in my husband's youth group a few years ago who had been to an event that was part of the "emerging" church philosophy. He told me that he felt insulted by what he was offered and that he walked away feeling disappointed and spiritually hungry. Of course this teen could recognize the difference because he had a good spiritual foundation but so many don't have that foundation and they have nothing to compare to.

I used to go into a church assuming that they would be a discipling church but now I'm simply surprised if I find one that even knows what discipleship is.

Glad to see you on this Network, Doug, and I look forward to hearing more from you.

Doug Morrell said:
Hi Jenni - thanks for asking!

As Bill Hull writes, “The crisis at the heart of the church is a crisis of product.” Jesus made it abundantly clear that this singular product is the mission of His Church—“Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). According to Jesus, every church’s mission is one and the same: make disciples of Jesus.

Regarding children, George Barna writes, "By the age of nine, most of the moral and spiritual foundations of a child are in place." The culture we live in is greatly influencing our children's moral behavior and development -- the vast majority of Christian kids today have no spiritual foundation. In fact, current research indicates that nearly 70% of today's youth are leaving the church. It appears we've raised a generation of children who have missed out on essential Bible training. When the world comes calling, many fall prey to dubious activities and deceptive philosophies -- and they walk away from their faith.

Just like Israel wandering in the wilderness, there appears to be a lot of activity in today's church, but little being accomplished. Research would suggest that though there are a lot of good programs, we may be missing the mark of producing spiritually mature disciples. If we agree that the goal of discipleship is to make disciples who can then make disciples, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded or “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:13-15), then, what we do is measurable and accountable. As such, the current state of church discipleship may be lacking: http://www.coregroups.org/churchcrisis.html

Life is growth. When a child is not growing, we know immediately something is wrong. Growth is not optional, but essential (Gal. 4:19; Eph. 4:15).

We talk about discipleship, but how closely does our discipleship process model that which we discover in the Gospels and Epistles?

Discipleship is a lifelong process of growing in Christ-likeness. It begins when we are born again and continues until we die. Lots of ups and downs, starts and stops, detours and occasionally, pinpoint accuracy. We tend to think that growing in Christ primarily involves intellectual ascent. However, although learning is essential and knowledge is required that’s only a part of the process. Learning and knowledge must lead to new character and conduct reflective of Jesus. Moreover, it is only through the transforming power by the Holy Spirit and our obedience that disciples can truly enjoy abundant life (John 10:10).

So, if current research as reported by Barna is even remotely accurate, why are there so few New Testament-like disciples? I believe it is because we do not decide to be Jesus’ disciples.

I would be amiss to simply identify a glaring problem without providing a recommended course adjustment. I would suggest that if we want to establish a long-term, life-transforming, disciple-making process in His church, we would prayerfully consider the following:

• The senior pastor must personally champion discipleship in EVERY church ministry and department – this cannot be delegated and he/she must be personally involved in a discipleship group. Whether at home or when we gather together to worship, accountability begins with leadership. The call to make disciples is a call to build people through Jesus' love by equipping them for ministry between Sundays.

• There must be a strong vision to make a disciple of every person in the church – the church must embrace Jesus’ command to “make disciples” as their vision and the vision must be used as the “filter” for every activity. Believe the vision, preach the vision, teach the vision, and live the vision.

• Develop a sustainable discipleship ministry. We have a tendency to build big plans and we oftentimes are overwhelmed because it is so big. Carefully and thoughtfully consider the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Pray. Share your vision with two or three others. Start small and then dream big. Allow God’s Holy Spirit to lead and develop. Remember, in God’s economy His big things always started out in His small ways.

Practical considerations:
Starting with each new member’s class, the senior pastor/leadership should manage expectations by clearly and simply presenting a Biblical discipleship model. Communicate the following expectations with simple, practical and accountable measure put into place to realize the Great Commission:

• Every member strongly encouraged to read and study their Bible every day.
• Every member strongly encouraged to attend a corporate worship experience every week.
• Every member strongly encouraged to join and regularly attend a home fellowship group.
• Every member strongly encouraged to be involved in at least one meaningful Bible study each year.
• Every member strongly encouraged to be involved in at least one mission activity each year.
• Every member strongly encouraged to be in a meaningful discipleship group with two or three others of the same gender.

Jesus' last command is our most important mission.

I pray we return to a simple, devoted commitment to loving God and as a result, to make disciples.
Super Post, good to see you here Doug!
Wow, I think I found some like minded Christians! hooray! These "emergent" and "seeker friendly" churches are just popping up everywhere. I have a friend involved in one now and have no idea how to help her see how bad they are without alienating her.
Candy


Jenni Biegler said:
Part of the problem is that the church has been "sold" the idea that you have to entertain people to attract and keep them in our churches. Small groups are plentiful but they are based on people's preferences and activities of interest and many have no spiritual focus at all "because we don't want to alienate the seekers". Many of our churches offer a "buffet" of options but as young children would do, we tend to go for the "dessert" rather than the "meat".

I remember talking to a teenager in my husband's youth group a few years ago who had been to an event that was part of the "emerging" church philosophy. He told me that he felt insulted by what he was offered and that he walked away feeling disappointed and spiritually hungry. Of course this teen could recognize the difference because he had a good spiritual foundation but so many don't have that foundation and they have nothing to compare to.

I used to go into a church assuming that they would be a discipling church but now I'm simply surprised if I find one that even knows what discipleship is.

Glad to see you on this Network, Doug, and I look forward to hearing more from you.

Doug Morrell said:
Hi Jenni - thanks for asking!

As Bill Hull writes, “The crisis at the heart of the church is a crisis of product.” Jesus made it abundantly clear that this singular product is the mission of His Church—“Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). According to Jesus, every church’s mission is one and the same: make disciples of Jesus.

Regarding children, George Barna writes, "By the age of nine, most of the moral and spiritual foundations of a child are in place." The culture we live in is greatly influencing our children's moral behavior and development -- the vast majority of Christian kids today have no spiritual foundation. In fact, current research indicates that nearly 70% of today's youth are leaving the church. It appears we've raised a generation of children who have missed out on essential Bible training. When the world comes calling, many fall prey to dubious activities and deceptive philosophies -- and they walk away from their faith.

Just like Israel wandering in the wilderness, there appears to be a lot of activity in today's church, but little being accomplished. Research would suggest that though there are a lot of good programs, we may be missing the mark of producing spiritually mature disciples. If we agree that the goal of discipleship is to make disciples who can then make disciples, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded or “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:13-15), then, what we do is measurable and accountable. As such, the current state of church discipleship may be lacking: http://www.coregroups.org/churchcrisis.html

Life is growth. When a child is not growing, we know immediately something is wrong. Growth is not optional, but essential (Gal. 4:19; Eph. 4:15).

We talk about discipleship, but how closely does our discipleship process model that which we discover in the Gospels and Epistles?

Discipleship is a lifelong process of growing in Christ-likeness. It begins when we are born again and continues until we die. Lots of ups and downs, starts and stops, detours and occasionally, pinpoint accuracy. We tend to think that growing in Christ primarily involves intellectual ascent. However, although learning is essential and knowledge is required that’s only a part of the process. Learning and knowledge must lead to new character and conduct reflective of Jesus. Moreover, it is only through the transforming power by the Holy Spirit and our obedience that disciples can truly enjoy abundant life (John 10:10).

So, if current research as reported by Barna is even remotely accurate, why are there so few New Testament-like disciples? I believe it is because we do not decide to be Jesus’ disciples.

I would be amiss to simply identify a glaring problem without providing a recommended course adjustment. I would suggest that if we want to establish a long-term, life-transforming, disciple-making process in His church, we would prayerfully consider the following:

• The senior pastor must personally champion discipleship in EVERY church ministry and department – this cannot be delegated and he/she must be personally involved in a discipleship group. Whether at home or when we gather together to worship, accountability begins with leadership. The call to make disciples is a call to build people through Jesus' love by equipping them for ministry between Sundays.

• There must be a strong vision to make a disciple of every person in the church – the church must embrace Jesus’ command to “make disciples” as their vision and the vision must be used as the “filter” for every activity. Believe the vision, preach the vision, teach the vision, and live the vision.

• Develop a sustainable discipleship ministry. We have a tendency to build big plans and we oftentimes are overwhelmed because it is so big. Carefully and thoughtfully consider the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Pray. Share your vision with two or three others. Start small and then dream big. Allow God’s Holy Spirit to lead and develop. Remember, in God’s economy His big things always started out in His small ways.

Practical considerations:
Starting with each new member’s class, the senior pastor/leadership should manage expectations by clearly and simply presenting a Biblical discipleship model. Communicate the following expectations with simple, practical and accountable measure put into place to realize the Great Commission:

• Every member strongly encouraged to read and study their Bible every day.
• Every member strongly encouraged to attend a corporate worship experience every week.
• Every member strongly encouraged to join and regularly attend a home fellowship group.
• Every member strongly encouraged to be involved in at least one meaningful Bible study each year.
• Every member strongly encouraged to be involved in at least one mission activity each year.
• Every member strongly encouraged to be in a meaningful discipleship group with two or three others of the same gender.

Jesus' last command is our most important mission.

I pray we return to a simple, devoted commitment to loving God and as a result, to make disciples.

This is not too difficult. Promote Jesus and His discipleship model. First, He went and found a few men (Matt 4:18-19). Next, He invited them to seek Him ("Follow Me."). Then He told them the process and the result ("I will make you fishers of men.").

The model of Jesus is not in the large group context. True, He had the 5000 meeting, the 4000 meeting, the 70 meeting, and He event went to synagogue; but each of these events was designed to train those few He would leave as His witnesses (Acts 1:8). The model of Jesus is find a few and help them to get to know Him.

So, every one of us should be doing just this: staying in the Word and helping others to stay in the Word. Each one should be striving to know Jesus and helping other to do the same. As we do, we will pass on what we are doing to those we find; and they will go and do the same (2Tim 2:2).

Well said. It really is so very simple. Thanks Dave.

Dave Nickerson said:

This is not too difficult. Promote Jesus and His discipleship model. First, He went and found a few men (Matt 4:18-19). Next, He invited them to seek Him ("Follow Me."). Then He told them the process and the result ("I will make you fishers of men.").

The model of Jesus is not in the large group context. True, He had the 5000 meeting, the 4000 meeting, the 70 meeting, and He event went to synagogue; but each of these events was designed to train those few He would leave as His witnesses (Acts 1:8). The model of Jesus is find a few and help them to get to know Him.

So, every one of us should be doing just this: staying in the Word and helping others to stay in the Word. Each one should be striving to know Jesus and helping other to do the same. As we do, we will pass on what we are doing to those we find; and they will go and do the same (2Tim 2:2).

We've started doing something new in our small groups at Northeast Christian in Louisville. We've found that people grow best as disciples when they are committed to 3 things:

  1. Christ and building a relationship with Him through spiritual disciplines
  2. The group, meaning they'll be there when the group meets and participate
  3. Mutual Discipleship, meaning each one will take on responsibility for helping others in the group to grow

We've now made this part of the small group covenant that we ask groups to go over 3-4 times a year, and we're stressing the vitality of commitment, not comfort, in groups. That may require counting some costs, but we really want to make disciples, not just converts!

I spent a lot more time discussing this, how we came to it, and the implications of it in Chapter 7 of my new book, Small Group Vital Signs, which will be released any day now. I've also talked about it on my blog. I'd love to discuss it further here, if anyone has questions or thoughts!

Totally agree with you Dave. I think Jesus provided us with the simple, relational way to disciple others. I found it interesting that Jesus used the method of his culture -- a rabbi leading a yeshiva (a small group of disciples), but he changed it to fit what the father sent him to do. I mentioned above that I talked about this in my new book, but didn't mention that I took a whole section and talked about how Jesus made disciples -- what I called yeshiva discipleship. I think a big part of my passion these days is to help people get back to that simple discipleship model. It's so good to see others with the same passion!

Doug Morrell said:

Well said. It really is so very simple. Thanks Dave.

Dave Nickerson said:

This is not too difficult. Promote Jesus and His discipleship model. First, He went and found a few men (Matt 4:18-19). Next, He invited them to seek Him ("Follow Me."). Then He told them the process and the result ("I will make you fishers of men.")........

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