A Modern Discipleship Strategy (inside the walls of church)

If you missed part 1 of this blog, which dealt with the problems found in today’s pre-salvation discipleship strategies, and want to be up to date, I suggest taking 5 minutes to read through part 1.  If you don’t have five minutes to spare, here is a recap:

1.       Modern disciple strategies are too often one-dimensional, lack effective methodology and do not actually inspire people to follow Jesus.

2.       Discipleship requires followers.  Potential followers want to experience value and trust in non-spiritual ways through the church, before proceeding further.

3.       The church has the opportunity to creatively make this happen, if they are willing to implement new strategies to deal with a new generation.

4.       LevelUp has innovative ideas that can help solve the issues found with current discipleship strategies.

An effective, modern discipleship strategy should begin well before someone commits to becoming a follower of Jesus.  Once that commitment has been made, the discipleship process continues.

So, the question to wrestle with in this blog is:” What makes a post-salvation discipleship strategy effective”?

If we are honest with ourselves, not many people in our churches are doing much discipleship.

There are pockets of discipleship here and there, but if you were to survey your community, you would most likely find that the average Christian does not have much confidence in their ability to disciple anyone.  Feel free to spend time breaking down the cause of this shortcoming in your specific Church body, but, most honest evaluation leads back to the same root cause:  It’s all on us, as leaders.  Our people do not have confidence, because we have not equipped them well, and, subsequently, given them confidence. 

You may strongly disagree, I know.

In order to meet the Evangelistic mandate to “… Go, and make disciples...” you have taught classes, preached sermons, organized outreach events and more.  You have shared all the Scriptures which tell your congregation WHY they should disciple others - provided strategies on HOW to disciple others –and even given opportunities WHERE they can disciple others …….and yet, nothing seems to produce the long term commitment needed for effective discipleship to occur.   Your followers aren’t producing other followers, and after trying so many different strategies, you can’t help but wonder if the harvest will always be plentiful, while the workers will always be few.  Pareto’s 80/20 rule seems to be alive and well in our Churches, as 20% of our people typically account for 80% of the discipleship and outreach.   

So how do we change the status quo?

Can we create a modern discipleship strategy that retains our current 20% and mobilizes the other 80%? 

We believe we can! And – finding the solution could be more simplistic than it seems.

First, study the 20% of your community that is actively trying to make disciples, using their personality traits and behaviors as a basis of comparison with the 80% that is currently uninvolved in discipleship.

Once you have identified common traits and behaviors, work through the 4 Questions to consider when evaluating your post-salvation, discipleship strategy outlined below:

1.” What are the key differences between this group and everyone else in my congregation “?

You may be tempted to think that some people are just more gifted and passionate when it comes to evangelism and discipleship.  After all, the Bible clearly teaches that discipleship and evangelism are each spiritual gifts- maybe only 20% are meant to have them.

At LevelUp, we have found that, while spiritual gifting does play a role, a greater number of our community was mobilized more quickly, when we gave them opportunities to disciple others that complimented their unique gifts, natural talents, life experiences and passions.  In other words, we didn’t make discipleship a boring, cookie- cutter process, but allowed the process freedom to be practiced in very dynamic ways, reflecting the gifts and strengths of the individual doing the discipleship!  

2. “Even though they may not have a strong theological foundation, can we equip more of our community to begin making followers in simple, non-spiritual, creative ways”?

Again, as previously discussed in part 1 of this blog, the primary reason we fall short in this aspect of discipleship is our thinking; if we train our congregations to believe that discipleship only occurs once someone has committed to following Jesus, we will release our people into the culture with the mindset that I must convert you before I spend time discipling you.

Discipleship = Gathering Followers. 

To gather followers in our culture, you must first create value in their life.  Value leads to trust being earned.  Trust leads to followers.  Think about all the name brand products you so faithfully purchase… It’s the same process.  The sooner you equip a new Believer to go out and use their talents and passions to serve people in their areas of influence, (neighborhood, work, social network etc) the sooner you will have baptized them into the idea that discipleship is as natural as breathing.  It’s kinda like Mr. Miyagi teaching Danielson Karate through painting fences and waxing cars, to be honest. Discipleship is a skill that is developed and perfected in the day to day activities of life.

3. “When someone in our church provides value and earns trust with someone outside the church, how will we recognize and celebrate this”?

Many great leaders throughout the centuries have found that recognizing someone’s efforts or accomplishment causes that person to do more, in order to receive that recognition.  Experts- such as John Maxwell and Andy Stanley- call it” sharing the wins”.  The truth is, small victories are being won every day in our Churches, by people who are willing to provide value in someone else’s life.  Sadly, we often will only recognize these victories, when they immediately result in someone who decides to become a follower of Jesus.  This perpetuates the idea that we must convert before we disciple.  If you want to mobilize the other 80%, I would highly encourage you to find ways to publicly recognize all the small wins that lead up to someone’s decision to follow Christ.

4.“In addition to the discipleship we must provide for Believers within our Church Body, (Bible study, Prayer, Worship, Development of Spiritual Disciplines to name a few …) how can we make sure that mobilizing our community remains a priority”?

Listen, this is not easy.  Most likely, maintaining balance has been a source of much heated debate within your church leadership team.

But -   think back to when you first decided to follow Jesus-Were you not inspired to share your new faith with others? If this was true for you, it is most likely true with others.

Isn’t this time of newness and excitement the best time to help people tap into their natural gifts and release them into the lives of others?  Aren’t they most receptive to sharing the Truth they have found with others, at the beginning stages of their relationship with Christ?

Instead of freeing new Believers to go out and share their Faith, we fill too much of their already limited time with corporate Bible studies, church events, Worship Services and more, which while- well-intended- stifles the spirit of evangelism in a new believer. If all their time is spent only around other Christians, they have no opportunity to impact those who do not know Christ.   Our current, one dimensional approach to discipleship relies too heavily on increasing one’s knowledge of Scripture and attending events with other Believers, above all else, instead of finding ways to balance our interactions with Believers, as well as non-Believers.

Quick Summary

An effective, modern discipleship strategy must include an equally effective mobilization strategy.  It must also begin with the very first encounter a Christian has with a non-Christian, making the most of each opportunity for interaction and investment, while allowing our people to use their unique gifts and passions to provide value and build trust with others.  As churches, we must develop effective and innovative programs, to allow our people the freedom needed to watch for and utilize traditional and non-traditional methods, while trying to evangelize and disciple those they meet through daily life.

Finally, we must carefully consider the amount of time we ask our people to commit to activities that only involve interaction with others who already know Christ, while leaving little or no time to interact with those who do not have a relationship with Christ.  Knowing that what we have asked of our congregants so far has widely produced a culture of Christians in the US that are knowledge rich and application poor, while leaving many outside the walls of the Church unreached, we must make changes to the way we prioritize our time, as Christians.   We have many students- but few practitioners. 

Want to go deeper into the modern day discipleship strategy?  Download this free worksheet with further questions to consider when evaluating your post-salvation discipleship strategy.