The Need for a Comprehensive Disciple-Making Strategy
When a church has defined the gospel, knows what a disciple is, has an intentional way of training people to be disciple-making disciples—such as discipleship groups of three and four—and a church’s leaders understand the discipleship purpose of all its ministries, the leaders of the church are able to create a truly comprehensive discipleship strategy—an explanation of how a particular church intends to mature and multiply disciples. This strategy makes clear to everyone exactly how they are seeking to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission.
The church’s discipleship strategy rallies all the church’s resources and streamlines everything toward making disciples. As such, it provides a critical decision-making grid, helps to prevent wasting the congregation’s sacrificial giving on frivolous things, and makes Jesus’ last command to be our first priority. When everything in a local church is streamlined to make disciples, Christ’s Great Commission becomes truly great in that church.
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It’s critical that church leaders don’t think of a discipleship strategy as just another program. Francis Chan writes in his book Multiply, “For some of us, our church experience has been so focused on programs that we immediately think about Jesus’ command to make disciples in programmatic terms. We expect our church leaders to create some sort of disciple-maker campaign where we sign up, commit to participating for a few months, and then get to cross the Great Commission off our list.”
Like Chan says here, discipleship isn’t a program, and developing your church’s discipleship strategy in the right way will help your church to never forget this.
There’s no quick and easy “plug and play” solution for creating a comprehensive discipleship strategy for your church; you can’t just adopt another church’s discipleship strategy. Every church is unique with its own language, culture, and way of doing things. The work of turning a church from struggling to make disciples into being a thriving disciple-making church isn’t easy. In fact, Dallas Willard says it’s “very difficult.” Looking for quick and easy solutions won’t cut it. Our experience has shown us the “discipleship drain” of most churches is badly clogged. The only way to unplug it is for church leaders to roll up their sleeves and begin the deep work of creating a comprehensive discipleship strategy for their congregation.
3. Francis Chan with Mark Beaving, Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2012) 31.
4. From a presentation in 2008 at Wheaton College by Dallas Willard called, “Spiritual Formation as a Natural Part of Salvation.”