Disciple Making Is Still the #1 Problem Facing the Church Today
From The Effective Church Today
By Bill Tenny-Brittian
Recently a troll caught one of our posts about radical disciple making and took it out for an attempted thrashing. To be honest, I get amused when someone takes us to task because we’re so focused on church growth. “It’s all about the numbers for you guys” as if that’s some sort of an insult. Numbers are so important and so biblical there’s even a book named after it. And the focus on numbers didn’t stop in the Old Testament.
- Jesus fasted for 40 days
- He had 12 apostles
- He fed 5000
- He fed the 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish
- They picked up 12 baskets of leftovers when everyone was through
- He fed 4000 on another occasion
- The apostles caught 153 fish
- Jesus appeared to more than 500 people post-Easter
- There were 120 at the first post-resurrection prayer meeting
- 300o were baptized after Peter’s Pentecost preaching
- The next wave of growth took the church to 5000
- The scrolls burned were worth 50,000 drachmas
In other words … numbers count. And we make no apologies for focusing on growing the church … because each baptism is the gain of one more in the kingdom.
But let us be clear: church growth without discipleship growth is no win for anyone. The only true measure of effective church growth is when the good seed lands in good soil and the cultivation yields a multiplied harvest of effective, faithful, and obedient disciples. We call that process “Radical Disciple Making.”
The measure of effective church growth is when good seed lands in good soil & yields a harvest of obedient disciples.
It doesn’t take much training to realize that most church members aren’t practicing disciples of Jesus … at least not by anything that looks like a biblical standard. But because the word “disciple” has been confused with “church member,” we’ve latched onto the term Radical Disciple. A radical disciple is someone who does more than “believe” … they are obedient to Jesus’ mandates, including (perhaps especially) being a faithful witness their faith and experience to those outside of the faith.
The sad reality is that few churches have a strategy that begins with a pre-Christian and walks them through radical disciple making. In fact, it’s a rare church leader that’s even thought about it, let alone tried to develop a path from unbelief through discipleship. Most of us just leave it to chance and “hope,” but as Coach Rick Neuheisel says, “Hope is not a very good strategy.”
You’re probably in the midst of a busy week, but let’s be honest … in ministry every week is a busy week. So pull out a pad of paper and begin creating an intentional strategy for helping a non-believer through the stages of discipleship.
Wonder what that might look like? Here’s a sample of one I developed with a church I consulted with recently:
No Commitment Entry Point:
- Targeted Worship; Visitor Friendly Event (Kid-Focused Christmas Eve; St. Patrick’s Run; etc.); Visitor Friendly Mission Event (Park Pick-Up; Kid’s Corner Lunch; etc.); One-on-one networking and evangelism
- Effective Follow-Up: Sunday afternoon door-step visit; Monday note; Wednesday newsletter; Friday text message
- Low Commitment Discipleship Entry:
- Meet the Pastor Dessert
- Welcome to First Church class
- Interest class (quilting, fly tying, video creation class, etc.
- Next Level Discipleship (Mid-Level Commitment):
- Discovery Class
- Short-term small group (3–6 sessions)
- Mentoring Relationships: Intentional pairings
- Life Groups: semester length life coaching groups
The key to successful disciple making is twofold: (1) Have a plan; (2) Work the plan. It’s a simple formula, but it’s by no means easy.
Bill Tenny-Brittian, Managing Partner of The Effective Church Group