The M's of Discipleship
There are churches across the country who tweet every Sunday about new people who trusted Jesus for the first time. Some of these churches also see a great number of baptisms. While it's great to see and hear about new people trusting Jesus as Savior, there seems to be a common struggle in the church. The struggle is getting those newly saved people to begin following Jesus. Unfortunately, it is possible to see a lot of conversions, but little discipleship. What's the answer? Is it small groups? A good Bible study? The right assimilation? Or what about a healthy discipleship pathway?
Actually, there isn't one stand alone disciple-making engine; each of the mentioned pieces (and they're not the only pieces) can and does play an important role in making disciples. Yet I have discovered that strong small groups, good assimilation and even a healthy discipleship pathway need three things to be truly effective. I call these the M's of discipleship. Movement, Metrics and Model.
Discipleship only happens when intentional movement occurs. This is why Jesus often used a F word (Follow Me). It denotes movement. Too often we equate spiritual maturity to church attendance, when in reality, avid attenders who don't move towards following Jesus are nothing more than benchwarmers. While Sunday attendance is important, we know we can't make disciples from the Sunday stage (because Jesus didn't). If we could, our churches would be filled with people who were fully devoted to Jesus. However, the weekend service can be a place where people start a journey towards discipleship. A church full of benchwarmers is a sure sign that something is missing to help people move from the pew to following Jesus.
If something moves, you can measure it; and if you can measure it, you can grow it. Regardless of whether it's small groups, assimilation or a great Sunday school program, we have to be able to measure it in order to grow it. The trick is to measure the right things. Numbers aren't the most important thing, but if you ever stop looking at them, you'll think they are. When we build good metrics, it gives us permission to ask the right questions and make tweaks and changes which results in growth.
Most all churches use some sort of relational model when it comes to making disciples. While I wish a high-relational environment was the easy answer for discipleship, we know that it isn't. It is totally possible to have 90% of the church meeting in groups every week and still fail to make disciples. In terms of discipleship, whether it be small groups, Bible study or some sort of class, we have to make sure we have the right model.
Questions to ponder...
- Does your church have a clear strategy to help people move from the chair or pew towards a disciple-making environment? Is the movement totally linear? Can it be linear since we know different people are in different stages and seasons of life?
- In addition to attendance and baptism, what other areas are you currently measuring? Are you measuring life change, number of new people serving or disciples making disciples? How often do you look at the numbers?
- What model or models are you using now to make disciples? Does the model have disciple-making intentionality? Are people being challenged with the gospel in a relational environment? Is your model simple enough for people to brings their friends down the same path?