Every church is different. We have different worship styles, staff configurations, values, and preaching styles. This diversity of expression is a beautiful thing.
However, there’s one thing that should be consistent in all of our churches.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)
It’s kind of "the thing". If you aren’t making disciples then you aren’t a church. You’re something else entirely. We all know this, but at the same time, most of us don’t have a clear plan for how to actually make disciples. We just sort of expect people to grow when we preach to them or connect them with other Christians.
I think we can and should be more strategic in our planning.
Think about it. What would happen in your church if over the next two years, there was a marked increase in evangelism among all your people? How might your community be impacted by Jesus? Or, imagine if you focused on Christ-like relationships? What would happen in your church over the next two years if all your people forgave more? Were more accountable? Encouraged more?
I'd love to share the blueprint our church uses for developing our discipleship strategy in hopes that it might be helpful in your own context in having a vibrant and effective discipleship strategy.
Step 1: What Is It?
It all starts with focus.
What if instead of emphasizing everything in the discipleship process, we chose instead to focus on a few aspects of discipleship for a period of time? A principle we have discovered in our church is that where we focus our energy, resources and attention is where we see growth. Focus leads to results. It might sound terribly unspiritual but I believe this principle applies to discipleship.
Here’s what I’m suggesting: Choose two to four aspects of discipleship that you believe God is calling you to grow in your congregation and then focus everything on these two characteristics for the next year.
If this sounds compelling to you, here’s a plan for how to move on this idea.
The process begins with the key leaders of your church deciding on what to focus on. What aspects of discipleship are most important for your church right now? Where do you see immaturity? Where do you sense God moving? What do you believe God is calling your particular local church to pursue?
I would suggest taking your time here. The right focus is so important. Schedule an off-site to explore ideas. Spend time in prayer. Listen to the people in your congregation who are in touch with the heartbeat of your church.
In the end, I believe it is most helpful to choose characteristics as the “it.” Specifically, characteristics that are present in the life of a mature follower of Jesus.
Here’s what we’re focusing on this year:
- Healthy Relationships
Step 2: What Does It Look Like?
Once you’ve determined what you will focus on, it’s time to create a description for each characteristic. What does this characteristic look like? Going off our list, what do evangelism, servanthood, generosity and healthy relationships actually look like in the life of the believer?
Here’s an example of the first item on our list - what a believer who is a mature evangelist looks like:
- I live my life in a way that reflects positively on Jesus.
- I can clearly share the Gospel and my faith story.
- I can graciously respond to questions about my faith journey.
- I am relationally investing in people who are far from God.
- I invite others to our weekend services.
You might be thinking, “Wow. That’s not at all how I would describe a mature evangelist!” Hey, the beautiful thing about the Church is that your local church looks differently than mine. Your description should reflect who you are as a church.
Step 3: What is the Strategy for it?
The last part of this process is creating a strategy for motivating and equipping your church for growth. How are you actually going to create movement? If you couldn’t tell, this is the hardest part.
Sticking with the first of our four focus areas (evangelism), here are a few of our strategies for moving our people toward evangelism:
- Consistently share the Gospel in our weekend services.
- Consistently share stories in our weekend services that highlight the Gospel and evangelism.
- Emphasize evangelism in our devotional resources and sermon companion guide.
- Train small group leaders to share the Gospel clearly, answer common faith questions, and develop others in sharing their faith.
How will you create movement around the characteristics you want to focus on? I would suggest that the more specific and targeted your strategies are the more likely you are to succeed.
Let’s wrap this up. We’re the church. We carry the mission of discipleship. How are you going to disciple people this year?
You can’t do everything. You can’t focus on every aspect of the discipleship process. What if you chose just a few characteristics to focus on? What if God was pleased to grow your entire church in these areas of focus? How would the families in your church be impacted? How would your community be impacted?
We’d love to hear your thoughts on these strategies and ideas. Leave us a comment below.