I’m writing this blog post from Chattanooga, TN, where I am attending a seminar with some of our staff at Brainerd Baptist Church. The seminar is called “Discipleship Blueprint” and is held by Robby Gallaty and Replicate Ministries. Those of us who are here are getting some very good, practical help with what it means to develop a culture of discipleship within the local church. Ed Stetzer, the president of LifeWay Research, has said, “The majority of people in the majority of our churches are not engaged in meaningful ministry or mission.” A simple look around on Sunday shows this to be the case. Our pews are full of people who have never been equipped to live on mission. This should tell us that the much of what we are doing is not making an impact in the lives of people. Why would we waste our time with useless things? The latest research reports indicate that 89% of all SBC churches are either plateaued or declining. The problem stems from a lack of discipleship.
Jesus has called us to make disciples. This is our mission mandate. In order to do this, the church must have a process. This is precisely where discipleship often breaks down in most local churches. The church must have an action plan. Someone has said, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail!” Perhaps a good question to ask is, “How did Jesus make disciples? What was His plan?” The gospels reveal how Jesus spent His time investing in twelve men. Though He preached to crowds of people and ministered to their needs, He called twelve to be with Him. From those twelve men, Jesus invested in three—Peter, James, and John. These men were His inner circle who went with Him everywhere He went. This was Jesus’ process.
So, a biblical process that is based on Jesus’ model involves a large group setting, a small group setting, and a growth group setting. The large group setting in the local church is corporate worship, the time that the church has set aside for gathering as a body around God’s Word. The small group setting in most churches is what takes place in traditional Sunday School or Connection Classes as we call them at Green Street. Here, many gather for mutual encouragement and community and Bible study. Jesus’ model got even smaller, yet this is the stopping point in most churches.
What would it look like in the local church if spiritually mature men and women began doing what Jesus did by finding two or three others and intentionally investing in their life by providing support and accountability? Spiritually mature men ought to be investing into other men, and spiritually mature women ought to be investing in other women. Through such a relationship, disciples can be taught how to pray, how to study God’s Word, how to share the gospel, how to give, and what it means to follow Jesus. This is a simple process of how we can make disciples who repeat the process in the lives of others. It was this process that turned the world upside down.