5 Reasons Why Disciples Need Ministry Tools More Than Sermons

The discipleship results of your ministry are not defined by content of your preaching alone.  One significant factor that impacts disciple-making is tool-making.  Unfortunately, you might not recall any seminary classes or conference breakouts on making ministry tools.

Why not? The simplest explanation is that we rely too much on teaching. As a result, we as pastors, do not become good at training and spend little time on toolmaking. In fact the average pastor rarely pursues improved competency as a trainer. But pastors go to great lengths— attending workshops, digesting sermons, and reading books— to become better preachers. 

Think about it for a minute: Is your church better characterized as a teaching center or a training center? Do you consider yourself more of a bible-communicator or a people-developer? When is the last time you thought about finding or making ministry tools?

I know what you want to say— “It’s both Will, why would you separate it?” Of course your intent is both to communicate well and see a disciple form as a result.  But I want to separate the two so that you can double check your assumptions and expectations about how people change and grow. Does your teaching provide the pathway toward the modeling, practicing, and evaluating of new life skills? Are you really helping people develop new life competencies in the way of Jesus?  Or are you just preaching?

One proof that you are good at training is the presence of ministry tools. What tools have you given to people lately through one of your sermon series? When was the last time you brainstormed with your team about a new ministry tool to create? If you have small group leaders in the church, what ministry tools have you provided for them in the last year?

What’s the bottom line? If you are not adding ministry tools to the lives of your people, you are not close to maximizing a disciple-making culture. You are probably not equipping people that much.

Before explaining why, let’s define what we mean by a tool. One definition reads:

Tool: A handheld device that aids in accomplishing a task. The basic definition brings to mind a hammer or screwdriver that you hold in your hand. The definition may expand if a tool doesn’t have to be literally handheld. Another definition reads: a device or implement used to carry out a particular function.

The term “device” broadens the range for disciple-making purposes. For example, the model prayer of Jesus was a device to train the disciples how to pray. Jesus used questions, metaphors and parables as devices or tools of disciple-making that weren’t “handheld” per se.

So what are examples of ministry tools? Here are five:

  • A church does a sermon on praying and provides a prayer journal (ministry tool) as people walk out the door.
  • A pastor preaches on missional living and creates a table tent (ministry tool- a triangle-shaped brochure that stands in the middle of the dinner table)  for family conversations designed to encourage the application of being better neighbors for the sake of the gospel.
  • A team codifies a definition (ministry tool) of what kind of disciple their church is designed to produce and then creates a self-assessment (ministry tool) to use in small groups.
  • A pastor uses a 4-question, gospel fluency matrix (ministry tool) –drawable on a napkin–to help the congregation apply the gospel to the daily fluctuations of sinful emotions and actions.
  • A bible study leader passes out a business card (ministry tool) with a daily bible reading schedule and three applications questions to ask for every passage of scripture.

This is a short list that begins to illustrate the endless possibilities of ministry tools. Keep in mind that I didn’t even reference the internet or digital devices that really explode the possibilities ministry tool-making.

Now that we have defined and illustrated what a ministry tool or device is, let’s get to the heart of the post. Why do disciples need ministry tools more than sermons? Why should we not rely on preaching alone if we are to train people to follow Jesus?  Here are five compelling reasons:

#1 – A ministry tool signifies importance.  A tool highlights the greater importance of the idea thus setting it up for application and helping stand out among the competing messages in every area of life. When a tool is introduced in the flow of communication, the idea behind the tool will trump every other idea. The tool immediately indicates the value of repeatability as well.

#2 – A ministry tool activates learning. A tool utilizes a part of human brain that is activated by a concrete object to hold and use, or an audio device to return to like a question or repeatable story. Again this sets up an important step toward application. It engages visual and kinesthetic learners.

#3 – A ministry tool guides application. This is the main idea. The tool itself provides a “how to” that can be practiced, repeated and eventually mastered. It shows the way and validates when action has been taken or not.  The device clarifies a step of implementation. In a way, a tool gently brings accountability to the table–every time I see the tool, I know whether or not I have used it.

#4 – A ministry tool creates energy. A tool helps people feel excited about ideas. It helps people win. And by the way, may pastors can unintentionally create a sense of failure for their people.  As people listen to sermons year after year, they oftentimes feel like they aren’t growing like they should. A tool can reverse that dynamic. It’s focuses application, so they can do it. And that gives pastors the opportunity to celebrate their new skill development. Then, even more energy is created!

#5 – A ministry tool reproduces training. A tool makes every person a trainer not just the pastor or preacher. As a leader, it’s not important what you can do; it’s important what you can duplicate. If you make a tool, it can outlast you and be passed from disciple to disciple to disciple until Jesus returns again.

This last principle has changed by personal conviction that I must spend time to make tools. In fact my two most important books (tools themselves) are Church Unique an God Dreams each of which cover how to create a master tool for church leadership, the Vision Frame and the Horizon Storyline, respectively.

I would love to hear from you. What is your favorite ministry tool? What ministry tools have you created recently?

A final illustration of one of my favorites is a how-to PDF and video on creating a family tree. This tool comes from a short sermon series at Clear Creek Community Church, my home church. To help people gain perspective and apply the gospel to the brokenness of extended family dynamics, they encouraged everyone to practice writing out their family diagram.

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Would you like to learn more about the ministry tools? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Mancini

Will Mancini

Will Mancini wants you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, Will has worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing megachurches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. He is the founder of Auxano, creator of VisionRoom.com and the author of God Dreams and Church Unique.

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Three Practices to Help Reframe the Heart of a Disciplemaker

When asked, there are many reasons church leaders give for lack of effectiveness in making disciples. Here are a few common responses:

“We have uncommitted volunteers”

“We reach many distracted families”

“We suffer from ineffective curriculum”

“We find ourselves with unavailable leadership”

“We are experiencing diminishing giving”

“We need to get beyond our under-performing staff”

“We are stuck through over-complex processes”

While the above may be resonant, they are likely not the actual reason your church continues to struggle to make disciples. From observation of hundreds of churches over the past few years, disciples are not made for one singular, and strikingly simple, reason:  actual, biblical discipleship takes much more time than expected and produces very little immediate return on investment.

Herein lies the problem. Rather than thinking long-term process, and setting expectations five to ten years down the road, we lead through short-term programming. We lead by constantly changing the discipleship curriculum, schedule or structure every few months. We lead with the expectation that discipleship requires only a season, rather than years of nurture and growth.

The approach and practice of making disciples is more like running a tree farm than tending a backyard vegetable garden.

Vegetable gardens, while taking some time – maybe a few summer growing months – yield a rather immediate harvest and tangible results. Within weeks, seeds germinate, vines grow and blooms emerge. Soon after, windowsills and countertops are overflowing with vegetables and fruit, ready for eating, canning and freezing.  And as the cool mornings of fall consistently make their annual appearance, plants are removed, soil is turned and beds are prepared for a new, fresh season of production.

Tree farming requires a completely different process and outlook. Saplings take root – not with an expectation of months-long nurturing – but years of grooming, tending and shaping. The average 8-foot Christmas Tree takes seven to twelve years to mature and be ready to stand proudly as the centerpiece of holiday celebrations. Running a tree farm requires a commitment to think long-term and necessitates a patient discipline for measuring results in observable quality, through the health of the plant, rather than numeric quantity.

When we treat discipleship as a seasonal activity, expecting immediate results we produce undernourished and unprepared followers of Christ. We then blame volunteers, travel baseball, or ineffective systems for our own misunderstanding of the nature of discipleship.

Here are three practices for 2017 to help reframe the heart of the disciplemaker through the mind of a tree-farmer.

  1. Mark time in seasons of a life, not seasons of the year… because discipleship takes more than two or three semesters of study. What would we develop in a young married husband if we pictured a healthy tenth anniversary? How would an incoming sixth grade girl be biblically prepared for the upcoming challenges of high school? What are the spiritual habits of a senior adult that develop a next generation of Christ-likeness?
  2.  Measure health of each individual, not the number of individuals who appear healthy… because not all growth is spiritual growth. What are the marks of a growing disciple in your context? What are the daily habits and practices of growing followers that produce and reproduce dependence on Christ? What small indicators can be identified that build to big steps of growth
  3. Celebrate annual multiplication of a few, not seasonal addition of the many…because what is celebrated gets replicated. How might you point beyond collective programs toward individual development? What rites of passage in your culture would mark significant progress in spiritual growth? What consistent language can you develop to encourage participation from every church member?

Want to learn more about developing disciplemakers? Connect with an Auxano Navigator.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Rose

As Lead Navigator for Auxano, Bryan Rose has a strong bias toward merging strategy and creativity within the vision of the local church and has had a diversity of experience in just about every ministry discipline over the last 12 years. With his experience as a multi-site strategist and campus pastor at a 3500 member multi-campus church in the Houston Metro area, Bryan has a passion to see “launch clarity” define the unique Great Commission call of developing church plants and campus, while at the same time serving established churches as they seek to clarify their individual ministry calling. Bryan has demonstrated achievement as a strategic thinker with a unique ability to infuse creativity into the visioning process while bringing a group of people to a deep sense of personal ownership and passion.

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6 Ways Your Team’s Commitment to Discipleship Impacts Programming

Discipleship is the process of becoming more and more like Jesus. As we behold the glory of Christ, He transforms us into His image with ever-increasing glory. Of this, the apostle Paul wrote:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

In this passage, Paul is reminding us of Moses who climbed Mount Sinai to meet with God (Exodus 34). Moses was so impacted by the encounter with God that his face was changed and shone with the presence of God. Each time God and Moses met, Moses put a veil over his face—and the veil covered the fact that the glory of God was fading (2 Corinthians 3:13). We are different than Moses. We have unveiled faces, and the glory does not decrease but rather increases. The glory does not decrease because the Lord lives within us and is continually forming us into His image. Unlike Moses, we never leave the mountain; we never leave the presence of the Lord.

How should a theology of discipleship impact a church’s programming?

Some leaders don’t like mixing the two conversations. There is discipleship and then there are church programs, and the two don’t intersect. But if that is the case, the church wastes a lot of time offering and inviting people to attend programs. A team’s commitment to discipleship should impact programming conversations. Here are six thoughts on discipleship and programming.

1. View programs as tools.

When Moses was transformed by the Lord’s presence, the Lord did all the transforming. All Moses did, by walking up the mountain, was put himself in the position to be transformed. At their best, programs are environments that help put people in a place for transformation. For example, the Lord will use a worship service that is rooted in Scripture and points people to Jesus to change hearts. He will use a small group where people shepherd one another and the Scripture is applied to the people’s hearts.

While we must be careful not to equate assimilation with transformation, a wise church leader wants to utilize the church’s programs as tools the Lord will use in the transformation of His people. A church’s programs must be viewed as tools for the people, not the people as tools to run programs.

2. Program based on your discipleship process.

If you have articulated an overarching discipleship process or strategy, line up your programs with your process. Because you don’t want to create a Christian bubble cluttered with a plethora of programs, consider offering one regular program/environment for each phase of your discipleship process. If you over-program early in your discipleship process, people will not have the time to move to other steps in your process.

3. As people move through your process, ask for greater commitment.

Because discipleship should result in transformation with “ever-increasing glory,” as people progress through a church’s discipleship process, the level of commitment should increase. In other words, when someone moves from being in community to leading others in the church, there should be higher expectations and training/challenges that accompany the greater commitment.

4. Clarify and communicate the goal(s) of each program.

In light of a church’s overarching discipleship process, the goal of each program should be clarified and communicated. Leaders should be recruited and trained with those goals in mind. If a program does not help make disciples in light of the church’s discipleship strategy, the program merely wears people out and robs resources from that which is most important. A.W. Tozer wrote of church programs “justifying themselves” in light of a church’s mission to make disciples:

In an effort to get the work of the Lord done, we often lose contact with the Lord of the work and quite literally wear our people out as well. I have heard more than one pastor boast that his church was a “live” one, pointing to the printed calendar as proof—something on every night and several meetings during the day… A great many of these time-consuming activities are useless and others plain ridiculous. “But,” say the eager beavers, “they provide fellowship and hold our people together.” If the many activities engaged in by the average church led to the salvation of sinners and the perfecting of believers, they would justify themselves easily and triumphantly, but they do not.

5. Design the hand-offs between the programs.

In a relay race, the most critical part of the race is the hand-off. Teams work extremely hard to ensure the baton is seamlessly handed from one person to another. The people who attend our churches should be treated with more care and passion than a baton. If your church’s process is to move someone from a weekend worship gathering to a small group, consider how effective your hand-off process is. The most effective hand-offs are obvious, easy, and relational (credit goes to Andy Stanley for 2/3 of that statement). In terms of moving people to groups, here is a broad example of a hand-off that is obvious, easy, and relational.

  • Obvious: Consistent invitations to get plugged into a small group with a list of open groups in the bulletin. This is obvious, but the hand-off is not yet easy or relational. 
  • Obvious & Easy:Consistent invitations, a list of groups, and time in the worship service for people to sign up for a group and “drop the paper in the offering plate.” 
  • Obvious, Easy, & Relational: Consistent invitations, a list of groups, and time to meet leaders after the service where leaders can personally invite people to their groups.

6. Evaluate movement between the programs.

Program managers merely run great programs. Leaders who think in terms of a discipleship process look for movement. Leaders who think strategically about discipleship and programs do not view church programs in isolation. They think about progression through their discipleship process.

When Thom Rainer and I conducted the research behind Simple Church, we noticed that leaders who thought in terms of their discipleship process “measured horizontally” instead of vertically. Measuring vertically is measuring through the lens of a program, while measuring horizontally is through the lens of your process.

For example: Imagine Harbor Church offers both worship services and small groups, and part of their articulated discipleship process includes moving people from worship to groups. Viewing their attendance vertically is viewing each program in isolation. Viewing them horizontally is evaluating the progression between the two. If the weekend service grows 10 percent in one year but the number of people in groups remains the same, then the leaders of Harbor are able to spot congestion in their process.

Again, assimilation does not equate with transformation. Moving people to programs does not ensure people’s hearts are being changed. At the same time, it is foolish to offer programs without intentionality and without a desire to provide environments where transformation can take place.

Your mission of making disciples should drive your programs.


Would you like to learn more about programming and your church’s commitment to discipleship? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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Clarity Process

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Does Your Church Have an Intentional Plan of Discipleship for Each Generation of Disciples?

I recently had a chance to talk to Rick Howerton, our Small Group Specialist at LifeWay, about a serious struggle he is seeing in discipleship ministries all around the country and how LifeWay is trying to help. Here’s a look at our conversation:

Eric: You talk to hundreds of pastors and group leaders all over the country. What are some of the major trends you are seeing in discipleship right now? 

Rick: One of the most consistent things I’m noticing with church leaders right now is confusion about discipleship effectiveness. When I’m with a group of pastors and the conversation turns to disciple-making, there always seems to be some debate over how to make disciples who make disciples. The primary disagreement flows from the number of people that an individual or group leader can disciple as well as the best setting in which discipleship takes place. Some say that only one on one discipleship is effective. Others are vehement that no one person can disciple more than a two or three. Still other people say that their small groups, when truly doing life together, are making disciples. And a lot of folks just aren’t sure. Understanding why these disagreements are occurring may be the best way to hone in on that trend. 

Eric: Speak to that a little more, then. Do you have sense of what is driving this confusion?

Rick: In the minds of most experts there are two basic types of disciple-making environments. One is centered around a primary disciple-maker. The other centers around a community of disciples. The first approach is similar to what Jesus did. It is one person allowing a few people to walk alongside him or her. It means modeling what a disciple of Jesus should be, do, and teach. One person disciples a few.

Community centered disciple-making is disciple-making through interaction with a group of people, like what we see in the early church. This happens when a small groups grows together through exercising their spiritual gifts, living out the one another principles found in the New Testament, studying God’s Word, and committing to be a part of that community. The small group as well as the church whole is important in community centered disciple-making.

Perhaps the confusion comes in feeling forced to choose one approach. In my opinion, both are important in the disciple-making process. Everyone who becomes a mature disciple and then makes disciples needs both a spiritual guide and a biblical Christian community in order to progress toward full spiritual maturity.

Eric: Where do you think these two different philosophies come from?

Rick: In short, both philosophies come from Scripture. Jesus definitely gave His time and life to a few.

Of course we also see in Acts 2:42-47 that new believers were simply getting together devoting themselves to the teaching of God’s Word, fellowship, celebration of the Lord’s supper, and prayer, “and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” 

Eric: As someone who loves the Church, this all leads me to a pretty serious question, which is, are churches really making disciples in light of this confusion?

Rick: I do believe that many churches are confusing helping people make friends and connections to church life with guiding people and groups to make mature disciples. If church leaders are honest with themselves, many of their group ministries have the primary goal of connecting high percentages of weekend worshipers to a group. But, when this is the primary goal, churches can lower the bar of expectation so low that it’s difficult for people to become mature disciples of Jesus Christ.

Even though studies have shown that in order for someone to progress toward spiritual maturity they must be involved in the ongoing study of God’s Word, self denial, serving God and other people, sharing a verbal witness with unbelievers, and other important disciplines, many churches that claim to be making disciples are hesitant to even expect group members to read or do anything outside of the actual group gathering.

Eric: If that’s true, what is missing? What can a pastor, or church leader do to ensure that discipleship is really happening? 

Rick: Those who want to lead disciple-making churches need to do a few essential things. First off, they need to be discipled. Many pastors have seminary degrees but they’ve never been mentored/lead/shaped in a personal, challenging way. Also, it is imperative that they talk about disciple-making from the pulpit and practice disciple-making with their staff, elders, deacons, small group leaders, etc…

The other essential is that each church utilize an intentional plan of discipleship with each generation of disciples. That is, once someone has been discipled using a particular method and set of studies, they then use that same intentional plan to disciple someone or a group of people themselves. When someone has been through the process of being discipled, they are much more apt to disciple someone else if they use the same path they were discipled with. They know how it works and they have stories to tell of their own journey.

That’s why I’m proud to say I got to be a part of putting together LifeWay’s new intentional plan for discipleship called, The Disciples Path.

We created the Disciples Path series with the help of disciple-makers for disciple-makers and it should give church and group leaders a practical, workable, intentional way to combat the confusion in their ministries.

Go to lifeway.com/disciplespath to learn more about this new intentional plan for discipleship. Whether you lean towards a community centered or a disciple-maker centered approach, the Disciples Path can help you in your mission of making disciples who make disciples.

> Read more from Eric.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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— Debra
 

Clarity Process

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You Mass Produce Cars, Not Disciples

Disciples Need Leaders

I wonder how many church leaders don’t even realize the success of ongoing discipleship depends partly on how well they develop leaders.

God didn’t design the church to have one person lead everyone else in spiritual formation—far too often the model of evangelical churches. Throughout the New Testament, we see leadership development and delegation—or mass participation—of discipling others.

Paul repeatedly told young pastors to entrust the ministry to spiritual people who could then pass it on to the next generation.

I’m convinced one of the reasons we struggle with discipleship is because we aren’t raising up leaders to make more disciples.

You don’t need a priest because you are a priest.

Most people who are reading this are going to be Protestants of some variety. Protestantism was in part a rediscovery that individuals do not need a priest to communicate with God.

This is a key theological issue. Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:9 that we are a “royal priesthood” who are to proclaim the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness. We correctly assert that we don’t need another human as a priest for us to have access to God.

Protestantism universally holds this axiom—it’s a defining biblical view.

What’s interesting is that while it may be a universally held theological understanding, in practice most churches have a talented leader who explains the Bible. Otherwise, we can’t understand it. The congregants, who are supposedly priests themselves, end up asking this person what God is trying to say.

Functionally, we have adopted a very non-Protestant idea of a priesthood, as if we can’t approach God ourselves. We function as if God’s people cannot engage God’s word.

No Christian should think that.

Leadership Deficit Knows No Boundaries

Oddly enough, this problem doesn’t just exist with Christians.

Anthropologically speaking, religion is a universal constant. Every culture in the world developed with religion, and such religions tend to create rituals where they ceremonialize their religious obligation and hierarchies so they can outsource their religious obligation. The natural human experience is to turn your faith responsibility over to a ritual and religious hierarchy.

I know those reading this are from different traditions. I’m not talking about the beauty of worship that can be in liturgical form. I’m not speaking against the biblical office of pastor. This topic is about the tendency in human nature to ritualize our devotion and look to religious hierarchies.

We create rituals and priests, often so we don’t have to have personal devotion to, and a personal relationship with, the Lord.

So we shouldn’t be surprised about the trajectory that churches tend to follow. I call that “clergification,” the point when acts of faith center on clergy.

The problem is remarkably unbiblical. Some might say, “Well, I believe in clergy. I believe in biblical offices in the church, such as the distinct role of pastor.” That’s fine. Actually, so do I—but invariable someone reads into what I’ve written. Let’s try not to.

Some denominations have what we call lower ecclesiology and liturgy (low church). Other denominations have a higher ecclesiology and liturgy (high church). Some with a high ecclesiology may believe pastors are necessary to partake in the sacraments. Others with a low ecclesiology may believe anyone can engage in these things together, under the auspices of a local church.

If you are Lutheran, Baptist, Calvinist, or Pentecostal, you really do agree that clergification is a bad thing, even if you hold to the role, office, or function of a pastor (as I do). And, you really do think that the Protestant Reformation emphasis on direct access to God was just a reflection of the biblical teaching that Jesus is the one mediator between God and man.

Centralized Spirituality Is Unhealthy

Regardless of where you come down on these issues, my guess is that if you were to think about it, you would agree that too much of the ministry and mission has been centralized around the clergy. Some would even agree that it is actually hindering the life and ministry of your church.

Whether you’re a high-church Anglican or a low-church Brethren, and everything in-between, clergification has damaged all of us. This shift in missional responsibility causes clergy to become religious shopkeepers, providing the religious goods and services to the customers. These customers never get to the point where they serve as co-laborers.

God did not plan for one person to disciple an entire church, and He didn’t design us to grow via mass discipleship.

There are things that a good pastor can and should do and I will not list them all there. In the context of this article, a good pastor can lead a culture of discipleship. A healthy culture of discipleship recognizes that everyone is not only a priest, but also chosen and empowered by God to lead others into a deeper walk with Him.

Being priests does not mean we can go the walk alone. We follow those who went before, and lead those coming behind. Others led us so that we could lead. This kind of leadership development does not occur in a culture of clergification. Because of that, many churches throughout the world are addressing the challenges it presents.

Discipleship Thrives in Spiritual Small Groups

There are plenty of hurdles impeding the discipleship process. But we don’t want just to point out challenges. Many like to point out the crises and sell books, but they don’t solve problems.

So how do we move forward, if there’s a challenge, even a crisis, of discipleship and community in most churches? How do we move people from the crisis to actually some solutions?

The research behind Transformational Groups, which I wrote with Eric Geiger, demonstrates that small groups are being effective. People will mature spiritually in small groups with personal, godly leadership.

To experience effective group ministry there needs to be a de-clergification of the way you do church. This change will require the empowerment of a new band and breed of leaders throughout the church. Developed leadership differs from centralized leadership, but ultimately one of the keys to effective small-group ministry is going to be the development of leadership. We need to explore what leadership development looks like, and what kind of leaders help produce healthy group life in a church.

Have you experienced the difference between centralized spirituality and leadership development models of discipleship? How would you characterize the kind of disciples they produce? What do you think keeps pastors from developing solid leaders so they can disciple others?

> Read more from Ed.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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John Gilbank — 01/18/17 7:03 pm

Challenging and very good

Grant — 10/13/16 9:49 am

I think you have misunderstood what the author is trying to communicate...

david bartosik — 10/10/15 6:59 pm

Priesthood of all believers....I believe it, but if its not, in your unhelpful words, the "talented leader who explains the Bible" who does? Who is explaining the bible to the priesthood? If its not the pastor, then fire him and hire the other guy.... You may answer, "the priesthood should be reading the bible for themselves"..."the priesthood is able to go directly to God"... TRUE, BUT many, including many clergy, aren't interested in God or if they are feel stupid that they cant read the bible or know how to see and hear from God for themselves thru his word. Where does that leave us? Who helps these people? Thats what discipleship is...clergy leading a deliberate pursuit of a few and helping them see God for themselves in scripture and see it transform their lives...and multiply into the lives of others. But you seem to argument against that..... 1. You hate Centralized Spirituality saying its Unhealthy: The big idea you seem to be driving at was the "de-centralizing" of clergies role while simultaneously asking for a discipleship system to be constructed....who is responsible to construct this system if not the clergy whom the church has entrusted with that role? 2. You dont think that "God planned for one person to disciple an entire church, and He didn’t design us to grow via mass discipleship." So if not one person ( a church that budgets for one pastor) or a staff of vocational pastors (a church that allocates rescues for multiple pastors) who drives this? of course there are other leaders but who is at the center? 3. Seems obvious, but you said Discipleship Thrives in Spiritual Small Groups...yes but how is this small group system managed? There is no way you say, just go do small groups and see what happens right? Study what you want, who cares who leads, who cares who comes, figure it out by yourself...youre a priest good luck! There is a checks and balances system that would be helpful right? There is support, there is direction....Who is the gatekeeper determining the quality of the group and supporting, encouraging and driving its health? all questions that I hope are helpful for the church, the article seems like its trying to give easy answers to an incredibly challenging idea. It seems to be attacking clergy rather than helping them see the enormity of what the people of God and God himself have entrusted to them. Help pastors step into the role of discipler, being supported by the elders, and investing their lives and conversations into helping people see God thru scripture deliberately and consistently...unwavering to any fad or program that may distract us.

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

To Bless Many, Focus on a Few

As a leader, where should the majority of your focus be? Should you be focused on the crowd or on a smaller group of people?

As you read through the gospels, you find Jesus being incredibly intentional with His disciples and intensely focused on their development. Jesus was focused on a few, for the blessing of the many. Because His disciples were transformed and trained, the world was radically impacted. Robert Coleman wrote, “His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men, who the multitudes would follow… The disciples were to be His method of winning the world to God.”

Luke 12 provides us a snapshot of Jesus’ intense focus on His disciples. A massive crowd gathered around Jesus, so much so that people were trampling on one another. And Jesus “began to say to His disciples first” (Luke 12:1). Jesus’ first concern was not the crowd, but His disciples.

Try to get a sense of the scene… Imagine showing up at a major Christian event to hear an incredible communicator, the one everyone longs to hear from. The stadium is sold-out. Christians are honking at one another in the massive parking lot and cutting in front of one another in line, vying for the best seats. You finally sit down with your Diet Coke and chicken sandwich, ready to hear from an incredible teacher. To your surprise, the teacher invites a small group on the stage and speaks to them while you are sitting in the crowd. You think, “Is this some type of illustration?” But the teacher continues. Finally someone asks a question. The famous speaker briefly answers but then turns back to the small group and continues addressing them directly. It could seem a bit odd, a bit dismissive of the crowd. This is how Luke 12 reads…

Jesus was teaching His disciples in the midst of a huge crowd, a crowd who has been waiting for this moment. After someone asked questions about dividing an inheritance, Jesus answered him with a parable and then again spoke directly to His disciples about not worrying, trusting God, seeking Him first, and being prepared (Luke 12:13-40). As you read the narrative, you get the sense that perhaps Peter feels badly for the crowd. He even asks Jesus, “Lord are you telling this parable to us or to everyone?” In other words, “Jesus there are a whole bunch of people here. Watching and listening to you right now. Are you thinking this is for them too?” Jesus didn’t answer Peter. He kept speaking to His disciples about faithfulness and suffering (Luke 12:41-53).

One would expect the well-sought out Teacher to speak to the masses and allow the smaller group to overhear. But Jesus spoke to the disciples and allowed the crowd to overhear, not the other way around. Jesus’ focus was precisely opposite of what we might expect.

Why did Jesus focus so passionately on His disciples? He knew His time with them was short, and they were the focus of His urgency. In John 17, in His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane for His disciples, Jesus prayed:

I have revealed Your name to the men You gave Me from the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they know that all things You have given to Me are from You, because the words that You gave Me, I have given them. They have received them … (John 17:6-8)

Jesus left His role as disciple-maker knowing “the words that you gave me, I have given them.” A time is approaching when you will vacate your role. Wise leaders envision their last day and work backwards. To make the biggest impact, the few need your focus. To bless many, focus on a few.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

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What’s Your Disciple Making Plan for 2014?

Making Disciples Is Hard

Making disciples is the call of every believer in Jesus Christ. Yet, I dare say for most of us, it has been permitted to accept a version of Christianity both personally and corporately where disciple making is virtually non-existent. Disciple making Christians should not be considered the “hard core” version of Christians or the “elite forces” of the church militant. The fact that such attributions exist reveal how non-normative disciple-making has become.

For many of us, it could be that we are simply not well taught or well trained in the words and ways of Jesus. No doubt, that is an issue. But for all of us, disciple-making is just plain hard. It’s hard because we have years of non-disciple making habits in us like inertia that need to be moved by Christ’s call of living on mission. It’s hard because we have rarely seen it modeled well before us and therefore disciple making is turned into a program or function rather than a way of life. It’s hard because we have to evaluate our lives in light of the mission and make disciple making a priority, and that can be a very painful and challenging process.

That is why I believe you and I need to have a disciple-making plan for our lives. Yes we need to pray. Yes we need to study and learn. But we also need a personal plan and process that we embrace in order to orient our lives around making, maturing, mobilizing, and multiplying disciples of Jesus Christ. It simply cannot be tangential or accidental or on the periphery of your life. It cannot be relegated to a small compartment of your life or canned program. To make disciples, you need to be “all in.”

Putting Together a Plan

Before we can begin to put together a plan, there are questions we must set before us throughout the process, questions like:

  • What needs to change in my daily/weekly priorities?
  • What needs to change in my thinking/perspective?
  • What needs to change in my lifestyle/rhythms of life?
  • What do I need to say no to in order to say yes to making disciples?

In putting together a plan, the easiest way to begin is by asking and answering the who-what-when-where–so what questions…

>> WHO – who are the people you are personally going to invest your life in? How many relationships do you have in your life that have disciple making built into them? How many non-Christians do you know and are building a relationship with?

>> WHAT – what will be your objectives or goals? What are you seeking to impart to others? What will it take to see someone develop into a disciple-making disciple?

>> WHEN – when will you find time to make disciples? What kind of margin to you have in your time management efforts? When will you schedule time to meet regularly with the people you are investing in?

>> WHERE – where will you make disciples? In your neighborhood (first place)? In your school or workplace (second place)? In the rhythms of community life and culture centers (third places)?

>> HOW – how are you going to work this out on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis? What is your strategy for making disciples? Maturing disciples? How are you being trained to do this? How are you going to train others through your life, example, influence, and instruction?

>> SO WHAT – so what if I don’t make disciples? What kind of accountability and encouragement do I have in this process? What kind of measurements of progress and growth? What kind of accessibility do others have to my life to help me keep my motivations and attitudes Christ-centered and kingdom-focused?

These are the kinds of questions we must be asking ourselves if we are going to take serious the call to disciple making. If you are thinking about putting a plan together, please do let me know. I’m working on mine now and hope to share it soon. As I’ve said earlier, it is tempting to shoot for targets that are much easier to hit, but it does not matter if the targets are nowhere near the heart of God. Making disciples has great kingdom consequence! Let’s stumble forward together in the hard, messy, and glorious work of making disciples of Jesus!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Timmy Brister

In the “real world,” I am the founder and president of Gospel Systems, Inc, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on creating and sustaining delivery systems for the advancement of the gospel around the world. In 2010, I started a delivery system called PLNTD – a network for church planting and revitalization focusing on resourcing, relational community, residencies in local churches, and regional networks. In 2012, I started an international delivery system call The Haiti Collective which focuses on equipping indigenous churches through church partnerships in order to care for orphans, make disciples, train leaders, and plant churches in Haiti. In addition to serving as the executive director of these organizations, I have served for 12 years in pastoral ministry with churches in Alabama, Kentucky, and Florida. My passion is to see healthy, growing churches take ownership of the Great Commission to the end that disciples are making disciples, leaders are developed and deployed, and churches are planting churches here and around the world. This is the driving passion of my life and prayer that God would be so glorified in making His name great in our generation.

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Seven Disciplemaking Imperatives in Your Church

Churches across the globe have begun to realize the importance of the biblical mandate (Matt. 28:19–20) for disciple-making, and are imagining the transformation of lives and the culture where their church exists. Church leaders like you are dreaming of a congregation and community saturated with mature followers of Christ willing to do whatever it takes to further God’s Kingdom.

As you contemplate that dream, consider these 7 imperatives to disciple-making.

1. Whether your church is a church WITH small groups or OF small groups, if your church is making disciples who make disciples you are accomplishing the Great Commission.

2. Curriculum is not the key to making disciples, however choosing the right curriculum at the right time is important. Disciples are made as the Holy Spirit works in tandem with a human disciple-maker to move a disciple to be more like Christ. Curriculum is simply an important tool in the disciple-making process.

3. It is vital that the pastor and all staff members of any disciple-making church be the leader of a disciple-making group of or is involved in a disciple-making group. If any of these key leaders choose not to be part of the disciple-making ministry, others will find no need to be involved themselves.

4. The most important promoter of the disciple-making ministry must be the senior pastor.

5. Pray that God would lead you to the right people to be your first disciple-makers. Jesus prayed prior to choosing His, it is vital that we do the same.

6. It is vital that the group’s first studies teach the disciple basic spiritual disciplines, doctrines, and practices of a disciple in relation to the church they are members of. While felt-need studies and sermon based discussions have a place in the church, a disciple without a firm foundation to stand on will easily become self-focused and begin to serve themselves rather than focusing on the cross and Jesus’ Kingdom agenda.

7. Utilizing a “reproducible process” is the key to long-term success. It has been proven that disciples who make disciples are much more likely to do so if they utilize the same principles and practices as well as the same curriculum as those who discipled them. It is for this reason that I recommend training every group leader using the Real Life Discipleship Training Manual and that each group do the three studies, Growing Strong in God’s FamilyDeepening Your Roots in God’s FamilyBearing Fruit in God’s Family, as their foundational and first studies.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Barry Sneed

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Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Power of the Preposition: Are You a Church OF or a Church WITH Disciplemaking?

Is your church a church OF disciple-making or a church WITH disciple-making?

The question is not meant to offend or criticize, but rather to clarify. The question has been generated from numerous conversations with pastors and discipleship leaders on a daily and weekly basis.  From experience, I know that these conversations are generated from “pain points” of these leaders.  This blog post and the next several to follow will be centered on this subject or question.

I’ve borrowed a quote from a good friend of mine that begs consideration.  “When the pain of staying the same is the greater than the pain of change, we will consider change!”  One of the issues I hear from pastors on a consistent basis is dealing with spiritual immaturity in the church.  This begs the question, is the church today doing a better job of teaching people how to be good members or disciples?

The term “disciple” simply means, “learner.” A disciple is some one who learns principles from someone else, sees those principles lived out by the discipler’s practices.  Those principles and practices are then passed on to others.  If a church is to be a disciple-making church, making disciples that make disciples, she must first embrace the following ideas.

1.     Disciple-making is relational – “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.  If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  This is my command: Love each other.  (John 15:9-16)

Disciples are made as a disciple-maker befriends and mentors a disciple.

2.     Disciple-making is a stage-by-stage process – “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.  You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)

Notice I said stage-by-stage, not stage-to-stage.  The process is cyclical not linear.  Disciples experience the following stages of spiritual growth; spiritually dead, spiritual infant, spiritual child, spiritual young adult, and spiritual parent.  (Note: these stages of spiritual maturation are outlined in Real Life Discipleship)

3.     Disciple-making is generational – “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2)

Disciples are made, as one person who has been or is being discipled is discipling others.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Barry Sneed

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.