Developing a Discipleship Approach in Your Church

  • 10 July 2017
  • Randy Wollf

Discipleship blueprintI often hear this question from church leaders: "How do we develop a discipleship strategy in our churches?" Here’s my attempt to answer that question.

First, let’s consider what discipleship is.

Discipleship is both relational and transformational. A disciple of Jesus is in a growing relationship with Jesus. Transformation occurs as the Holy Spirit renovates people’s hearts; godly character qualities grow (see Five Strategies for Growing Your Character blog); thoughts and actions become more God-honouring.

According to Dallas Willard, "Discipleship is the process of becoming who Jesus would be if he were you." This requires a close relationship (see John 15) that produces Christ-like fruit. 

Next, let's understand what disciple-making means. 

Disciple-making is helping people take next steps in their relationship with Jesus and obedience to Him.

In Real-life Discipleship, Jim Putnam suggests there are five spiritual stages: dead, infant, child, young adult, and parent. It is helpful to identify the stage in which someone is located so that we can come alongside them and help them move toward the next stage.

As we help people become more spiritually mature, it is helpful to think about doing so in six ways (these align with the Dimensions of Christian Leadership). We want to help people grow in their relationship with God, develop godly character qualities, understand and live out God's calling on their lives, develop strong relationships, learn how to serve well on a team, and maximize their gifts and abilities in living out their calling.

How then do churches position themselves for maximum discipleship?

In Developing a Strategic Pathway for Discipleship in Your Church, I suggest there are five layers of discipleship within the church: church culture, large group, small group, one-on-one, and individual. As we strengthen each layer, we will position our churches for more effective disciple-making. 

An Outsider’s View to Door-to-Door Evangelism

  • 16 May 2017
  • Keith Reed

Locked doorThe Mormons came back.

They knocked on my front door on a Monday evening at the typical time: shortly after our dinner table had been cleared and just before our kids’ bedtime.*

I had not met the two young men who stood on my porch, but I quickly learned one was from Sacramento and the other from Salt Lake City. One introduced himself with the title of Elder, the other with only his first name. While they talked, my daughter gripped my hand and pirouetted from time to time. This wasn’t new to her either.  

Visitors from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have made it a habit to stop by our home. A few years ago, my wife and I invited a small group of missionaries into our home to discuss their faith in greater depth. This led to a series of meetings over several months and gave me the chance to participate in an Alpha course with a couple from the local LDS ward. The missionaries from that first meeting have returned to their respective hometowns, but the cycle of visitations is now continuing. New faces, new introductions, but very similar interactions.  

After I bid them farewell, I collected my thoughts and reflected on how it felt to be an “outsider”the person perceived to need the faith being presented. Many times, Christians try to think with this mentality so they can communicate the gospel message more effectively. But thinking from a certain perspective is much different than experiencing it firsthand.

Here’s what I learned from my latest interaction:

They came with a purpose

Pranks aside, people don’t knock on doors without a reason. Salespeople want me to change my gas or internet provider, my neighbour asks me for a favour, my friend arrives and doesn’t want to barge in. There’s always a reason for knocking.

Preaching Step 3: Build a Map

  • 15 December 2016
  • Keith Reed

Road mapMy grandpa used to say that a driver’s job is getting passengers to their destination as comfortably as possible (quite obviously, he was not a taxi driver). There’s a big difference between riding with someone who knows where they’re going versus someone who’s driving like a tourist. The first scenario is a pleasant riding experience, but the second will likely have your body cascading throughout the vehicle as your driver makes abrupt stops and turns.

Andy Stanley compares communication with truck driving to illustrate the difference between a preacher who uses an outline and a preacher who uses a road map.* Outlines are used to help speakers organize their thoughts, but each thought is a different idea related to the same topic. The “three points and an application” approach to preaching relies heavily on an outline. Stanley offers this outline as an example: “God wants a man to (1) love his wife (2) lead his wife (3) learn from his wife… but never ever… (4) leave his wife.” Each point is related to the topic, but unrelated to each other. The problem with this approach is that listeners don’t know what’s coming next and they may not understand how one statement is connected to another.

A road map is different—it leads a preacher from their starting point to one clear destination. This method provides a speaker with a simple way to introduce, support, and apply their teaching point to their listeners. Essentially, the map provides speakers with the best route to their endpoint. Here’s how it works:

ME (orientation)begin with a dilemma or problem that you are facing. 
Key question: What am I talking about? (Remember to focus on one topic that will lead to one point.)

WE (identification) - develop common ground with your audience around the same or similar dilemma.
Key question: How does this dilemma relate to each person who will be listening?

GOD (illumination) - respond to the dilemma by transitioning to the Biblical text and uncovering your main point (read about how to develop a main paint here).
Key questions: How does this text relate to the dilemma? How does the main point of this passage provide a helpful alternative?

YOU (application) - challenge your audience to act on what they’ve just heard.
Key question: what action do I want my audience to take?