Any Southern Baptist that reads their Bible or just hangs out in church knows that the core mission of the church is to make disciples. Making disciples is the primary mission of the Great Commission and the main ingredient of the church.
However, making disciples does not magically happen. Disciple-making must be done intentionally, so the question becomes: does your church have an intentional plan to make disciples? The following are seven important steps:
1. Start with a definition
Before making disciples, the church needs to define a disciple. Many books on the topic often fail to define the word “disciple”; others use definitions that are often cumbersome. Personally, I have found that the Bible provides the best definition of a disciple. A disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:17, Luke 9:23).
2. Intentional disciple-making
Chapters 8, 9 and 10 of Luke’s Gospel show us the intentional disciple-making plan of Jesus. In Luke 8, Jesus teaches, explains and heals while His disciples walk the path with Him and learn. Luke 9 begins with Jesus sending the 12 disciples on their first mission trip to practice what they have learned from Him. Luke 10 records yet another mission expedition, only this time with 70 disciples. What is happening? Jesus had an intentional plan to turn His disciples into… disciple-makers!
Making disciples is intentional, ongoing work.
3. Build a pathway
Next, people need a pathway, not a program. The pathway follows the definition of a disciple. If a disciple is following Jesus, he or she is on a pathway that has Jesus in the lead. Churches need a biblical pathway that challenges people to take the next step in their disciple-making journey of following Christ. The next step is the most important step for a disciple. The church simply helps a disciple identify their next step and encourages them to take it.
4. Read the Book
There are hundreds, probably thousands of books available on the topic of discipleship. But only one book is The Book. An intentional plan to make disciples must begin with biblical engagement. LifeWay Research reveals that only 19 percent of church attenders read their Bible every day. A disciple will have an impossible pathway ahead of them if they are not reading God’s Word. Any church disciple-making pathway must have biblical engagement as a core value.
5. Small-er is better
Jesus had a small group of 12 disciples. But He had a small-er group of three: Peter, James and John. Jesus invested more energy in His small-er group. Disciples are not made on an assembly line. Disciple-making requires time, investment, correction and encouragement. Making disciples happens best through close relationships, so keep groups small.
6. Multiplication is essential
A church’s intentional disciple-making pathway is successful when the disciples multiply. Disciples multiply themselves individually by leading others to Christ; by making disciples personally, and by multiplying their group.
7. Start small
If a church has two disciple-making groups, 10 groups would be even better, right? Not necessarily. Two groups led by people who are disciple-makers themselves is better than 10 groups led by leaders who have never been discipled. When it comes to making disciples, it is better to start small and build than to start big and collapse.
Making disciples is not the mission of any specific church. It is the mission of every church. Any church can develop its own pathway to making disciples. These seven steps can help a church develop a disciple-making pathway that can impact its neighborhood with the Gospel.