Disciplemaking

Following the attractional/evangelical/missional discussion the best that I can in the midst of a busy December schedule, the thing that stands out to me is the emphasis on disciplemaking. You can read my earlier thoughts about this in the post Disciples or Converts. Today I want to share a few related quotes.

From Alan Hirsch at Out of Ur:

Genuine fruitfulness, surely, cannot simply be measured by numbers but by ‘making disciples.’ How does one measure that? By all accounts, current churches are made up largely of admirers of Jesus but few genuine disciples/followers—this is not a biblical idea of fruitfulness!

This quote from a video of Ed Stetzer (ht Blind Beggar):

“We need to help people rediscover the nature of the christian life, that they are disciples sent on mission.

One of the greatest sins in our churches is that we have made it okay to sit and do nothing and call yourself a Christ-follower.”

The fruit of disciplemaking is measured in stories, not rosters or ledgers – stories of encounter, stories of missional engagement, stories of transformation, stories of deliverance, stories of justice, stories of reconciliation. As the gospel results in salvation and the expansion of God’s kingdom on earth, people have not only a single testimony of being born again, but many testimonies of the impact of the Spirit in their life and the lives of others.

This from Nate Woodward in a comment to this post at Out of Ur:

Clarifying the term missional can only happen if we reduce the jargon, not increase it. This is a plea for incarnational explanations: instead of making semantic distinctions, it would be much more helpful to me to enflesh these distinctions with stories of what it looks like to be missional.

And Brother Maynard throws out this teaser:

As well, it has been noted correctly that there is some degree of difficulty in gathering missional stories and accounts, and I can say that something toward this end took a big positive step forward today.

Perhaps we can rediscover the meaning of testimony as we encourage one another with missional stories of hope.

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22 thoughts on “Disciplemaking

  1. Great insights here! I love your paragraph about fruit being measured in stories – ongoing stories.

    That’s a great blog idea right there. A place where missional folks could share their stories in one place. (It’s nice to read them separately on individual blogs, but it would just be kind of cool to have a missional community forum like that. Maybe there already is one?)

  2. The church is adding disciples …

    I don’t remember where I got it from, but I recently read a survey statistic that revealed that in traditional denominational churches it takes 86 people one year to add one NEW disciple. That is an ‘additional’ model.

    The missional church is looking to transition to the ‘multiplicational’ model. That is what healthy organisms do – they multiply.

    If this statistic is true, then if I, as an individual, kept pace with the traditional denominational church, I would have realized one new disciple after following the Lord for 86 years (should I live that long). I think that’s kind of a sobering indictment of the disciple-making activity we were called to be involved in.

  3. Some random thoughts:

    We were so pounded on “discipleship” at CLB – that I sort of cringe at the word. I really searched the scriptures over the years – and the word “disciple” doesn’t appear after the book of Acts – it’s not in anyone’s letters. Why is that? Why didn’t Paul, Peter, John, or James use the word?

    Also – there are some “…ships” in the Scriptures – but disciple-SHIP isn’t one of those words. (not accusing you Grace of using that word – you didn’t) .

    I realize that Jesus said Go into all the world and make disciples. And yes “go” is not “come” or “stay”.

    I also have always been quite convicted by

    Acts 20:30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.

    John the Baptist had disciples – and Jesus had disciples – but no one ever said “Paul’s disciples”. No scripture calls Timothy “Paul’s disciple”.

    So making disciples has to be something much different than our Western educational church system (that never graduates anyone) has taught us. Something so natural that Paul didn’t have to talk about it. Something so ingrained in who he was – that it wasn’t something he ever did.

    The focus can get so off of Jesus and so onto me and my performance – that’s what discipleship became to us. How well are you performing for Christ? …. but it can’t be that….

  4. Jerry:

    Some of your thoughts piggyback on those I made in the earlier Disciples or Converts topic/discussion.

    I think the shift in focus from disciple to convert is understandable. After all, making converts is something others can do for me. It is a way to justify my unspoken quota-of-sorts. Makes me a ‘soul winner’. Do what I can to elicit a ‘decision for Jesus’ & it puts another notch on the belt wrapped around my heavenly gown-to-be…

    Ah yes…God is really pleased with me. I have added another child to the holy family…

    Discipling a much more hands-on, messy, involved, get-to-know-the-person process. Converts can be measured by a single sinner’s prayer. Heck, converts have been bribed. Forced at sword point to convert. You can make it a simple process since the concept is the receiving of an instantaneous new birth securing an irrevocable free gift of eternal life. What could be easier than that?

    How did the development of systematic theology ever reduce the essence of the gospel to a 4-Spiritual Laws booklet & a short, succinct sinner’s prayer recitation? This prime directive approach then places discipleship as a secondary subset of what is mistakenly perceived as the Great Commission. Making a disciple a mere religious after-thought since the grand eternal hurdle securing the heavenly abode settled! Whew! The important matter settled now. And of course it can be settled without any emotional response. Or even intellectual review. Remember how it was couched? Simply repeat after me & voila, an instant saved, born again saint ready for heaven Sir! Got that free ticket on the up elevator stamped should you step off the curb right after this & get run over by a truck…

    Yup. Lots of converts Lord. Few if any disciples… :(

  5. Jerry and Joseph ( Sounds a bit Christmassy doesn’t it) I couldn’t agree more – maybe you are my long lost American (?) brothers!!Systematic theology is great fun when your brain has nothing better to do but it doesn’t bring anyone closer to God as He is already there closer than our breath.I love Paul quoting a Greek pagan poet to tell the Athenians ‘in Him we live and move and have our being’ – this has to be one of the most mystical verses in Scripture.I have never heard a sermon on it especially not in Reformed or even hyper Charismatic circles.I wonder why?
    Gerhard Tersteegen the German mystic of the 18th century says this ‘In these days,all theology,mysticism included,has been thoroughly studied by the mind;but the heart lags far behind.The grace of God will not let us have any peace in appearances or a divided soul.Let us follow the guiding of our star in a childlike spirit however deep inwards or downwards it may lead us;for,we do already realise from afar that peace of mind and larger vision increase as we follow this gently attracting drawing power and satisfy the demands of this inner guide…’
    Wisdom I think for all of us in the West!

    Have a great Christmas all you post charismatic bloggers!!

  6. I believe the simplist definition for ‘disciple’ would be ‘follower’. If I ‘follow Jesus’, it means I follow His teaching, His example, and after His passions. I cannot push anyone to follow Jesus – not even through authoritative rhetoric. BUT … I can lead someone to follow Christ, through developing relationships, through taking them with me as I follow Christ’s example, by being patient and by loving them unconditionally. Disciple-making is a very messy and unpredictable process (just ask Jesus the next time you talk to Him). But, He did call us to make disciples … you cannot take a selective scissors and cut out Matthew 28:19 just because you cannot find the same wording in other gospels or the epistles.

    Luke wrote, “… and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). Luke is the only one who uses this particular concept of ‘being’ a witness for Jesus. Does that marginalize our call to be His witnesses?

    If we are not to make disciples, or not to be His witnesses, just what repeated phrase throughout the gospels and epistles are we to be pursuing in light of Kingdom expansion?

  7. ken:

    I like this poetic picture Paul painted (how about all those “p” words :) )

    You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2Cor 3:2-3

    And Paul continues at the end of the same chapter:

    But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. vs. 16-18

    I like the idea of being an epistle or a reflection. Something that rightly represents the One we wish others to be attracted to. Or aroma/odor. I like those analogies Paul uses…

    Witness is a good qualifier. Ambassador also. These are representative of what we become as we get to know Jesus more.

    What did Jesus mean when He said: “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”?

    How do we codify or interpret or make proper application to the “everything I have commanded you” clause?

    If the Great Commission is to be taken as the prime kingdom directive it has been elevated to, then what command is the greatest? And is this what is being emphasized in the ‘discipleship’ processes of the churches you have personally experienced?

  8. Joseph,

    Typically, the churches I have attended don’t really address the specific term ‘discipleship’. When I was in an evangelical church, the focus was on ‘holiness’. When I was in a Pentacostal church, the focus was on ‘evangelism’ (soul-saving). The body where I am currently fellowshipping is trying to make some transitions to being missional – but traditional/attractional is a deeply ingrained paradigm. It is a frustratingly slow process – but I do see some movement.

    We first attempted to bust the ‘evangelism’ paradigm by inviting Jim Henderson’s Doable Evangelism team to put on a seminar – and then we ran the DE curriculum through all adult ed. classes. It was quite effective as an evangelism 101 class. This past summer I developed a curriculum using ideas mainly from Neil Cole’s Search & Rescue book to introduce as an evangelism 201 class. I am currently teaching it in the adult ed classes and it too is having some effect. The premise of the two-part series is to begin to see evangelism as a holistic relational process and not a goal achieved by marketing and salesmanship. Properly done, evangelism should be as much of a spiritual discipline as reading your Bible and praying. It is a lifestyle that every ordinary believer can practice if we can bust out of the old paradigm.

    If ‘disciple’ and ‘follower’ are indeed synonymous (as I believe they are), then Paul often makes references to disciples he has made or the imperative to become a disciple by following:

    1 Cor. 11:1 – “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.”

    Eph. 5:1 – “Be imitators (followers KJV) of God …”

    Phil 3:17 – “Join with others in following my example”

    1 Thes. 1:6 – “You became imitators (followers KJV) of us and of the Lord”

    Paul had no problem understanding and carrying out the Great Commission. Modern Christendom may have redefined the terms, but that doesn’t mean we should eliminate them. We should strive to bring back the original meaning.

    “Teaching them to obey all I have commanded you.” This one isn’t that difficult. I think John 13:1-17 & 34 sums up best what this means.

    I don’t think we are far apart at all in our views. I guess I am just not willing yet to walk away from the arena of Christendom without trying to be used to transform it into being more organically missional.

  9. It’s interesting that the word used for witness in New Testament actually means to be a martyr – that will empty the evangelism programmes of the Western Church methinks.Some honest translation work by those who speak with ‘authority’ would help us see why the persecuted church worldwide grows while we just swap deckchairs on the Titanic.

    Charlie

  10. Charlie:

    Only if you apply the Western definition of martyr. Look up every term where ‘witness(es)’ is used in the NT (Strong’s # 3144) and you will see the term is used in a much broader sense than we use it in our modern Western vernacular.

  11. I don’t think we are far apart at all in our views. I guess I am just not willing yet to walk away from the arena of Christendom without trying to be used to transform it into being more organically missional.

    No, I don’t think we are far apart at all…

    My own personal application of the ‘make disciples’ directive simply not the primary motivation in my interactions with family, friends, acquaintances, strangers. I am not ‘evangelically’ minded as it has been championed to me by well meaning Christians that do believe it to be the Golden Rule of kingdom expansion.

    I have no program that I follow. No predetermined point in any conversation where I steer it to the, “if you were to die tonite, where do you think you would spend eternity?” consideration. I do not do anything ‘extra’ is what I am getting at.

    At certain points in my journey curious people have asked me questions about my faith & what I understand regarding certain tough topics every saint must field. I do not couch any of my perspectives as equivalent to the Protestant evangelical ‘get saved’ type though. I simply share what I believe if asked & allow for their response if they offer it. No need for me to consider their eternity hangs in the balance or that it depends on my delivery, format, or ability to articulate critical theological concepts. I do not hedge my own doubts or inflate my limited perspectives to be anything more than what they are. No one I know wanted to hear a spiel, but they did want my perspectives. As such, my honest approach the one that is, well, the most honest IMHO. Anything else simply a religious contrivance based on ulterior motives. No need to resort to such charades simply because the Great Commission is crowding out all other aspects of honest interaction.

    I have known a few very, very ‘zealous’ witnesses/evangelists that frankly made me uncomfortable for anyone they accosted while accompanying them out in the real world. Seemed they were convinced the Great Commission gave them carte-blanche permission to assault others in the name of God, salvation & the gospel according to that Grand Commissioning. No doubt they were acting out what had been patterned for them. I think they got warm fuzzies or kudos or atta-boys from someone giving the affirmation that drove such behavior. I am not convinced it was the Holy Spirit though.

    People are not as naïve as we make them out to be. They are bombarded daily by many advertizing messages & sales pitches & product claims all done professionally. Simply sharing theological concepts & peddling the gospel of no greater import in that vast sea of media overload. But really loving them? Well, you don’t get that from any slick magazine ad or corporate motto. People don’t like feeling they are a project, target or statistic though.

    I’m not overly distraught about not rubbing elbows with people outside my comfort zone either. I make no deliberate attempts at being Christian to people that I know will not be part of any continued relational interaction. There are opportunities to show a one-time kindness during serendipitous moments. Like picking up that hitchhiker that I wouldn’t normally do. Or inviting those sweaty Mormon boys in for a cool drink of water & an interesting discussion about what they perceive to be the will of God. I engage other believers on message forums & blogs such as this. Not sure this constitutes ‘making disciples’ as implied in Jesus’ red letter statement, but heck, I am simply being myself.

    Maybe my understanding of the issue not one to be taught in a formal setting but I am not claiming that my approach is to be emulated. Just as I have exited the weekly church format I suppose I have minimized the make disciple aspect of that same church expression. Not even sure how to get back into that saddle anyhow…

  12. Joseph

    Right behind you there – your honesty is refreshing and you sound like a kind of guy that non believers ( not quite sure what that means?) might enjoy knowing.Most evangelical believers give off a superior ‘salesman’ type vibe that frankly turns people off.Has anyone read John Shore’s ‘I’m ok your’e not’ – a devastating critique of Western Evangelical mindset?

    Ken you are correct about the Greek – I looked it up after I posted my comment but there is a kind of martyr thing floating around there somewhere.I have checked it in Aramaic and same there so once again Strong wins out.

  13. I think the one thing I learned about people is – you need to love them. We have done a lot of programs and projects and seminars, but all of that stuff is temporal. Most Charismatics I know live from seminar to seminar ….. there’s a whole ton of knowledge – but there’s not much love. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If you close your eyes and listen to all the talk – you can pretty much hear the clanging in most pulpits. (Not too many people preaching that sermon)

    After the elders (of which I was one in CLB) had divided up the congregation into manageable groups. I had my list of those I was to shepherd and disciple. One in my group came to me quite point blank – “What am I – your new project?”

    People know a phoney when they see one. They know the difference between being someone’s “project” and actually being “loved”.

    Loving someone means – you let them into your heart – and you get into theirs. All of authentic Christianity takes place at that level. Sure it’s scarey and ugly and messy – but Christ comes into all that mess. Jesus wasn’t born in a clean room – but in a stall – not a neat comfy hotel – but in a dung-filled shelter for goats and cows. That’s still where He’s born – in the messed up hearts of sinful people – and that’s great news for you if you’re one of those. (it wasn’t my original intent to get Christmasy)

  14. Most evangelical believers give off a superior ’salesman’ type vibe that frankly turns people off.Has anyone read John Shore’s ‘I’m ok your’e not’ – a devastating critique of Western Evangelical mindset?

    After the elders (of which I was one in CLB) had divided up the congregation into manageable groups. I had my list of those I was to shepherd and disciple. One in my group came to me quite point blank – “What am I – your new project?”

    People know a phoney when they see one. They know the difference between being someone’s “project” and actually being “loved”.

    There is a gentleman in my neighborhood that is a quirky type. Goes about in a sweatshirt with big letters spelling JESUS on it. He walks the neighborhood either reading his bible out loud, or doing the pointing up in the air then pointing down thingy with his arm when you drive by him. My boys always snicker when we see him…

    I’ve had a few conversations with him. Seems a likable fellow, just a bit, well, overzealous in his methodology. He is our local version of Arthur Blessitt…

    Anyway, his antics accompany him while riding his bicycle. He does the arm-up-then-down ‘signal’ to passing cars. Sometimes with bible in hand. Seems unsafe, but heck, souls need a-saving…

    True story: I am driving both boys to their high school one morning & there is this small compact car in the other lane with the passenger’s hand out the window holding, guess what? That’s right. A bible! Flapping away in the slipstream! Here he is on his way to witness to the youth at the high school doing his drive by antics. A policeman happened to spot the traveling salvation show & turned his lights on, pulled him over, & gave him a good talking to. I drove past shaking my head…

    I asked my boys what they thought of such behavior. It did not even get honorable mention on their top one-hundred WWJD list…

  15. Coming back here to comment, Grace…now that I have a moment!

    It is this very dilemma that drove me to really understand NT cHesed (covenant-keeping). Hebrew rabbis/teachers had disciples…so John and Jesus had disciples…we are to make disciples of Jesus, the Teacher, as we are also disciples.

    But trying to understand why the rest of the NT doesn’t use that term is what brought me to another term I have begun using personally: cHacyid. It is the term for the faithful covenant-keepers: saints, the faithful, the church.

    I think there must be much more focus on being the cHacyid of the New Covenant in Jesus…and while one is being faithful, others will begin to follow your behavior. Because discipleship is not something that you can teach with head knowledge to someone…it is something that is apprenticed with someone who is proficient at the doing.

    But cHesed calls us to lives of love and grace and mercy — that will mutually submit to the needs of others, serve the best interest of others, and initiate the good others need in order to succeed. This is what it means to love God and love others–and it doesn’t happen outside relationship.

  16. Maybe we’ve failed to make disciples because we don’t know what a disciple is supposed to look like. We invite our friends to become followers of Jesus under the banner of grace and then inundate them with performance based (as Jerry mentioned) requirements, emotionally manipulative worship, and spiritual disciplines ripped out their historical context. In some ways, they are just a whole lot more spiritually sensitive than we are. Having just found freedom, they resist our efforts to enslave them all over again to base principles of the world. Maybe they need to disciple us and to teach us again about Jesus. Have you ever experienced the freshness of a new believer in a small group. I remember being schooled in vision, prayer, and passion by one newby. That’s the power of God at work.

  17. sarah,
    That would be cool.

    jerry,
    The authoritarian teaching that I was exposed to wasn’t referred to as discipleship, so I don’t have a negative association with the word. I can relate to cringing at words and ideas that have been abused. You make an important distinction that disciples are never ours, but disciples of Christ.

    charlie,
    I hope to discuss more about the messy process of transformation and inner growth of the heart after the holidays.

    ken,
    Yes, the “making” is very much a mentoring, apprentice-style relationship based on being an example rather than an authority.

    Thanks for sharing those examples. “Close-the-deal” styles of evangelism have hindered both the effectiveness of making disciples and the willingness of followers to try.

    joseph,
    I like the idea of an epistle or a reflection in describing being a witness or example in order to make disciples.

    peggy,
    Very well said. The process of our own becoming is vital in order to invite others into their own process of becoming alongside of us.

    jonathan,
    Possibly, there is another level of crucifixion and death to self required in moving from being a believer to being a follower.

    danny,
    True, and really the idea of testimony and story is a very scriptural, new testament way of encouraging one another.

    david,
    Those were the thoughts in my mind when I wrote the Disciples or Converts post. We really must tap into the life of the spirit that is already at work in the heart of a new believer as the source of their transformation and growth rather than converting them to mental learning.

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