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Discipleship is Fundamental
- Discipleship must be a core practice of any church.
- It is not just about people becoming Christians, nor about Christians growing in maturity – it is both.
- A lot of church planters don’t feel very confident when it comes to making disciples and are not very good at it.
- It is important to have a plan for discipleship.
“There’s a reason that so many movements in the Western Church have failed in the past century. They are a car without an engine. The missional church or missional community or missional small group is the new car that everyone is talking about right now. No matter how beautiful or shiny the vehicle, without an engine it won’t go anywhere. So what’s the engine of the church? The engine of the church is discipleship.” (Mike Breen)
Discipleship Facilitates Mission
- If you make disciples, you will always get the church. If you try to build the church you will rarely get disciples.
- If you make disciples, you will always have enough leaders.
- If you have disciples, you will always have people on mission.
- Jesus’s first and last words to his disciples were both about disciple-making (see Mark 1:17 and Matthew 28:18).
- Making disciples must not be seen as an optional extra.
Be a Disciple Yourself
- It is important to pay attention to what God is doing in your life. Life is not a series of unrelated events but a journey that God is shaping and using for his glory (see Psalm 139).
- We are not supposed to be passive supporters in life, but participants who see what God is doing and act accordingly (1 Timothy 4:16).
- As you pay attention, you will see what God is doing in you, where your strengths, weaknesses and strongholds are, and will be in a position for God to mould you into Christ-likeness.
- Our problem isn’t a lack of answers, but a failure to integrate those answers into our lives.
Know Your Story
- You need to know who God is, who you are and what you are called to do.
- Our faith is in a person, not in circumstances.
- What keeps people going for the long haul is knowing God and his character.
- Your spiritual health is directly connected to your emotional health.
- A lot of church planters are afraid of emotions, but they are God-given and good.
- To help people be spiritually mature, we must be able to help them be emotionally mature.
- We often try to help people with the presenting issues (e.g. fear or shame) without going deeper.
- If you don’t know your story, you won’t be able to get to the heart of the matter.
How God Changes People
- Faith and repentance (see Mark 1:15).
- Sowing to the Spirit (see Galatians 6:7-8).
- God’s discipline (see Hebrews 12:10). This often occurs at key transitions. There are moments between a person growing and an opportunity arising where God is at work. These times can be very challenging. God is looking for greater brokenness and for us to surrender our lives to him (see John 12:44).
- Identity in Christ. In Jesus we are people of the Spirit, we are the new people of God, we are in Christ, we under grace not law, we have power over sin, death and the law, we have a new nature and a new name and we are an eschatological people.
- Identifying and replacing idols. This causes you to deal with the root of the sin, not just the fruit of it.
- Understanding the Spiritual disciplines. The key is finding the right discipline for the right moment.
Developing a Discipleship Culture in a Church Plant
- Start with people who are open to change, not just believers.
- Start as soon as possible, don’t wait until you are a certain size.
- Don’t be disappointed if you don’t see the change you want in people straight away.
- Be very intentional in creating the culture of discipleship. This is made up of a vision for discipleship, values of discipleship and the language of discipleship.
- Think of discipleship as happening at lots of different levels or sizes – as individuals, in twos and threes, in small groups (the classic home group model doesn’t actually facilitate much discipleship) and on Sundays.
1. What are the first few steps in helping somebody to follow Jesus?
- Try to help them to grow in relationship with God on their own.
- Help them to grow into sharing life openly and honestly in twos and threes.
- Do something like the Uncover Bible studies with them.
- Run a new Christian course. Try to teach these basic practical principles of how to start life as a Christian (more theological stuff can be covered in a different course).
- In a church plant, it is more likely to happen one-on-one or organically.
- Find a resource that you like rather than spending lots of time creating something from scratch.
2. Are there other contexts outside of church organised groups where discipleship can take place?
- The main place that discipleship happens is life-on-life rather than at a course or church meeting (although those things can be helpful too).
- It is about modelling how to respond to the different things of life to people.
- It is something that is primarily ‘caught’ rather than taught from the front.
3. How does intentional discipleship in twos and threes work in your setting?
- The holy grail of a small group with great discipleship, mission and worship doesn’t actually exist.
- Matt Hatch has his groups focussed on mission and community, and takes the deeper discipleship focus into smaller accountability groups of twos and threes.
- These smaller groups meet regularly to talk about what Jesus is saying and how they are living in the light of it.
- This is all organic and the church doesn’t keep a record of what groups there are.
- The twos and threes tend to be organised through the mission groups or with friends.
- It is not meant to just be a confession time or only focussed on the rubbish stuff. The question is always ‘What is God saying to you?’.
- Leaders are intentional about talking about it from the front a lot.
- Tell stories and train people how to do it well.
4. How do you deal with different people coming into your church from other Christian backgrounds with no understanding of discipleship?
- Try to celebrate people’s lives where transformation is happening.
- Tell stories.
- Show openness and vulnerability in preaching.
- Constantly invest in different people, and as they change they can’t help but talk about it.
- Culture is built through vision, values and language. Try to hit these things all the time.
- People can’t miss the discipleship. There will be some who just don’t want it, others may take timeto get there and many will have been longing for it for a long time.