Today’s post is from my good friend Robby Gallaty. Robby is the senior pastor at Long Hollow Baptist Church. Every time we get together I walk away motivated and challenged about our mission of making disciples.
The first act of obedience for a Christian after baptism is to make disciples. I believe the purpose for the local church is the same. Joey Bonifacio, author of The Lego Principle, described to a group of pastors the reason we aren’t making disciples. He started his message by saying, “I’m going to say a brand name or a popular trademark. I want you to answer, with only one word, the business the company represents. Are you ready?”
Up to this point, everyone responded without hesitation. But the final trademark stumped the audience of pastors: “What about the Church?”
The room was silent. Minds were whirling, “Hmm, what is the ‘business’ of the church? What is the church’s ‘one word’?” There are many potential answers, but I would say it is discipleship.
One of the greatest setbacks of modern Christianity is that we have relegated ourselves out of the role of making disciples and depended on a handful of “full-time” ministers to do the job Jesus gave to us. We will never carry out the Great Commission if only full-time vocational ministers are making disciples.
Why Aren’t We Making Disciples?
I’ve spoken to thousands of people on the subject of discipleship through the years. I’ve led conferences that address the topic in diverse church contexts both in the U.S. and around the world. No matter where I go or whom I ask “Why aren’t we making disciples?” I get the same two answers: inexperience and uncertainty.
Many would say, “I haven’t been discipled, so I can’t lead others in discipleship.” When you don’t know what to do, you don’t do anything at all. Ignorance of what to teach and how to lead has paralyzed believers for centuries. I believe our people know more than they think they know. If you are further along the journey than someone else, you can at least lead him or her to where you are. I believe our people would engage in discipleship if someone taught them how to do it.
Even if you’ve been discipled in the past, you may feel uncertain about the process. It could also be that they don’t understand the benefits of discipleship. I think of the gym as an example of the spiritual discipline of disciple making. A person who has never worked out for an extended period of time will never fully realize the benefits of training; it’s only when they purchase a gym membership, wake up early, and begin training that they are sold on the benefits of working out. If I go a week without working out, I can tell a difference in my life—but I have worked out nearly every week for 25 years.
How can we overcome these issues?
Believers need an environment that lends itself to accountability and transparency. Jesus restricted nine-tenths of His ministry to discipling twelve men who would in turn disciple others. He was even more intentional with three of the twelve. To make disciples in our churches, we must foster these kinds of environments and model Christ’s intentionality.
We can help our people overcome uncertainty and ignorance about discipleship by walking alongside them, coaching them, and clarifying for them the process of preparing and leading discipleship groups. Regardless of the context of your church, small or large, rural or urban, traditional or contemporary, discipleship works because the very people in your context are the ones making disciples. We don’t have to lean on a process or strategy that is limited by resources, scale, or environment.
I believe most people would lead a group if someone taught them how to do it. As leaders in the church, it is our role to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. I believe that no greater equipping can happen beyond discipling those we lead and unleashing them to disciple others.
The gospel came to you because it was heading to someone else.
God never intended salvation to be an end but a beginning. God saves us to be a conduit through whom His glorious, life-changing good news would flow to others. Every Christian is a link in the chain of 2 Timothy 2:2, which says, “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
The practice of being a disciple and making disciples is how we can equip our churches to join Christ on mission, and this is how we can make Christ’s final words our first work.
Most pastors and church staff understand the need for and importance of disciple making, but many don’t know where to start. As I said before, When people don’t know what to do, they don’t do anything at all. We created the Discipleship Blueprint to address those issues and more. If you are interested in developing a contextual, reproducible, and comprehensive disciple-making strategy for your church context, visit discipleshipblueprint.com for more information. Scholarships are available for those who apply.
Robby Gallaty, Ph.D. is the Senior Pastor at Long Hollow Baptist Church as well as the President of Replicate Ministries (www.replicate.org). He is the author of Growing Up, Firmly Planted, Foundations, and Rediscovering Discipleship. Robby, along with the Replicate team, leads the Discipleship Blueprint, which equips church leaders with a reproducible, scalable plan to make disciples in the local church.