How do you encourage your staff to make disciples and not just become masters of programming?
That was the question I received from a staff pastor at a very large church. While it was his question, I believe it is the question of many pastors and leaders today. Let’s face it…it is easy to become slaves of programming and programs take time and resources. Even in our best attempt to program in a way that glorifies God and leads others to a deeper relationship with Him, we find ourselves fumbling to grasp the effectiveness of our ministry in terms of disciple making.
Over the past few years, I have prayed, worked, studied, written and tried to come to some understanding of this problem and how we are to make disciples as individuals and in the church. What I have come believe came as a convicting surprise. Whether it is you personally seeking to impact the life of an individual by discipling one or you are the pastor of a mega church, the way to disciple is the same. The only difference is how you use the relational structures around you to engage in discipleship.
For the individual it is a little easier. Someone desires to follow Jesus; you develop relationship and then engage in helping that person understands what it means to follow Him. You walk with that person through a period of life while you invest and point that one to Jesus.
But, what about the pastor who has a staff and church to lead? How do you build a culture of discipleship that can radically change you as a pastor, your staff, your church, and ultimately your world? Good news… coming up with the plan is easy! But, the execution is impossible in your own power.
The first thing you need to understand is that the transformative work of discipleship happens under the direction and power of the Holy Spirit. All we do is yield in obedience to the command of God and join Him in his work. All to often, I see people try to engage in discipleship in their own strength. If the work of discipleship is in your own strength and wisdom, then you have failed before you begin. I have been guilty of this at times and it can be dangerous and bring dissolution.
With that being said, God’s plan is to use us as believers to encourage and impact others by His power and through His Word. When I approach discipleship the burden of change is given in faith to God through the Work of the Holy Spirit and His work is awesome and life changing. So yield to the Lord in prayer and seek Him on behalf of yourself and those whom you disciple.
The first pastor I served under used to say, “If you aim for nothing you will hit it every time.” In order to disciple others there must be intentionality to your life. First, It must begin with you personally. How can you make disciples if you are not one and if you say your are one, then what kind of discple are you? That is the reason I wrote the book Go Disciple. Before you go make disciples make sure you are pointed in the right direction spiritually. Then you can say to others “follow me as I follow Christ.” Then take a book of the Bible or a book like Go Disciple and walk through it with that person as you walked through it yourself. Many of us will not engage in discipleship because we feel we are not worthy or not prepared. Either or both may be true, but that is no excuse. Get right with God and get prepared. A world of unbelievable blessing is waiting for you when you engage in discipleship.
Secondly, be intentional with people and with time. When you decide to disciple someone and you step out in faith, keep it simple and trust the Lord. Use a book or go through a particular book of the Bible and then get together and talk with person. Set a finite time for your first round with the person. Have hard start and a hard stop for that first time. It will give you a chance to evaluate and it will protect you from dependency issues that might arise. I have particularly seen this with women who are involved in discipleship. Be intentional.
Keep The End in Mind
Biblical discipleship must always leave others with a deep sense of call and responsibility to carry on the work of making disciples. When you meet with someone, have the end in mind. You are walking, showing, and teaching that person in a way that underscores that their spiritual growth is for them and for others. So much of our church programming is for teaching and knowledge, but how much is for transformation. All teaching of the church should be to grow and grow to give. To come to a deeper understanding of the inexplicable majesty of God and not just to know about Him, but also to experience Him in the deepest communion is the soul cry of the humanity. Without this we are simply lost in religion. Go and make disciples is the call.
With those basics in mind, let us turn to the pastor or any leader (student, business leader, etc.) who feels the weight of the responsibility to make disciples.
- Spend a considerable amount of time in prayer and set aside time for personal growth. The greatest personal growth you will ever have is through being in the Word of God as you yield to the work of the Spirit. Spend time with an open heart before God and allow Him to give you a vision for discipleship and what it might look like in your life.
- Begin with key leaders. A warning is needed here. Discipleship can never be under compulsion. Jesus said, “If any man desires to come after me…”. There has to be the desire to grow. If those around you see the deepening and growth in your life they will be very likely to listen and respond. Pray for them.
- Take those key leaders and begin to pour into them. I have used this for the past few years. CLICK HERE It combines some self-denial in conjunction with the Go Disciple program.
- The point is to walk with people and pour into them. It will show your staff you care about them as a person. It will open lines of communication. It will build trust.
- Sad to say this…there is a really good possibility that you will not have 100% buy-in. Don’t let it get you down. Take what God gives you and move on.
- Disciple in a way that teaches and empowers those leaders to move on and disciple the next layer of leaders with the goal of those going on to disciple others.
- It will take time to get to this point and it may seem slow at first.
- I remember the first group I decided to disciple. It was slow, difficult and we had to deal with a lot of issues. Now those people are in Central Asia, Poland, Canada, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, and New Jersey. I am amazed by what God has done. Whoa! And that was the first group five years ago! Add to that the consistency of discipleship for the past five years and it’s hard to imagine the impact that could take place when disciples continue to make disciples.
- Have time for gender-based groups. My wife has been crucial when it comes to discipleship. I teach them all together and then at some other point in the week we break up into gender-based groups with no more than 4 people in a group. There are things we need to walk through together as men and women need women to decompress with as well. The goal is still the same. Pour into those who desire to grow and lead them in a way that leads them to do the same with others.
- The leader disciples those whom he leads. Those leaders in turn go and disciple those they are leading and so on until a large part of the church or organization begins to sense the clear call of God to go and make disciples. If you get a congregation empowered by the Spirit, who embraces the call, and has some accessible tools…watch out.
I have taken the staff under me and sought to pour into their lives in a way that helps them grow and understand their own responsibility in life. All I can say is that we are all now growing in our desire to disciple and lead others to disciple as well. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me personally or if I can help you in any way, do not hesitate to Email Me Here chad