When You Need a Discipleship Strategy But Don’t Know Where to Begin

Below is a new weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 


How do churches make disciples?

It is perhaps the central question churches face, and only some of them actually have a well-defined answer. As Mike Breen says, “The problem is that most of us have been educated and trained to build, serve, and lead the organization of the church. Most of us have actually never been trained to make disciples.”

Do we now define disciple as someone who attends worship somewhat regularly, gives to us financially, and engages in acts of evangelism and kindness every once in a while?

Solution: Lead people to know God, not just know about God.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Building a Discipling Culture, Mike Breen

Building a Discipling Culture is the product of more than twenty-five years of hands-on discipleship practice in a post-Christian context that has turned into a world-wide movement, dealing specifically with making the types of missional disciples Jesus spoke of.

We all want to make disciples – most of us are just unsure how to do it.

Jesus did not command us to build the church; He called us to make disciples. Building a Discipling Culture shows that effective discipleship creates the church, not the other way around.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The truth is that many churches equate discipleship with knowledge. Churches who view discipleship as simply information to be transferred want to cram as much biblical knowledge into as many people as quickly as they can.

The command of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20 is to “Go…and make disciples…teaching them to observe everything I have commanded.” The end goal of discipleship is not merely knowing all Jesus commanded, but obeying all Jesus commanded.

And that is a big difference.

The truth of Scripture is meant to be worked out in us, not something that we hold as an abstract reality.

Why are we assuming that simply by giving people information (e.g. pray, read the Bible, read doctrinal statements, be a part of a small group) they actually know how to do it or can figure it out by themselves? I can read a book on how to perform open heart surgery. If you go into cardiac arrest, do you want me to operate on you?

We have become so acculturated in our Cartesian, Western world that we believe knowing about something and knowing something are the same thing. What we have managed to do is teach people about God. Teach them about prayer. Teach them about mission. The point isn’t that they would just know about it but to know it.

Discipleship isn’t a random assortment of facts and propositions and behaviors, discipleship is something that is you to the core and is completely incarnated in you. If it is information, it is information that has worked its way into you and is now part of you, in the same way that John talks about the logos being wrapped up in the person of Jesus: “The Word became flesh.” It goes from being information to being knowledge.

Mike Breen, Building a Discipling Culture

A NEXT STEP

The discipling relationship you must have with God is a real and personal one. The Scriptures contain many examples where individuals and groups had a real, personal, and practical relationship with God. They knew God, not just about Him. What was true in the Old and New Testaments remains true today.

  • Briefly describe an experience in your life when God was real and personal in His relationship with you.
  • As you recall that experience, what key words or phrases stand out to you that demonstrate your knowledge of God, not just a knowledge about God?
  • What challenges do you face in growing a real and personal relationship with God?
  • What intentional actions must you begin in order to sustain a real and personal relationship with God?

To learn more about developing your discipleship strategy, start a conversation with the Auxano team today.

Taken from SUMS Remix 10-2, published March 2015


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Understand the Tipping Point of a New Reformation: When Ordinary People Are Equipped to Do Extraordinary Things

If you could have a big tree with only a little fruit or a small tree with lots of fruit, which would you choose? It’s about a choice, right?

But we’ll get back to that in a second.

I’ve noticed there seem to be two things I can do with Jesus. Either I can increasingly look like Jesus, or I can make him look like me.

I can look like Jesus or I can try to make him look like me.

The funny thing about Jesus is that I’m never sure we give him quite enough credit. Sure. He came to earth, left the throne of heaven, took on the nature of a servant and died on the cross in our place, rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father. Yes. All that happened.

But we really don’t give his three years of ministry much reference.

Here’s what I mean: We think Jesus was the Son of God, but when we read the Gospels, do you think he was the smartest person who ever lived? Most accomplished? Best fisherman? Best evangelist? Best church planter? Best movement leader? Best discipler? Most successful leader?

For instance, in Luke 9 and again in Luke 10, Jesus gave the most detailed strategy you will ever find in the scriptures for how to evangelize, and then we see the exact same strategy used in the early church. Shouldn’t we be using that same strategy? I’m guessing we’re not arrogant enough to think we’ve come up with a better strategy than Jesus. (Example: for most churches, the evangelism strategy is “invite your friends to church and then let the professionals take over. We’ll do the heavy lifting if you get them here.” Not exactly Jesus’ strategy!)

We acknowledge what Jesus did on the cross, but what about what was started before the cross? What about the movement he began that changed the course of human history when it was released and catalyzed after the Resurrection and Pentecost? If being a disciple is “who Jesus would be if he were me” (Dallas Willard), shouldn’t we be learning the patterns and practices of the best whom ever lived if we too want to change the world for the Kingdom?

Yet often when we look at the Western church, I’m not sure we see many of the practices of Jesus among the way we lead. Though…that’s starting to change!

Back to the original question: Big tree/little fruit or little tree/lots of fruit?

It feels that at some point, we might have lost our way. Perhaps we became more concerned with success than fruitfulness. Jesus says we evaluate things in the Kingdom on their fruitfulness…but somewhere along the way it became about the size of your tree. Now having a big tree is a fine thing. Just know you’re only successful in evaluating yourself against the size of other trees, and God has never been terribly concerned about tree size. Just fruitfulness. That’s it. The point of a tree isn’t how big your tree is but how much fruit you have. It’s about fruit! And in the Kingdom, fruitfulness is always about reproduction. (Specifically, reproducing disciples…multiplying Jesus’ life into the life of others who can then go and do the same.) 

Fruitfulness1

My experience tells me having a big tree doesn’t mean you have a lot of fruit. In fact, what I’ve seen happen a lot more often is people going after the big tree and hoping to get fruit, rather than going after fruit and knowing you get the tree along the way.

Choose the best, and you always get the good. Choose the good, you very rarely get the best.

Are we trying to start or lead churches, create Kingdom movements and aspire to all the breakthrough Jesus saw apart from the way Jesus did those things? Am I trying to make Jesus like me or do I honestly believe he was the best in the Kingdom business?

The Reformation was a significant moment because among other things, it put the Bible back in the hands of the people. But when we look at the church of the last 100 years, I have to wonder if we have been more influenced by the Enlightenment than the Reformation.

This is the gut check question: If you had to choose between being known as a movement leader but not really having one, or actually being a movement leader but no one knowing it…which would you choose?

Tree or fruit?

Here’s the good news: I believe we are on the cusp of a new Reformation, one that sees the kind of fruit we saw from Jesus’ ministry, because we, once again, embrace not simply what Jesus did on the cross but the way he led and made disciples. Yes. I think we are on the tipping point of a new Reformation and it is about putting discipleship and mission back into the hands of ordinary people. Because when we equip the people of Jesus with the patterns, practices and way of Jesus, it will once again be ordinary people equipped to do extraordinary things.

The key is to embrace the mission of Jesus AND the way of Jesus. He’s just the best there ever was!

Hopefully you hear what I’m trying to convey clearly. I’m not suggesting we should go after a new Reformation. I’m suggesting it’s already happening. And maybe we don’t see it on every street corner yet, but I see it happening all around. A small group of communities, ready to be bloodied in going through the wall first, who are getting the beachhead of breakthrough for the rest of the church.

It’s already happening!

Fruitfulness2

At the end of the day, I don’t want a big tree. But I don’t want a small tree either. I want an orchard. I want a Kingdom movement where reproduction of Jesus’ life within individuals and communities is happening on every level. I’ve seen this happen before. I know it because I’ve seen it. And I think we are starting to see glimmers of this reality again. Lord, may it be so! May we see a Kingdom movement wash upon these shores.

Read more from Mike here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Breen

Mike Breen

Mike Breen has been an innovator in leading missional churches throughout Europe and the United States for more than 25 years. In his time at St Thomas Sheffield in the UK, he created and pioneered Missional Communities, mid-sized groups of 20-50 people on mission together. The result, less than 6 years later, was the largest church in England, and ultimately, one of the largest and now fastest growing churches in the whole of Europe. In 2006 Mike was approached by Leadership Network to lead an initiative into church planting. Through this partnership, more than 725 churches were planted in Europe in just three years. Today, Mike lives in South Carolina, leading 3DM, a movement/organization that is helping hundreds of established churches and church planters move into this discipling and missional way of being the church. Mike is the Senior Guardian of The Order of Mission (TOM) -a global covenant community of networked missional leaders. He has authored numerous books, including Launching Missional Communities, Building a Discipling Culture and Covenant and Kingdom. Mike has been married to Sally for over 30 years and they have 3 grown-up children. Mike’s passions include contemporary design and architecture, travel, movies, cycling, golf, fine wine and food…though not necessarily in that order.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Is Missional Going the Way of the Evangelical Movement?

As I’ve said many times before: human beings are creatures of overreaction. We have a tendency to jump from ditch to ditch – often throwing the baby out with the bath water. We just can’t help ourselves.

After decades in ministry, I’ve seen what this tendency can lead to over time. And one thing I’ve noticed are trends, where an area of emphasis dominates the Christian subculture before cycling to another for a decade or so.

Without trying to make a theological statement (merely a cultural observation), I’ve noticed the evangelical church hones in on one of these three things for approximately 15-20 years at a time — before inevitably moving on to the next. These areas are:

  1. Leadership
  2. Discipleship
  3. Mission

 

It’s as if we choose to hang our hat on one of these hooks exclusively, before, in time, moving the hat to the next hook down the line.

The 1910′s and 1920s saw a focus on world mission the likes of which the church hadn’t seen since the 6th century. In the 1950s we saw a real burgeoning discipleship movement with some of the most recognizable organizations and robust thinking on this topic. Eventually, in the late 1970s this gave way to a new Leadership renaissance and the rise of blending business philosophy with church leadership, leading to the existence of a more corporate-structured church. Make no mistake about it: the church growth movement was about Leadership, primarily from a corporate perspective. And by the end of the 1990s there was a new movement afoot that focused far more on missional engagement, re-engaging each and every person with the Missio dei.

Even now, as I look around — read the cultural signs and observe the conversation online — I can feel in my bones that the evangelical focus is starting to drift towards Discipleship again. It may be one of those things you only see when you’ve been through the whole cycle before. I’ve heard others of
my generation make the same observation.

Here’s the big issue: With each shift, we tend to eschew the other area as passe — rather than recognizing the false dichotomies we form in each rejection. We need all three functioning together to be effective. 

  • How do you do Biblical discipleship without mission?
  • How do you train and release people in mission together without strong leadership?
  • How do leaders invest and multiply leaders with character without a strong discipleship foundation in place?

Leadership. Discipleship. Mission. The three are vitally important and inextricably linked.

If you aren’t good at discipleship, you can’t really be good at Kingdom-oriented mission or leadership, can you? Same goes with mission. Or with leadership. You need all three. I don’t know how to talk about one of these without talking about the others.

Somehow we forget this just long enough to drift to the next big thing. The next missing piece. We see the worst, warped version of the phase the church has been living in and reject it wholesale. Corporate church for organic church. Inwardly focused for outwardly focus. Gathered for scattered. We trade one problem for another.

For example: The last Leadership cycle gave us a very real version of corporate Christianity. In reaction to this, the missional movement we that followed, by and large, rejected Leadership unless it’s consensus based. Now there are times for consensus (sure!), but there are also times for directive leadership. It’s hard to read the stories of Jesus, Peter or Paul and not see this through and through. And as I’ve covered quite extensively on this blog herehere and here (to name a few), we’re in a massive discipleship crisis right now. Our metaphorical hat isn’t hanging on that hook.

Championing one area of focus to the exclusion of the others implies that there’s nothing to learn from the last cycle. Are we saying that we’ve learned nothing from 20 years of study and teaching on leadership within the church? Isn’t there a measure of arrogance in that perspective? I’m not saying you have to buy into “Corporate Christianity” (and if you’ve read this post by me, you know that I don’t), but haven’t we learned some pretty important things too?

In my opinion, nothing is wasted. Nothing.

And what we must understand is that until we come to live in the tension of holding all three of these things together at one time, we will continue to walk around this perilous cycle over and over again. They key is INTEGRATION.

No longer can we pretend that one piece can be dealt with in a vacuum. It’s about living in tension, learning to integrate all of these together well in a community at one time and being honest when we aren’t seeing the fruit that Jesus was after, even as we always pursue faithfulness first and foremost.

Seeing the pattern is half the battle. The other half is the ability to read scripture and interact with the theological imperatives of discipleship, mission and leadership — forming a community that truly lives out the Great Commission — which clearly speaks to all three of these!

Sometimes, in my conversation with people about the work that 3DM does, I’m asked “Yeah, but isn’t this just the next fad? Everything moves from fad to fad. This is probably the next one and will die out when it’s run it’s course.” And in a way, they are right, aren’t they? They are actually making a reference to the cyclical problem I’m describing. If we don’t learn to integrate, we will continue to live in a world where fads dominate the conversation of the church for years to come — handicapping our effectiveness and diluting our impact. 

Discipleship. Mission. Leadership. It’s got to be all three. No longer can we afford to reject out of overreaction. It must be about integration and not polarities. It must be about tension and discernment and not babies and bathwater.

In the next few weeks I want to examine this phenomenon further by taking a blog post for each of these three and what each looks like when you abandon the other two. So stay tuned!

But in the mean time, what do you think? Do you see these cycles happening? Are you conscious of the effects? Am I overstating? What nuance would you add?



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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Breen

Mike Breen

Mike Breen has been an innovator in leading missional churches throughout Europe and the United States for more than 25 years. In his time at St Thomas Sheffield in the UK, he created and pioneered Missional Communities, mid-sized groups of 20-50 people on mission together. The result, less than 6 years later, was the largest church in England, and ultimately, one of the largest and now fastest growing churches in the whole of Europe. In 2006 Mike was approached by Leadership Network to lead an initiative into church planting. Through this partnership, more than 725 churches were planted in Europe in just three years. Today, Mike lives in South Carolina, leading 3DM, a movement/organization that is helping hundreds of established churches and church planters move into this discipling and missional way of being the church. Mike is the Senior Guardian of The Order of Mission (TOM) -a global covenant community of networked missional leaders. He has authored numerous books, including Launching Missional Communities, Building a Discipling Culture and Covenant and Kingdom. Mike has been married to Sally for over 30 years and they have 3 grown-up children. Mike’s passions include contemporary design and architecture, travel, movies, cycling, golf, fine wine and food…though not necessarily in that order.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Plug and Play Problem of Church Leadership

The following is a brief excerpt from Mike Breen’s latest book Multiplying Missional Leaders, which came out at the beginning of May 2012.

Imagine that it’s a Tuesday morning, and that the staff of your church has gathered for its weekly staff meeting. Staff members discuss the weekend service and whether it delivered the message and experience they hoped it would. They discuss the attendance numbers; small group numbers and effectiveness; budget, buildings, and cash flow. You know, the normal staff- meeting routine.

Then, there’s a soft but decisive knock on the door. Someone says, “Come in!”

Into the room, dressed in normal clothes, step Peter, Paul, James, Priscilla, Timothy, and Lydia. (Obviously, we’re in a hypothetical situation here.) They introduce themselves and say that the Lord sent them to your church to serve in any way they can. They ask, “What can we do? We don’t want to be on the stage or anything. You’re doing the preaching/teaching thing really well. But we’ll do anything else you need. Just tell us what you’d like.”

A stunned silence comes over the staff — after all, this is a strange situation. But soon enough, the staff members snap out of it.

“Uhh, well, OK. Well, how many of you are there? Six? Well, let’s see. Could three of you be small group leaders? We’re looking to start some new small groups, and clearly you’d be great at that. Peter, James, Paul, could you do that?

“Hmmm . . . you know, we lost the person who heads up our First Impressions team a month ago, and it has been a bit lackluster. It has lost the punch it used to have. You know it’s important that people have a strong impression of our church within the first 15 seconds when they come to the service. Priscilla, do you mind heading that up?

“Timothy, we could sure use another usher, you look like you could handle that. Lastly, Lydia, I hear you play a mean bass and can sing too. We’re down a bass player and would love to have you in the band. Maybe you can even fill in and lead worship from time to time. Are you up for that?”

This is called plug-and-play. This is about having various positions we need filled in the machine of our churches and plugging people into those roles. Now don’t get me wrong: there are always going to be logistical needs when the scattered church gathers. That’s reality, and we need to attend to that and do it well.

But does anyone really think this is where a church should be using Peter, James, Paul, Priscilla, Timothy, and Lydia? Would this be the most effective use of their time and energy given the skill sets they have? Of course not.

There’s a leadership myth out there that programs that need leaders create leaders in and of themselves. But this hypothetical example shows us how systems can fall short.

Maybe we can think about it this way: If your church were suddenly given 250 missional leaders, would you have any idea what to do with them? Or would you just plug-and-play them in what you are currently doing?

Read more from Mike here.

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Breen

Mike Breen

Mike Breen has been an innovator in leading missional churches throughout Europe and the United States for more than 25 years. In his time at St Thomas Sheffield in the UK, he created and pioneered Missional Communities, mid-sized groups of 20-50 people on mission together. The result, less than 6 years later, was the largest church in England, and ultimately, one of the largest and now fastest growing churches in the whole of Europe. In 2006 Mike was approached by Leadership Network to lead an initiative into church planting. Through this partnership, more than 725 churches were planted in Europe in just three years. Today, Mike lives in South Carolina, leading 3DM, a movement/organization that is helping hundreds of established churches and church planters move into this discipling and missional way of being the church. Mike is the Senior Guardian of The Order of Mission (TOM) -a global covenant community of networked missional leaders. He has authored numerous books, including Launching Missional Communities, Building a Discipling Culture and Covenant and Kingdom. Mike has been married to Sally for over 30 years and they have 3 grown-up children. Mike’s passions include contemporary design and architecture, travel, movies, cycling, golf, fine wine and food…though not necessarily in that order.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.