The local church needs to immerse people in God, train them to obey the life giving message of Jesus and assist them in bringing that life to their realm of influence. There are three spheres of discipleship that a church needs to develop: culture, groups, and self-feeding.
Firstly, making disciples happens through the church’s culture. Every local church has a local culture. This culture may resemble the local community culture or it may be the complete opposite. Any organisation has a local culture because the leaders are different, the people are different, the environment is different. All these differences mean that each local church has a unique local culture. The closer that culture is to the purity of Jesus’ life giving message the easier it will be for new people to see, experience and take on for themselves the changes needed to live out that life giving message. Developing a local church culture is the first sphere of discipleship in the local church. Developing this culture can be broken down into other steps but I’ll discuss that in another post.
The second sphere is training one-on-one or in a group. That is, taking someone into a learning relationship and helping them grow in Christ. This sphere would involve a set curriculum designed to take someone who knows very little and helping them to a moderate level of maturity. It could involve: the basics of the Christian faith, Who am I in Christ, God’s purpose and plan for their lives, leadership, sharing one’s faith, etc. It should, at the very least, include, “How to disciple a new believer.” That is, everyone should be taught how to disciple someone else at least in the first phase of their discipleship. How a church defines moderate maturity (skill, attitudes, behaviours) will be different in every local church. This sphere would include training parents how to disciple their children (I pray that no church would leave this task solely to the Youth Pastor).
The third phase is self-discipleship. This should be an outcome of the second sphere, that is, if the second sphere is done well then a new follower of Christ would be be taught how to follow Jesus on their own. While gathering with others is a crucial component of discipleship the responsibility to grow in our relationship with Jesus always lies with us. Church culture will not always be healthy and Christ like. Group training will not always address my personal immediate and urgent needs. For example, a student who moves states to study at university will not have their church culture and support groups to keep growing. While they search for a new local church and community they will need to know how to grow on their own.
As these three sphere’s work together discipleship happens. All local churches are at least exposing believers to the first sphere of discipleship. That may or may not be a good thing depending upon the health of the church but all churches are in some way making disciples. The healthier the three spheres are the better chance one has at growing consistently in Christ.
How does discipleship happen in your church? On a scale of 1-10, 1 being ‘O oh’ and 10 being ‘Awesome’, how would you rate your church culture for making disciples? How about your group process? For you personally, how well are you able to grow in Christ on a consistent, continual basis?