If discipleship is the biblical vision for church life, disciple-making is the ministry DNA—the thing that affects everything we do at church.
But what does this kind of disciple-making culture look like?
Here’s what people might say in a church that doesn’t have a disciple-making culture:
“I’m happy to just come to church, attend Bible Study, serve on a roster and give money.”
“I need the support and friendships of the church.”
“I need spiritual help to get through my life, my work and my family.”
“I’ll try and invite others to hear the gospel, but I’m not the one to share Christ with them.”
“I’ll be a Christian at work by telling other people that I’m a Christian.”
“I’ll try and be a godly parent, but I need the church programs to teach my kids.”
In contrast, a disciple-making culture sounds something like this:
“I want to keep growing in Christlikeness and be jealous for Christ’s name.”
“I want to grow in the word, in prayer and in daily fellowship with Christ.”
“I want my life priorities to reflect God’s purpose to glorify his son.”
“I want my children to see that the gospel affects every part of my life.”
“I want to be used by God in whatever way he wants to use me to obey the great commission and so build his church.” (Matt 28:18-20.)
“I want to reach those around me with the gospel, even if it means more training and reading to give a reason for the hope that I have.”
“I want to encourage other disciples to grow.”
“I want to learn to speak with others about their Christian lives.”
“I want to serve according to my gifts.”
“I’m willing to serve outside my comfort zone.”
“I have problems in life, but I want to give myself to Christ and others in the midst of them, for he is more important than my problems.”
Here is a church full of fired-up prophets—people who can’t keep Christ to themselves. Like Peter and John in Acts, they “cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). They are full of the Spirit, they see the true Son, and they make disciples as they speak of him.
This kind of disciple-making is not just one-to-one, but the kind of disciple-making that encapsulates both evangelism and the growing of other disciples in their maturity and faith.
Why do we want this kind of disciple-making culture? It’s not because it’s a good ministry method or strategy (even though it is), but because this is what the normal Spirit-filled Christian life looks like. If we let our people settle for anything else, we fail to help them understand what it is to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Instead, we produce institutional Christians, rather than followers of Jesus engaged in kingdom work.
But this scenario is one of increasing maturity: a disciple matures to the point of getting involved in making disciples, and this endeavour takes that disciple into a deeper knowledge and love for Christ, which in turn helps that disciple as he or she helps other disciples to mature. We want our people to be on this trajectory, rather than aimlessly plodding through the years without solid doctrine or maturity.
Discipleship is the wellspring of all evangelism and church growth. If we start with growing the church, we won’t necessarily grow disciples. When we grow disciples under God, we will grow the gospel and grow the church.