Ten Questions for Formulating a Discipleship Process

Sam Rainer

January 18, 2009

Helping people grow more spiritually mature is not a new concern for churches. It has been the goal all along. Developing a process of discipleship within your church structure, however, is a strategic issue that has been terribly neglected. Rather than developing a clear path of discipleship for all believers, church for many has become a series of disconnected and incongruent programs and activities.

In order for churches to best communicate high expectations and biblical depth, a simple structure must be in place to guide and direct people towards these goals. One way to begin this process of simplification is to develop a quotable and memorable vision, mission, or purpose statement. From this statement should flow the entire process of discipleship. All programs and ministries of the church should fit under the umbrella of this statement.

Biblical depth is more important than the discipleship structure of the church. But churches that do not have a structure in place cannot move people towards an understanding of this depth. A culture of high expectations is more important than the structure of a church. Without this structure, however, a church has difficulty communicating these expectations. A multiplying church is more important than the structure. But without structure, people do not know how to multiply. The right structure is not the most important facet of a church, but most churches cannot carry out their most important purposes because they do not have the right structure.

In a recent LifeWay article, Chuck Gaines addressed the issue of discipleship process. He presented ten questions that growing churches ask about their discipleship processes:

Growing churches don’t look for answers – they look for questions. Specifically, questions related to identifying and formulating a discipleship process.

  1. How does our church define discipleship?
  2. What does a disciple look like?
  3. Do we have an intentional process of discipleship?
  4. Does our church know this process?
  5. How does this process relate to the purpose of the church?
  6. Has our church prioritized distinct practices that relate to the discipleship process?
  7. Does our church practice the principle of abandonment based on the idea that activity doesn’t always mean productivity?
  8. How does our church measure maturity?
  9. How does our community describe our church?
  10. Do our church families spend more planned time in a week at church with each other or in the community with non-believers?

There is nothing new or striking about these questions. But seeing them collectively is quite helpful. What other questions might be beneficial to ask of your church’s discipleship process?

8 comments on “Ten Questions for Formulating a Discipleship Process”

  1. Those questions are good for bringing clarity to the discussion as the word “discipleship” can have varying definitions as you move from person to person and church to church. When we say we “disciple” students for nine months, that means that our Masters Commission students spend several hours each day with our staff, learning ministry. The first hour of the day is spent in prayer, worship and seeking God’s face… staff and students together. The next two hours are spent in academic course-work, studying the scriptures together, discussing the meaning to the original hearers and to us today. After lunch, the students work with staff members on ministry practicum’s, learning the ins and outs of hands on ministry from the office team databasing and sending out mailers, to the AV team producing multimedia videos, to the youth ministry team planning, setting up for, and running youth group, to the travel team practicing stomp and drama preparing for area youth rallies. Our students spend 10 to 13 hours each day with our staff. We live life with our students in much the same way that Jesus lived his life with the 12. Now, that’s harder to do with adults who have families, children and jobs… with the primary difference being that our students have taken 9 months, set them aside, dedicated them to God, and stated that they want to be discipled. Unfortunately, getting adults in a congregation to make that same commitment to daily discipleship under a mentor is a hard pill for many to swallow, but those who do, are changed forever. So I want to add this question to the conversation…. How to we convince the general population of our churches, that the unseen benefits of placing themselves into a discipleship relationship under a mentor will far outweigh any short term lifestyle changes that will have to be made?

  2. ROBERT LAMBWE says:

    I need seminar materials for discipleship process for me to conduct a church seminar.

  3. JACK THEVA says:

    I am a member in a local church. I have convinced the leadership that the way forward for our church is to turn it into a discipleship church as it is very Biblical. I however need materials on how to be make disciples of others, what is the process? Can you please help me.

  4. Sam Rainer says:

    Jack – by far the best resource is Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger.

  5. Bishop Kenani ndhlovu says:

    Iam pastoring a church in Zambia Iam looking for a ministry that can help me establish a strong missions and discpleship programme in church. I have learnt over the yeras that the church in zambia needs discipleship programmes

  6. Anonymous says:

    Great new discipleship resource can be found for free at http://www.multiplymovement.com. Material provided online by Francis Chan. Includes what it means to be a follower of Christ, How to study your Bible, overviews of old and new the testaments and what it means to be a part of the church. Great stuff!!

  7. John says:

    Love this topic/questions. I hope not to appear contrary in raising one area of concern. This approach reflects useful insights of contemporary Western sociology and management.Very useful! But they do superimpose a template of sorts over the disciple-making process that can be part of a kind of psychological/spiritual abuse. The Spirit “lists where it wills” and it is the Spirit who makes disciples (using the inspired word, the lives of other believers, the school of hard knocks, and an infinite array of means). We must manage our dealing with truth and processes….but we should not be surprised when someone doesn’t respond well to our plans but does to something we cannot even see. I’ve seen new Christians driven off because they would not “get with the program”. We need to be careful about absolutizing programs…..and tidy lists. Make them….but be aware of their limitations.

  8. Does your website have a contact page? I’m having a tough time locating it but, I’d like to send you an e-mail.

    I’ve got some ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it grow over time.

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