About a month ago, I had the chance to sit down with Robby Gallaty, Tim LaFleur and Michael Kelley—three men of God whom I have a great deal of respect for—and chat for almost an hour about discipleship. Specifically, one of the points we discussed was the difference between having discipleship classes in your church and having a discipleship culture. The reality is this: Christ calls us not to be disciples, or converts, but to be disciple makers. And there is a vast difference between the two.
In order to answer the questions of the differences between the two, we have to ask what culture is. Every environment has a culture—workplaces, restaurants, homes, schools, and churches all have their own culture. A culture is a set of unwritten rules that people know that don’t necessarily need to be stated, but rules that everyone in that environment or organization abide by. We must ask ourselves, are the people in our churches so ingrained and aligned with disciple making that it’s part of our church culture?
Disciple making shouldn’t be a ministry in the church, but a ministry of the church. Discipleship is not a meeting, a class, or a single event. It’s a journey. And it’s not just confined or delegated to the pastors of the church. If we do that, we rob people in our churches of their God-given ability to invest in and enjoy the ministry God has given them. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4 to equip the saints to do the work of ministry.
So how can we equip the saints to do the work of the ministry?
We start that with a pathway, or a blueprint.
- It all begins with worship. This is probably an obvious starting point on the pathway. Worship brings a strong preaching element to the blueprint; it’s the evangelistic arm. Worship is often how we get people into our churches.
- The second is groups. We can call this a myriad of different things—Sunday School classes, small groups, life groups—but regardless of what we call it, it’s where community happens. It’s where relationships are strengthened, and it’s the springboard for the third part of the pathway.
- The third part of the pathway is discipleship groups. These groups consist of three to five people, all of the same gender. Men with men. Women with women. D-Groups meet for 12 to 18 months and focus on intentionally studying God’s Word, memorizing Scripture and holding one another accountable.
- Lastly, we are to serve. The area in which you serve should be one where you are most comfortable. Do you sing? Consider joining the choir. Do you love children? Consider serving in the children’s ministry. Perhaps you love guiding people in the parking lot or greeting people or chatting with people in the welcome center. Serve.
Having a pathway will allow our churches to make disciple-making a priority. So how do we gauge biblical or spiritual maturity when disciple-making starts happening? Robby Gallaty has a great acronym to measure this. He calls it “MARKS.”
M – Missional living. We’re not talking about people going on mission trips here, we’re talking about people living on mission. We’re sharing our faith. We’re telling people about Jesus. What would happen if we look at our neighbors and co-workers as our mission field?
A – Accountable. Looking people eye-to-eye and asking the hard questions like “how is your marriage. Are you memorizing scripture? Are you living out your faith?
R – Reproducible. We were meant to be disciples who make disciples who make disciples. 2 Timothy 2:2 is a great model for this. Disciple-making is replicable.
K – Koinonia (Community). This is the transparent group of being with one another. Serving one another. Loving one another. Bearing others burdens.
S – Scriptural. Be rooted in the Word. Get people into the Word so the word gets into them. Healthy disciples read the bible daily, they journal consistently and they memorize Scripture weekly.
Don’t be impressed with successes that don’t accomplish the goal. Live out the MARKS of a disciple. As a leader, you can’t expect your people to do something you don’t do yourself. If you’re not fostering relationships, discipling other people, loving God, and loving people, those you lead won’t do it either. My friend Mark Dance says, “Healthy pastors lead healthy churches.” If you’re a shepherd and you don’t smell like sheep, something is wrong.
Matt Morris is a Brand Manager at Lifeway Christian Resources in Nashville, Tennessee. He has served in ministry for over 11 years. Matt is married to Carmen and they have twins, Hudson and Harper. Matt and his family are members of First Baptist Church Mount Juliet, where he serves as a deacon.