If you aren’t planting a church any time soon, is there anything you can glean from the church-planting movement that will help you transform your established church into an establishing church?
For a series we call The Math of the Kingdom, we reached out to several church-planting networks and posed this question to some of their seasoned, in-the-trenches planters. Their responses revealed six strategic themes that any pastor can implement in any context: know your community; be known by your community; pursue diversity; develop leadership; make disciples; and adopt a planter’s heart.
No matter the age or size of the church you lead, it factors into the math of the kingdom. Explore these strategies, ideas and insights to see how they can contribute to multiplication in your church.
Principle No. 5: Making Disciples
JUSTIN DAILEY, The Action Church in Winter Springs, Florida: I think we can overcomplicate the discipleship process. Jesus said, “Come and follow,” and that’s exactly what happened. The key to healthy discipleship is time invested over a long period of time. As leaders, we have to facilitate scalable ways for this to happen over and over again.
Healthy small groups and teams are the easiest and best way to accomplish this. When people gather around their passions and have authentic personal conversations, they grow. Our job as leaders is to make sure these groups have proper leadership, resourcing and vision to connect as many people on a deeper level.
One thing we’ve learned in this process is the importance of our teams functioning as small groups. Sunday teams aren’t simply places for people to fill positions, but rather places where people can be led, find community and ultimately grow.
DAVID PARKER, SummitLIFE in Sedona, Arizona: One of the most important factors is first defining what you mean by “disciple.” When Jesus gave the command to “go,” he communicated two things that his closest followers were to “do” with their “disciples”: One, baptize them; and two, teach them to obey all that he had commanded them (Matt. 28:19-20). The baptism part seems to be the easy part, because it’s one of those things that can be “checked off the list.”
It’s the second half of the description that’s difficult to put a precise gauge on, because we’re all (hopefully) continuing in the discipleship process throughout our lives. We’re all in the process of being transformed into the likeness of Jesus (Rom. 12:2) all throughout our lives … a continual process of obeying all that Jesus commanded. This being the case, I don’t believe discipleship to be a four-book study that you complete, but an ongoing conversation and relationship that continually weaves Jesus’ response and heart into the fabric of our living.
All of that to say, I’ve learned that the process of making disciples who make disciples begins with: One, defining what a disciple is; and two, coming to the realization that it’s a lifelong process with a potential “gauge” question being: Is this person that I’m discipling reflecting more and more the characteristics of Jesus (the fruits of the Spirit) in his or her life?
JOSEPH VELARDE, Riverbend Community Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania: What we have learned is to focus on selecting those who have a character that is proven. This means they’re moldable. It’s easy to get distracted by those who have competency or charisma, but it’s much more important to find those who are truly faithful, available and teachable—those who have some form of track record and not just potential.
We have learned to focus on going slow on the front end, so that you can go further and faster with multiplication for the long term. It is essential that we care who they’re becoming: head, heart and hands. “We want to present everyone fully mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28-29). We need to see discipleship as holistic, as this will affect their ability to be healthy disciples who make healthy disciples.
As you meet with those you have selected, start with the end in mind. Let them know that the goal is as Jesus said: “Follow me and I will make you a fisher of men” (Matt. 4:19). The point of following is so they can be disciple-makers themselves.
MARK MELLEN, Elevate Life Church in Jacksonville, Florida: We believe discipleship happens through relationship, therefore it’s important to create a process to turn them from spectators to participators. We use three systems to do this: Etrack (membership class), Eteam (Sunday serving teams) and Egroups (small groups).
While new people desire anonymity, they also want clear direction. So every Sunday we point them to Etrack, which is a monthly class that teaches them the vision and values in the church and makes it easy for them to get involved. We use the free-market small-groups system, which is made up of interest-based small groups. We find it to be the most effective system to help build community around people, passions and gift mix.