Five Ways to Make Disciples, Part 3

We’ve looked at “platform discipleship” or the process of preaching and teaching by the pastor and the Sunday School making disciples. Let’s now look at probably the most popular layer of discipleship in a local church.

Discipleship Classes/ Small Groups

This is also called “program discipleship” and is where most of our churches are in their disciple making plans. They offer lots of topical and age group studies at various times throughout the year. These studies are sometimes designed just for men or women and are usually in a semester approach lasting for six, eight or even a full quarter, 13 weeks.

Many churches still dedicate a Sunday or Wednesday night specifically for their discipleship groups. I grew up going to Training Union and really enjoyed that experience. We also have called it, Church training, discipleship training, BYPU, etc.

Small groups do provide the best intimate discipling environment. Some churches utilize these small, sometimes home-based groups, as the foundation of their disciple making process. To move this component to be more effective you must have a great facilitator/teacher, an accountability process, strong relational connections in the group, and a purposeful selection of material.

Be careful that the curriculum does not drive the study but focuses on the needs of people as they grow in Christ.

Keep in mind that discipleship is neither instant nor easy. We are not producing look-alike widgets, but individuals committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.


We need to continue to provide this layer of discipleship in our churches. Studies like the discipleship series edited by Claude King (The Call to Follow Christ: Six Disciplines for New and Growing Believers. Nashville: LifeWay Press, 2006), Master Life, The Mind of Christ, and Experiencing God are examples of very solid discipleship studies however a church must first ask the hard questions.

As a church, how do we track our members in their spiritual growth using this process?

How can our church be more intentional in this approach rather than just offering a series of discipleship classes that do not connect to a long term process?  How do we change the model so it is more “process discipleship” and not “program discipleship?”

Ideas/Thoughts: Have a balanced approached in what you offer. Keep the end view in mind. What do you really want your people to know and do? Should every member know how to share their faith? Study the Bible? Know what they believe?

Appoint a discipleship team to help answer these questions and then come up with a process and curriculum to challenge your members to grow deeper in their faith.

Study these passages of Scripture that guide a balanced discipleship process in the Six D’s of disciple making: Galatians 2:20 (declare), 2 Timothy 2:15 (develop); Galatians 5:22-23 (display) 1 Peter 3:15-16 (defend); Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (disciple); Ephesians 4:1-16 (deploy).

• DECLARE their identify in Christ,

• DEVELOP spiritual disciplines,

• DISPLAY Christlike character,

• DEFEND their faith,

• DISCIPLE others, beginning with their own households, and

• DEPLOY their gifts in missional ministry.

Keep the Son in your Eyes,

Mike James

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