Transitioning to a Disciple-Making Church

by May 11, 2023

I was recently asked, “What shifts are needed to become a disciple-making church?” I love that question and hate it at the same time. I hate that question because it tells me some churches are not making disciples, and that was never what Christ wanted. Jesus started His Church to be a disciple-making church. On the other hand, however, I love that question because it is being asked. That tells me we have hope to help transition a church to what Jesus originally intended. I often say, “Jesus started the Church the way He wanted it; now He wants it the way He started it.”

Having planted a church and led that church for over thirty years, I have a few suggestions for shifting a non-disciple-making church to a disciple-making church.

First, you must shift your win! A non-disciple making church may have a number of things it considers its “wins.” The success of a non-disciple making church might be an excellent worship service. It might be a dynamic fellowship and rich community. It might be in-depth teaching and the pursuit of knowledge. It might be community impact and outreach. 

In a disciple-making church, the win is a fully trained disciple multiplying more disciples. That is the same win that Jesus had. Jesus did not tell His disciples to go make great worship services, build a deep community, make scholars, or promote social reform. He said, “Go and make disciples…”

Nothing is wrong with worship, fellowship, teaching, or social impact. Those are all good things, but if they are our main pursuit, we will miss the main our mission as Christ-followers.

Second, you must shift your mindset! If a church has a programming mindset, making disciples the way Jesus did will be hard. A church needs to change that program mindset to a process mindset. Jesus made disciples using a process, not a program. Jesus led people in the culture around Him to become fully trained, called leaders that would guide His mission and movement. Jesus’ process was not “one of many programs” to choose from. It was an intentional and strategic plan to help lead people from being far from God to becoming spiritually qualified servants and leaders that keep the movement moving forward.

Never forget that programs don’t make disciples; people do! Having the proper process in place makes it possible to lead people to become disciples of Christ.

Third, you must shift your perspective! A non-disciple making church must change from a consumer to a contributor perspective. In other words, a church that is committed to making disciples needs to realize it exists for the mission of Christ. The mission of Christ does not exist for church members.

Consumers see the Church as a place to get their needs met. Contributors see the Church as a place to help meet the needs of others. The original disciples were willing to deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Jesus. We must be willing to do the same if we want to see the Church become a force to be reckoned with in the world.

Jesus’ original Church measured its wins according to its success in multiplying fully trained disciples. Jesus began the Church through people and processes, not programs. This Church that Jesus originally began is the Church Jesus wants today. 

If we can help you transition to a disciple-making church, please get in touch with us. We exist to inspire people and churches to be and build disciples of Jesus Christ. Check out our upcoming training events at impactdisciples.com/events.

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