What is a disciple-making church?
Towards the end of February, I attended a seminar held at Grace Church of Mentor, in Mentor, Ohio, and it was called “Sustaining a Disciple-Making Culture in Your Church.” The pastor, Tim Potter, led the seminar, and his approach was not to give a lecture on discipleship but to testify of what God had done in their church since they became intentional about making disciples as Jesus commands in Matthew 28. According to this passage, making disciples involves evangelizing the lost by preaching the gospel and baptizing those who respond in faith, and then instructing them from God’s Word about doctrine and practice.
Traditionally, many churches have faithfully preached the gospel and baptized those who responded in faith, but for the majority, discipleship has only been facilitated through regular church attendance and participating in small group Bible study. While these are needed and helpful toward spiritual development, often they aren’t enough for most people to realize real, spiritual growth and be motivated to reach others with the truth of God’s grace.
Biblical discipleship is much more personal and requires a relationship commitment between a mentor and a disciple. We see this intimacy in the life of the Lord Jesus and the Apostles as they taught their disciples. Jesus’ command in Matthew 28 wasn’t a mandate for an organization but for individuals.
Allow me to share a few of the disciple-making principles I learned at the seminar. Disciple-making is:
- A normative, local church, individual responsibility that God the Spirit empowers as Christ builds His church.
- Each saint shouldering the responsibility to spiritually reproduce
- The commitment of a life to another life for life.
- A relationship in process, not a program.
The idea is that every member in a local church body should be actively pursuing redemptive relationships with unbelievers with whom they come in contact in his/her everyday life. In the course of the relationship, he/she would look for opportunities to invite that person to consider who Jesus is and what he has done for them in hopes of a faith response unto salvation. If the unbeliever accepts Christ, then the one who led them would assume the personal responsibility to disciple the new believer for life or as long as possible.
Now disciple-making in the church is not limited to this particular situation. As new people come into the church, saved or unsaved, there needs to be a continual awareness among the members to form disciple-making relationships. Even among believers who have been saved for some time, there is a need for one-on-one discipleship. In fact, at Grace Church of Mentor, every member is encouraged to win one—pray to see a friend to come to Christ; lead one—disciple another believer; follow one—be a follower of a spiritually mature believer; and take one—grow in knowledge by taking one Bible class a year. The result is a body of believers who are faithfully fulfilling the Great Commission, growing together in their faith, and building a bond of unity in purpose and love. In the 15 years that they have been cultivating this disciple-making approach, they have seen many God-intended, unexpected blessings in the form of salvation decisions, body cohesiveness, and church-planting, just to name a few.
As the Pastor of Discipleship here at IBC, my hope is that making disciples in our community would be a ministry priority of every member and that it would become our identity as a church for the glory of God. If you have any questions about how you might play a part in developing a disciple-making culture in the church, please don’t hesitate to contact me.