3 Moves Toward A Disciple Making Culture

Years ago, a young man asked me if I would disciple him.  I told him that we should both put our “hand to the plow” in the ministry we were working in and learn from one another. I said I wanted a more “iron-sharpens-iron” relationship than a “you-learn-from-me” relationship.

I was lying.

The truth was I didn’t know how to disciple him.  That was embarrassing for someone in ministry.  What I did know is how to put people in a spin cycle of activity that would hopefully result in them figuring out how to follow Jesus on their own.  That was my experience.  There were people who invested in me but no one outside of my father became an identifiable mentor in my life.  Bible studies, worship services, fellowships, outreaches, and camps were my disciplers.  I thank God for those things but I wish someone would have taught me to follow Jesus the same way my dad taught me to ride a bike- out on the street, together, him running with me as I wobbled, coaching me to keep pedaling, cheering my successes, and tending to my scrapes after failures.  When it came to personally helping someone grow in their faith, I didn’t have a clear model to follow.

Things are different now. A few years back I met Paul Johnson of the Canadian National Baptist Convention and pastor of ROOTS student church in Calgary introduced me to STAGES.  Its a disciple making pathway that anyone can find themselves on.  With each stage, there are next steps to lead people through.  For someone who really didn’t have a very organized plan for how to disciple people, it was an invaluable tool. We developed our own version of STAGES at www.disciplemakingstages.com.

Today, we’re making disciples who are making disciples.  I don’t want to just keep people busy in ministries, I want to help them grow. Looking back at my journey and knowing there are others with a similar experience, I want to share 3 moves that get you closer to a disciple making culture in your ministry.


Find A Disciple Making Path:  I’ve already mentioned the path I use, STAGES, but maybe you have your own.  As long as your path starts with those who don’t know Jesus and ends with those who genuinely look like Jesus, you can’t go wrong.  Paul Johnson uses the example of a Karate dojo where different color belts mark the pathway towards mastery.  It’s so useful to have a learning culture where everyone knows where they are, where they just came from, and how to get to what’s next.


Create A Self Assessment:  The first words ever spoken to fallen man were assessment questions (Genesis 3:9-12). God asked Adam:

  1. Where are you?
  2. Who told you?
  3. What happened?

God already knew the answer to each of these questions but he wanted Adam and Eve to realize where they were in relation to Him and His command.  I think it’s useful to ask people where they are in relation to Jesus and his claims/commands.  Let them self assess.  They’ll appreciate it more than you telling them where they are.

Sharing the gospel with them and asking what they think is probably the most direct way.  You can also lead someone to self assess with some visuals or by using our online tool. Our online assessment asks people where they are spiritually in a few different ways and instantly sends the results to whoever they’ve entered as their mentor. Try it here and put yourself as your own mentor to test it out.


Commit To A Healthy Process:  Quick!  Are you a thinker, feeler, or doer?  How about the person you’re discipling? Does it matter if they’re wired differently than you? Your answers affect how you disciple someone.  Making spiritual growth a head/hand/heart endeavor isn’t a new idea but it is important and doesn’t always come naturally.

What about the ministry you’re leading?  Is it designed to produce discipleship relationships?  Is there enough time between all the other activities for personal discipleship to happen? Is there enough relational equity being built up for healthy discipleship relationships?  What rhythms are you teaching people to live by? These are tough questions but they are worth wrestling with. The guide has some suggestions on how to balance out your time.

Ultimately, spiritual growth is…spiritual!  It can’t be manipulated or prodded by systems and designed pathways.  But we should be able to paint a biblical picture of what growth looks like and be ready with clear next steps to help students get there.  And most importantly, we have to double down on disciple making when it comes to the Great Commission and not just push students into a flurry of unguided activities in the name of Jesus.

This article was originally posted in the Collegiate Collective site.  An awesome place for wisdom from practitioners!