Pastors, as a fellow laborer in Christ, I know the passion and burden to effectively make disciples. There are always going to be new ideas or strategies to help us be more effective, but many of the fundamentals are the same and have been since the beginning of the launch of The Church! Before I list out a suggested step-by-step discipleship pathway, I want to share three keys to helping your church create a discipleship culture. Why do I say culture? Because while we may have classes or courses where we focus and learn the essentials of our faith, full discipleship is not formed in a classroom. Discipleship happens as we go and as we do life together within our church community. That’s why we want to shape an intentional church-wide discipleship culture. (Download the Discipleship Pathway)
3 Essentials to Creating a Discipleship Culture in Your Church
1. Have a Vision to Reach Your City!
This might seem obvious, but the first step to creating a church culture where discipleship happens naturally is to have a deep seeded vision in your heart to reach the city that God has put you in. If your vision is just to create programs for the people in your church but not to stir your people up to reach and impact their city, then you won’t inspire a culture of discipleship. Jesus’ call to us to make disciples was on the heels of calling us to GO! So, we go into all the world, and then, as a byproduct, we “make disciples.” The passion and vision to reach a city will also force us as the pastors and leaders of the church and the people of the church to step up and truly live out this passionate relationship with Jesus.
2. Develop a Discipleship Culture
When I say that we need to create a discipleship culture, I don’t mean we need to create a discipleship class, I mean that we need to create an environment within our church community that naturally fosters discipleship. There are many things I can write, which I’ll cover at length in my “Make Disciples” book coming out soon. But, let me mention a few things here.
Create space for people to encounter the presence of God within your church. If people don’t have a passionate and personal relationship with Jesus, then they most likely won’t be stirred to be someone who makes disciples.
Develop a highly relational culture. The Apostle Paul said, follow me as I follow Christ. Discipleship always happens best within relationships. Most of the context of Christianity is around a dinner table and community. If you fight for true and authentic friendships, then you’ll see discipleship happen more naturally. If, as a church, you foster more connections and people spending time together, then you’ll see spiritual maturity increase. Things you can do to make that happen… small groups, discipleship pathways, essentials classes. Ect.
Another key to creating a culture of discipleship is that we foster a culture of empowerment. This means that if we’re going to develop and draw out the spiritual maturity of people, then we need to put a demand on that part of them to rise. When we call people out of their comfort zones and into their calling, you’ll find people step up and mature.
3. Have a Clear Next Step
This is such a huge part of creating a strong discipleship culture in your church. This is key to both the person needing to be discipled and for the church family to effectively be able to help move people along the path of discipleship. We must first boldly call people to that point of decision to Follow Jesus. If we haven’t given them that clear call, they could be going through the spiritual motions but not actually having a relationship with God through what Jesus did on the cross! Within your altar call or however you do it, make sure there’s a clear next step for a new believer to follow. After they say yes to Jesus, “What’s Next?”. The new believer needs to know, and you want to train your whole church to know what’s next so they can direct new believers to that small group or to the discipleship course on Sundays. Here’s where churches often introduce the Following Jesus book. Giving it out with the Bible as a gift when they surrender their lives to Jesus.