The Discipleship Funnel of Doom


Are you actually creating disciples or just keeping people busy?

Teaching is just one way to help people take their next steps toward Christ. But churches have a tendency to get stuck there.

The discipleship funnel of doom is churches’ tendency to try to get as many people together as possible and teach them something and then they promote a next step for people to get into an environment where they teach them some more. And then when people show up, they teach them something and promote a next step where they’re going to teach them some more.

It’s teach, promote, teach, promote, teach. And we use it with everything.

Does this mean teaching isn’t important?

I really do believe in biblical teaching and Jesus modeled it. And so I think we should do it as well. But it’s not the only thing we should be leveraging to help people take their next steps toward Christ. There is more to a discipleship process than just getting as many people as possible into an environment and teaching them. And so that’s what I wanted to unpack a little bit further today.

“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these 
things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4:9

I think this verse is a good model for us for discipleship. It gives us three key elements to a discipleship process:

We need to hear it. We need to see it. We need to put it into practice.

Teaching is part of it, but we also need to model discipleship and then actively put it into practice. And what I see in churches is most of the time they really lean on teaching or conferences and that is the only next step they’re encouraging people to take.

Teaching is actually most helpful for churches in the early steps, the early stages of their discipleship path. So teaching is most helpful for people who are maybe not yet believers or are brand new believers in the church. And we’re seeing churches struggling with discipleship when they continue to lean on teaching to help folks that are already fully devoted followers of Christ.

For more mature believers, teaching is not enough. It’s not challenging people to take next steps. And it’s really not helping them experience fulfillment and purpose. For people who are more mature in the faith, it’s actually the modeling and putting into practice what they’re learning that’s essential to help them take their next step along their spiritual journey.

That encouragement to help people actually put their faith into practice is probably going to occur most often in those ministry teams. Many times churches see discipleship as being separate from serving, when in reality serving is essential to that full discipleship process.

The biggest reminder in all of this is keeping people busy does not make people like Christ. Your discipleship path should be helping people become more like Christ. And that’s one of the reasons why we’re big advocates of helping churches move from programs to steps on a discipleship path.


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