How to Evaluate Your Church’s Discipleship Program

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*This article is an excerpt from Disciple: How to Create a Community That Develops Passionate and Healthy Followers of Jesus.

Some months ago, I published the book Disciple: How to Create a Community that Develops Passionate and Healthy Followers of JesusIn that book, I point out that many churches that think they’re disciplemaking churches really are not. I invite you to use this excerpt from the book to see if any of these characteristics mark your church as one of those congregations:¹

1. The church assumes it’s a disciplemaking church because they affirm the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20, but they don’t really make disciples. Taking a biblical view or having a theologically accurate position does not always equate to disciplemaking. A theoretical commitment to making disciples without an accompanying plan doesn’t accomplish much. 

2. The congregation is “doing church,” but no one is measuring their disciplemaking results. Even if they can show numerical growth in reaching nonbelievers, they don’t evaluate the other side of the coin: How many of those new believers are learning to obey everything Jesus commanded (Matt 28:20)? 

3. The church equates disciplemaking with programming. That is, as previously noted, they assume you’ll come out as a disciple of Christ if you participate in all their programs. Programs by themselves, however, don’t make disciples. Disciples make disciples. 

4. The church has reduced disciple-making to “information transfer.” The disciplemaking process in many churches amounts to little more than attending classes and gaining information. If you can answer the questions and talk the language, you’re considered a disciple of Jesus.

5. The church has several—if not many or most—leaders who themselves have never been strongly discipled. They’re more like Patrick in the introduction of this chapter than they are like growing disciples of Jesus. At best, they’re trying to give others what they themselves have never received—and it’s only remotely like biblical discipleship. 

6. The church offers a lot of activities, but with seemingly no strategic purpose. These churches have a lot going on. They might even have a lot of people involved in their activities. However, they still cannot define a clear strategy for their process of disciplemaking.

7. The church’s disciplemaking approach (if any) tends not to be life-on-life. A typical approach to discipleship is group oriented (e.g., worship service–based and small group–based) rather than individual (i.e., mentoring-based). Group approaches are necessary and helpful, but they don’t always include much arm-in-arm, shoulder-to-shoulder encouragement and accountability between believers. 

8. The church encourages new members to get invested and involved, but they have no clear strategy to help them do that. In many churches, it’s not uncommon to find new(er) members who want to grow and be involved, but they’ve heard nothing about how to make that happen. That’s often because the church has no plan. 

9. The church has numerous activities for kids and students, but no one is talking about coordinating those efforts to make young disciples of Christ. Because most Christians become believers before they’re eighteen, church youth ministries are missing an opportunity if they’re not thinking strategically. Activities are good, but activities with a strategic purpose to make disciples are better. 

10. The church may do okay at raising up people to serve within their congregation, but they seldom send anyone out. All their disciplemaking growth is internal, which can subtly become self-serving and self-preserving. New Testament disciples, however, give themselves up for the sake of others. They’ll go to the ends of the earth if that is God’s call on their lives.

EVALUATION FOR YOUR CHURCH 

  • Would your members say they are a disciplemaking church? 
  • What is your assessment of your church’s disciplemaking efforts?

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