How to Create a Disciple-Making Culture in Your Church

Six months ago, when our church plant was eight months old, I realized I had made a big mistake in church planting. I kept talking about discipleship and I was coaching others in how to make disciples, but I hadn’t done enough face-to-face modeling of what I meant when I told our church to make disciples. Thus, our church didn’t yet have the discipleship culture I wanted it to have.

So, I confessed my mistake and then prayerfully selected twelve men to disciple for six months in order to inject a strong disciple-making culture into our church. I created a discipleship process and then spent the last six months investing in these twelve men. It wasn’t perfect, but it was my best. I gave these men my heart, my best training, my time, my love, my prayers, my energy, etc.

We met as a group every Sunday night for half a year. In addition, I sought out much one-on-one time with guys in the group in order to navigate more specific issues of care and training and I gave these guys missions and tasks to complete.

Two nights ago I held a graduation ceremony for the twelve men (pictured above at the end of the ceremony; one guy is missing, he’s on his honeymoon). Each came to the graduation with a one-page paper, summarizing what they’ve learned from the process. I then presented a simplified and stronger discipleship process that I’ve created after my six months of experimenting and learning. Next I gave each guy their “diploma,” a document that list each man’s identities, strengths, personality profile, main idol they struggle with, 2 Timothy 2:1-2, and a name that I gave to each man that speaks of how I see God uniquely at work through their life. Finally, I anointed each man with oil as a symbol of the leadership mantel they now carry as they’re sent out to select and make disciples of their own. We then closed our final gathering in prayer, thanking God for what he’s done these past six months and asking God for guidance and blessing as each of us now continue forward with the one mission that God gave his church: making disciples.

What I have now are twelve men who are committed to multiplication, to investing in other men like how I invested in them. And with learning so much from the process I now have a sharper, stronger discipleship process which I will be teaching to the men and women of our church as we aim to create a culture where everyone in our church always has two or so people whom they are discipling. I’m convinced that the investment made these last six months will bear fruit in our church and city for many decades.

There are many different ways to go about creating a disciple-making culture in your church. Each church gets to figure out how to best do that. I chose this route because after a lot of prayer and looking at Scripture I couldn’t shake the fact that Jesus got this whole thing started by prayerfully selecting twelve men and investing in them. That strategy worked, so I figured I’d start there too.

This was just the beginning. Now I get to watch how what I started will transfer over to impacting tons of men and women in our church and city.

These men are the salt of the earth. I’m excited to watch God continue to use them in our city.

This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. I would love to have that process in hand as well. I am in the middle of planting a church and have 12 such men I would love to pour into and disciple. Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. My wife Ann and I will be pastoring a Cathedral of Faith site in Watsonville, due to open within the next 2 months. I am open to learn whatever I can from you on discipleship. I love your church! We hope to visit again soon.

  3. This is so cool! Im so thankful the seminary I am at really engages us with discipleship – and the church I attend I am able to pour into teen guys as my Timonthys. Discipleship can be messy but its so worth it.

    1. Justin, I don’t know what your long-term plans are here, but I get the sense that your discipleship is but a temporary arrangement. When I read the New Testament, I never get the sense that we hand out diplomas to those we mentor, and then move on. What are your long-terms plans towards discipleship and how do you plan to be involved in these men’s lives for the rest of their lives?

  4. I’d love to see a copy of your discipleship program. What did you do in these 6 months? What were the goals, benchmarks, etc? I love this idea but I’d like to see it fleshed out

  5. What’s your personal next step? Take in another handful of guys? Thanks for your encouragement. I loved reading this. Hearing of men pouring into other guys is always brings joy.

  6. Justin, I read this today and it resonated very deeply within me. I am beginning to see among many leaders a desire to return to discipleship. I am currently reading Francis Chan’s new book, Multiply. I love it so far. I would love to hear from you about your plans to disciple these men and how you went about it and how you have fine-tuned it. I think we would all benefit from learning from each other here in this area. Please do share…

  7. Justin

    Seems like you guys really got to know each other over six months.

    But – Discipleship? Discipleship-Culture? Discipling?
    Can’t seem to find these words, or actions, in the Bible.

    Was wondering…

    If you ever wondered? Why? With all the instructions Paul gives to the ekklesia, Paul, never mentions in any of his epistles – “Making Disciples? Or discipleship, discipling, discipleship culture?

    Neither does James, John, Peter, or anyone, in the NT epistles, mention “Making Disciples” disciples, discipleship, or discipleship training, discipleship culture.

    If what you say is accurate…
    “the one mission that God gave his church: making disciples.”

    How come, in the Bible…
    NOT one of His Disciples, even mentions “Making Disciples?”

    In my experience…
    Jesus is the only “ONE” who can “Make a Disciple.”

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall **hear MY voice;**
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    1. Jesus said “Go therefore and make disciples…” Matthew 28:19. If Jesus is the only one who can make disciples why did he command us to do so?

      Also Paul said “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1, which is also making disciples.

  8. Justin,

    What a great story of leading by example. You can see by the comments posted that we all agree with the need, but many of us are in need of models (method guidelines) we can adapt to our own churches. So I to jump in the “request” bandwagon for your material…Love to see it! Thanks…

  9. I would love to know what your process was and how you were able to encourage these men to open and accountable to this process. Thanks.

  10. Hey guys,
    Thanks for your great response on this. I’m going to do some more training and tweaking with the process in my church before sharing it more broadly. I’ll share it at a future date. In the meantime, if you’ve never done it, I encourage you to draft your own process for discipling men and women in your church.

    Many pastors/leaders have never thoughtfully worked through a process for making disciples in their city/church. Doing so is a critical exercise. I suggest studying the Gospels a lot, looking at what Jesus’ method was for selecting, training, and sending men. While doing that, also study your city–the culture and idols of your city, noting the unique way you might be called to make disciples in your city. For example, because success is an idol in Silicon Valley and people work excessive hours, it’s central to my discipleship process that we train our men and women to rest and have fun, it protects them from the idols and over-seriousness of our city. Making disciples in Las Vegas might not include that component.

    Also, do your best to contain your process to one-page. Keep it simple. You want to visually, simply, and memorably lay out this process for your church.

  11. Jon @ November 19, 2012 at 8:13 am

    You write…
    “Jesus said “Go therefore and make disciples…” Matthew 28:19. If Jesus is the only one who can make disciples why did he command us to do so?”

    A reasonable question – And there are some answers. One is…
    God desires us to admit our weakness.
    Our inability to “obey His commands.”
    And depend on Him.

    It seems God has NO problem testing and proving His children.
    Asking them to do many commands that they can’t fulfill.

    God’s ways are NOT our ways, are they? ;-)

    1 – We have the Ten Commandments.

    How well did the Israelites do with obeying just 10? In the wilderness?
    How are you doing with the 10? Notice any weakness with these 10?

    I don’t seem to be able to obey these 10. I’m weak. I need Jesus.

    2 – Then there’s The Greatest Commandment in the NT.

    Mat 22:37-39
    Thou shalt love the Lord thy God
    with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind….
    …Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

    How are you doing, loving God with all your heart, soul and mind?
    How are you doing, loving your neighbor?
    How are you doing, loving yourself?

    I often fail, The Great Commandment. I’m weak. I need Jesus.

    3 – Jesus said “fear not”and “worry not.”

    I don’t seem to be able to “obey these commands.”
    How’s that been working for you?

    4 – How about Pro 3:5-7 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In “ALL” thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

    Do you always “Trust in the Lord?”
    Do you acknowledge Jesus in “ALL” your ways?
    Have you “departed from evil?”

    I don’t seem to be able to “obey these commands.”
    How’s that been working for you?

    5 – How about – Pray without ceasing? 1The 5:17

    Nope… not this one either…

    6 – Then we have Luke 6:27,
    But I say unto you which hear, **Love your enemies,**
    do good to them which hate you.

    This one is certainly a challenge. I don’t do so good with this one.
    How about you? How are you with “obeying this command?”

    7 – How about – Go… make disciples…
    How many “Disciples of Jesus” have you made? Hmmm?
    Not converts, or confessions of faith, or repenters of sin.
    Not someone who joined “your church,” or became “your disciple.”
    BUT, a living, breathing, “Disciple of Jesus.”

    Someone who learns directly from Jesus – NO middle man…

    I haven’t been able to make any **True** “Disciples of Jesus.”
    I’m weak. I need Jesus.

    How about you? How are you with “obeying this command?”

    “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ”

    For me – “Go and make disciples” Is another law. A schoolmaster.
    That brought me to Christ. In my weakness…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *