5 Questions About Your Disciplemaking Model

Hope you’re making disciples…

If you are, you should be able to name your three closest disciples without even thinking about it. If you can’t do this, you probably need to re-read Jesus words in Matthew 28.

If you make disciples, is this a private project or a systematically integral to your church family? If you lead a church, is disciplemaking the central organizing principle or an add-on?

These are important questions that we need to ask ourselves from time-to-time over a tenure of ministry. Reason? It’s easy to start well and finish poorly.

Making disciples is certainly central to any hopes of multiplying the church—moreso  it is key to any hope of evangelizing nations or shaping your culture. Yet, many pastors I meet inform me that they are too busy to do the third most important thing Jesus commanded after loving God and loving our neighbors. In fact, lead pastors can be the single greatest obstacle to a disciplemaking network in a local church—we do lead by example, like it or not.

I think, talk and even dream about disciplemaking every day. In my last church I aimed to build 85% of my job around disciplemaking relationships, beginning with our core team. It was a worthy goal and I almost made it. By setting the bar high it insured that I would at least do something right.

All of this is good and hopefully meaningful to you.

However, this week I was faced with a five-faceted question concerning, not just my efforts, but a model I’ve used as a fallback for most of my adult life. The question was, “Is your approach to disciplemaking simple, effective, memorable, reproducible and portable?

Five Important Characteristics of a Disciplemaking Continuum

  1. Simple
  2. Effective
  3. Memorable
  4. Reproducible
  5. Portable

I’ll attempt to explain what we think was the genesis of church multiplication in our circles in the next few paragraphs and then we’ll get onto the characteristics in that loaded question.

For starters our model emerged from two scriptures, Ephesians 4 and Acts 2.

In Ephesians we see that the purpose for Jesus depositing leadership gifts in the church is for the equipping of ordinary people so they can build the church (numerically and in strength) toward maturity, and ultimate reproduction.

Acts presents an interesting conundrum, 300-plus new converts became leaders on the afternoon of the day we call Pentecost. They were immediately plunged into leadership. How do I know this? Well the numbers swelled from 120 to at least 3120 in a day. They met in the temple courts, where the apostles could have covered the teaching load, and in homes where there weren’t enough apostles to cover the bases.

The result was that the church indulged in the apostle’s teaching, fellowship, prayer, eating, giving, praising and getting along with the neighbors better than most of us today.

It’s that teaching element which set us on a path toward a workable model.

If these neophytes were involved in the apostles teaching in homes, it suggests that they were reflecting whatever the apostles taught in more public spaces. We decided that we could arm our lawyers, engineers, teenagers and truck drivers with meaningful questions we could help our people reflect more deeply on whatever the Holy Spirit was saying while our primary leaders taught in public meetings. The result was a model that I describe much better in a book I wrote called Let Go of the Ring: The Hope Chapel Story. It’s an almost autobiographical look at how we developed from a handful of people into a church multiplication movement.

Analyzing our Model

Anyway, back to the question that got me writing in this vein.

Simple: We built a model that was so simple that anyone could operate it after having been exposed through a mentor in their life—this technique is better caught than taught.

Effective: For us the norm was 50-60 percent involvement in our disciplemaking continuum.

Memorable: Because our reflection model was the organizing principle for our church we replicated it (as distinct from duplicating it) at four levels. 1. It was our primary model for what people would call home groups or microchurches within the circle of our congregation. 2. It became our tool for leadership training circles. 3. It could work with two or three friends in the marketplace. 4. Finally, we could train people in other countries to use this simple model. Because we used pretty much the same approach everywhere everyone was aware of the basics. It was memorable.

Reproducible: A good model is easy to reproduce as new groups form. Beyond that it was easy for our church plants to operate the model. Easier because most of our plants were an outgrowth of our in-house microchurches.

Portable: The nice thing about what we did was that it works as well for our friends in Mongolia as it does in Kenya or Kailua, Hawaii. What we do should be portable enough to operate in other cultures.

So, what is this magical model? Well I’m not here to preach our model to you. My intent is to make sure that whatever you do grew out of the scripture rather than google. And I want to ask if whatever you lit on is simple, effective, memorable, reproducible and portable.

We’d love feedback in the comments box below and you might also enjoy catching up with some of us by listening to the podcast we’ve recently pulled together.




5 thoughts on “5 Questions About Your Disciplemaking Model”

  1. Dear Ralph, thank you for this amazing post. I know you mentioned you don’t want to preach your model, but would it be possible to share with us, so we can learn from it as a framework. Personally, I myself am probably overprogrammed by my previous experiences in church circles to understand discipleship in terms of teaching and have had a hard time really apply those principles you mentioned practically. Thank you.

    1. Hi Alex,
      Thanks for asking. The best way to absorb the model would be to read two books, Let Go of the Ring and Making Disciples, in that order. The first will show you how we developed it while the second is more of a “how-to.”
      Let me know how things progress,

      1. Thank you very much for sharing. I will certainly take a look at it. I finished Let Go of the Ring, thank you for sharing with us your journey. Will be looking at Making Disciples shortly. Blessings.

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