Five ways to cultivate a culture of discipleship

American churches are in crisis.

Nearly 4,000 churches close every year in North America. Ed Stetzer estimates that 70 percent to 80 percent of all evangelical churches in the U.S. have either stopped growing or are in decline!

We are in a crisis of discipleship.

I believe with all my heart, a return to transformational leadership and biblical disciple-making will enact a 21st- century Reformation. If disciple-making is our focus, then it ought to be one of our highest priories in every leadership pipeline of the church.

By empowering the people of God of any color, race, background, creed and socio-economic status, with the Spirit of God by wielding the Word of God, for the ministry of God, and for the glory of God, this will change the world.

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Here are five practical ways to cultivate a culture of transformational leadership and discipleship.

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1. Obedience to Holy Scripture

The primary thing Jesus has authorized the church to do is to “make disciples.” (Matt 28:19).

Discipleship is not an optional accessory to our life. Scripture commands us to make disciples, it is not an option to be considered. It is the heartbeat of the gospel and all of life that we are called to be and do.

2. Care for the next generation

The members of a local church should cultivate a culture of discipleship because they want to care for the next generation (1 Thess. 3:12).

In a sense, if we go with the old model, we’re subconsciously saying, “We want to pack the pews Sunday with as many people in the door. We are glad you’re here, but we’re not really interested in having you here because we are interested in your friend back there.” What happens as a result is those people who are not cared for leave out the back door as fast as people come in the front door.

3. Promote unity within the Church

In a culture of discipleship, with unity as the launching pad in mind-set as a starting point (1 Cor 1:10); both relationships and spiritual formation collide inside and outside the church context. Relational community through the relational environment is found in this discipleship context.

As believers wrestle together in the local church context through various trials, temptation, tribulation, suffering, persecution of the faith, they will ever draw each another closer to Christ and to one another and strengthen the bond of faith and unity.

4. Create a leadership development plan

How many of churches have a discipleship plan? How many of churches have an intentional leadership development plan?

Discipleship is intentionally equipping leaders through accountable relationship empowered by the Spirit of God with the help of current godly leadership that models the congregation (Eph 4:12). The fruit of their ministry becomes evident in passing it on to the younger leaders.

5. Encourage multiplication of the saints

The ultimate goal of discipleship does not only end with training leaders, but leads to multiplying faithful followers of Christ (2 Tim 2:2).

A culture of discipleship multiplies the gifts and ministry of the whole church body, not just the pastor or a few select leaders. By this method, we will witness a cycle of reproduction to the ends of the earth and unto the end of time.

God’s method: A few good men and women

People are naturally looking for the silver bullet. One program, one system, one special book or a process that will move people immediately down the road closer to maturity in Christ.

Discipleship is the silver bullet. Matthew 28:19-20 is the only plan that was given. There is no other method.

Jesus envisioned that the victory would be won through witnessing, and he depended on the faithfulness of his chosen disciples to this task. That was his only plan. His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but men were to be His method of winning the world. Jesus’ method was very simple. Programs, ceremonies and organizations are well intended. But God is seeking men and women who are filled with God’s passion for the lost.

So why don’t we do this simple task? Mass recruitment was the easier strategy. Many pastors think their greatest impact will come from preaching to many. Not true. Our greatest impact is in discipling a few. Jesus’ method just has simply been ignored.

We are not speaking of becoming kinder and nicer, and those values matter. What we are speaking of is “world revolution.” The goal is world conquest. We have not been called to hold the fort, but to storm the heights.

Dallas Willard said, “If you read the Great Commission, you may not realize it is about world revolution. If you think it is about planting churches, as important as that may be, if you think it is about evangelization, as that is often understood – no, no. It is about a world revolution promised through Abraham, come to life in Jesus and living on in his people up to today. That is what our hearts hunger for. Even when we don’t know how to approach it or how to go about it.”

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