How Do We Give More than Slogan Status to “More and Better Disciples”

Thursday is for Discipleship

Back in March I wrote about Jesus’ method of discipleship and how different it was from ours (see: Discipleship: How Did Jesus Do It? ). I mentioned five principles.

  1. He lived with them.
  2. He conversed with them.
  3. He modeled for them.
  4. He gave them responsibility
  5. He left them.

That fifth principle is a biggie. Leaving the disciples (and sending the Holy Spirit) was a big part of releasing them to begin the process of making disciples on their own.

Questions: What are some the barriers or reasons why leadership in our churches are so hesitant to give significant responsibility to people?  How can we create structures of empowerment where more people are entrusted and expected to make disciples?

6 thoughts on “How Do We Give More than Slogan Status to “More and Better Disciples”

  1. I remember when I made the transition out of IT professional with an income and paycheck. I couldn’t keep up with the professional development (learning new languages and systems) and continue to pastor and raise a family.

    The difficulty in accepting a paycheck as a pastor is that “at the end of the day” in the American system you can’t as a pastor justify your existence of a paycheck if someone else can do your “job.”.

    I don’t know if that makes sense. But every American “payheck” has to be economically justifiable in the capitalistic system. To justify yourself as a pastor in that system you have to be needed and keep being needed.

    The only way I’ve been able to “counter” that is from the “getgo” of our churh plant I have embedded into the minds of the core team that a large part of my responsibility is to work my way out of a job.

    I reminded them of that recently and used that idea of “what will u do if God leads me to leave next month or I die in a wreck or something?” and started discipling others into discipleship responsibilities I have they are not taking. teaching groups, “preaching”, thinking biblically about issues, and especially pressuring the leaders to consider how to multiply their leadership.

    It’s initially worked and 3 have taken one on on diacipleship with younger growing leaders.


    1. Matt, I think what you say in your second paragraph is definitely a part of the problem. If I think that I am not justified in being paid if someone else can do my job, then I will hold on to the reign of power related to what I do.

      Between you and me and th rest of the readership here, I think many pastors think this way. But I don’t think it necessarily has to be an either or (although in many cases, maybe it should).

      What if pastors changed their focus back to a more biblical “my job is to equip the saints to the work of the ministry.” One of my friends begins his seminary class with incoming students with this comment: “Congratulations on being accepted to the seminary. Today you forfeit your right to do the ministry. From this moment on your job is learn how to equip others to do the ministry.” I think that is the mindset we need.


      1. To me, it’s really a matter of different people with different giftings and callings fulfilling different roles—all ministry, but different types. Equipping is ministry, but it’s different than “the work of ministry” Paul’s talking about in Ephesians. Pastors must do what only pastors can do: take responsibility for feeding and shepherding the flock.


  2. Great question, Marty. I think one of the reasons Step #5 is so difficult is because it is only possible when Steps 1-4 have been followed through faithfully. And our model of society makes those steps inconceivable for many, if not most people. For one, Jesus is not a great leadership model for married people with children (in some aspects, of course). Nor is Paul, for that matter. Both of them could free wheel and roam from place to place, like nomadic vagabonds. That’s why Paul said singleness was better, because families bring substantial responsibilities that restrain what type and extent of ministry can be accomplished.

    Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that a pastor does have the means (time, freedom, finances) to do ministry like Jesus. Who in this society could possibly “leave their nets” and follow him? The fishermen left their livelihoods to follow. Is this the cost of discipleship? Are there certain careers that are off-limits to modern-day disciples of Jesus by virtue of their time commitment and inflexibility (which would be the vast majority of careers in 21st century America)? If not, then we’re talking about a quantitative difference.

    But this proves why releasing is so difficult: the amount of time pastors invest in discipling others (assuming that this time is spent well) is largely proportional to the quality of disciples and leaders they are able to multiply. There is no shortcut to discipleship. Quality disciples require substantial investment of quality time. Jesus took his twelve through an intensive, three-year process. The process will be much longer for those who are not able to participate in such a condensed “program.”

    Now, this pertains to elder/pastor type leaders. “Niche” ministry leaders (they probably ought to be called deacon(esse)s) may have developed certain competencies over the regular course of their life. Likewise, “seasoned” disciples, who have matured gradually over years, are able to be sharpened by a little extra intentional effort by pastoral leaders.


    1. Yes, I think you’re right. For Jesus, showing processes 1-4 was the initial step to doing #5. When we are doing more of steps 1-4 in our process we will be able to release people with greater confidence and effect.

      Now on the single/married issue, I want to push back a bit. What you say of course is true but I want to push back on the conclusion. Even though I am a rebel, I’m looking for lightning bolts when someone says Jesus isn’t a good role model! I would say that this is taking the model a bit too literally both for the model-er (Jesus) and the disciple (the apostles). But even here, I think you are on the cusp of real discovery for us.

      First, I think we need to see the principle of “intentional withness (Mark 3:13-14) [see also: Jesus Had a Better Idea–Let’s Try it Ourselves rather than shoehorn ourselves into doing exactly what Jesus did. Likewise, you are right, it is impractical to ask people in a technologically advanced and radically different type of economy to “leave their nets” and follow you for three years so you can build into their lives. And yet … maybe there is genius here.

      It is likely that some of the disciples at least did not have wives/families. Some of them were single guys. Perhaps that is one of the things that is transferable. Look for younger men to invest in, men who have not yet started their families or that stage of life. They have much discretionary time and they can move about more freely. How many pastors in America are intentionally looking for young men to invest real substantive time into? Not many unfortunately.

      As for how long it takes to develop real quality leaders … maybe this is part of what Jesus meant when he said that we would do even greater works, because of the Holy Spirit–we can develop them faster because of the Holy Spirit. One of my friends had a key formative role in the life and development of Mark Driscoll. Maybe I can set up an interview on the blog about the time it took for Mark to go from convert to nationally recognized leader.

      Good thoughts brother. Welcome back.


      1. I knew my comment about Jesus as role model would be provocative (I also knew you’d understand what I meant). 🙂

        I definitely agree with your principle of “intentional withness,” but we really can’t avoid the quantitative (i.e., time commitment) issue. I tend to be a continuum thinker, and so my best solution is to do whatever we can to steward our time so that it maximizes discipleship (both learning and serving). That means saying “No” to some of the extremes of society (material excess, fame, prestige) which lead us down the path of “workaholism” and other stupid decisions that squander precious resources (including time) and destroy/prevent community. This is a step in the right direction, though far from freeing up the kind of time the twelve spent with the Master.

        I think that seminary and residency programs are the closest thing to the three-year intensive “discipleship program” of Jesus and the twelve. Of course, seminary is a far cry because of the absence of the “withness factor” (no small deficiency).

        OK, I’ve got to be honest—can I be honest for a sec?—I really believe in rigorous biblical-theological education, be it formal or informal. It’s not how Jesus trained the twelve (nor did they receive anything comparable later on, to my knowledge), but it seems necessary today, as it apparently was by even the 2nd century, simply for the sake of doctrinal and apologetic responsibility. But this is so different from what Jesus did. My feeling is that Jesus’ leadership development strategy was unique in history. There are definitely some undergirding transferrable principles. But I think that pastoral training will always and forever remain strongly “academic” (in the best sense of the term) in addition to moral, spiritual, and practical.

        The thing that makes me uncomfortable is that the Christianity of the early fathers seems so radically different (methodologically/pedagogically speaking) than that of Jesus and the first apostles. But then again, perhaps the fathers implemented a model that was appropriate for their Sitz im Leben. They lived in a new epoch of Christian history, one less dependent on signs and wonders to substantiate the faith. (Of course, my Pentecostal and New Wave brothers and sisters would disagree.)

        The Holy Spirit is definitely a massive upgrade when it comes to discipleship. I don’t believe He takes the place of all other equipping, but He certainly convinces and enlightens otherwise hard hearts and dull minds. Without Him, all our efforts are in vain.


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