Making Better Disciples
A church planter wrote me last week and asked about the material we use for discipleship. Two weeks ago, another church planter asked me a similar question. Earlier this year, I had a conversation with a church staff member of a significant church about how the church they serve does new believer follow-up. The answers I received were … unsatisfying. Unfortunately, in most churches that I consult with, the answers are equally unsatisfying (and unproductive).
Here’s a couple of thoughts for those of you looking for better answers.
Overall Perspective: The material you use is immaterial.
Answer this question: “What does a disciple need to know to grow?”
Answer that question first. Before you select or write your curriculum or design your process, decide what you think are the basic issues/topics that a disciple needs to know to grow. After you have done that …
- Pick anyone of a two or three dozen approaches “off the shelf” of CBD, or a Christian Bookstore or your denominational resource page, that approximates your perspective (or write your own material).
- Teach around its deficiencies, i.e. supplement, change, adapt it, etc..
- Make sure the material includes evangelism–actually doing it not just talking about its importance.
- Hold everyone accountable to pass it on to someone else within two months of finishing the material themselves
The actual material we used was from Multiplication Ministries, the publishing arm of Church Dynamics. It was simply called One-to-One Discipleship. It had nine lessons but needed an introductory lesson, a major revision of one lesson, a minor revision of another, and one lesson was impossible to do in one week. Our women generally completed it in 11-13 weeks and our men completed it in 13-16 weeks with some of both groups taking a bit longer.
It drove our evangelism. Nine years in, we did a survey of our men and found that 24.8% of them had led someone to faith in the previous three years. Over those nine years, I personally worked with about 20-25 guys (in addition to staff and some elders), my wife worked with an equal number (maybe more) women. Over that span well over 600 men and women where trained and equipped to share their faith, study the Bible inductively, pray, depend on the Holy Spirit, … to live passionately for and like Jesus.
All that being said, there are two “materials” that I would recommend as good answers to the question, “What does a new believer need to know to grow?”
One is the old Campus Crusade booklet: “The Christian Adventure: Step 1 in the Ten Steps to Christian Growth”. Are there other basic, foundational issues that might be covered in a new-believer curriculum? Yes. But these six are a great place to start. (Two cautions: the assumptions of the culture have changed since this material was written. Some questions assume too much Bible familiarity. Another problem is that later revisions of the material reflect the fact that CRU is working more with “gathered Christians” rather than new Christians. Call me if you want to know more.)
A second material that I would recommend is David Helm’s “One to One Bible Reading”. I can’t think of a simpler process, or one that is more doable by anyone in the church. (Highly recommend the book and the process).