The following content is an excerpt from the eBook Fill Your Seats. Download your free digital version in your favorite format here.
In Matthew 10:6, Jesus said “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9:22 said, “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”
Be creative in fulfilling the Great Commission.
At Radical Mentoring, we’ve chosen a different word to attract people to disciple making. The noun “disciple” isn’t used a lot outside the church. People without church context are sometimes intimidated by the word. For newer church people, it immediately brings up thoughts of I’m not good enough, I’m in over my head, or I’m not ready for that. For experienced people in the church, it can mean “a course with lots of meetings,” “a teacher behind a podium,” “a Bible study,” or worse: “I already did that.”
We use the word “mentoring” in lieu of “disciple making,” at least at first, even though it’s not in the Bible. It seems that everyone wants a mentor. . . someone to guide them in areas of life where they need help. We’ve expanded the “area they need help in” to include all of life, including eternal life.
Here’s a few reasons we’ve used “mentoring” in our “branding”:
I believe in unchanging truth but ever-changing methods. Most of what we do in church today and hold as sacred isn’t necessarily in the Bible. That’s why God-seeking people could write and sing hymns with their own language, read liturgies in their own words, dress up for church, and originate church practices at various times throughout history. Just as those practices have morphed and adapted to the times, we too can increase the breadth and depth of our disciple-making reach with a more contemporary word to describe what Jesus did with the Twelve and what we can do with others today.
Jesus didn’t teach a course; He taught a way of life. But because of all the effort put into discipleship books and courses (as helpful as they can be) the word “discipleship” has taken on the connotation of a class or a course one takes. Jesus focused on teaching, but he also included modeling a way of life!
People were drawn to Jesus because His message was new. What He said was different from what they were used to hearing. People who had been sleeping through church now stayed awake, sat up, and took notice. A lot of them followed Him and what He taught. Ultimately, many of them died just for saying they knew Him.
This comes from the free eBook Fill Your Seats, which you can download here.
We are committed to making disciples, and we fully support Discipleship.org and other organization that use the words, “disciple,” “disciple making,” and the like. At the same time, we believe that in our culture, the word “mentoring” is understandable and actionable and it might bring more hope of success for the yet-to-be-engaged man. If almost everyone wants a mentor, why not offer them one? If we’re going to draw the next generation into discipleship and disciple making, we must be “wise as serpents” and “harmless as doves”—both at the same time.
If using the word “disciple” works in your context, use it. We use the word “mentor” in our context to invite people in; then we help them to understand Jesus-style disciple making.
Here are a few examples of churches who have successfully launched discipleship efforts using labels that may be more contemporary and consistent with their unique church culture:
North Point Community Church calls their discipleship groups “Leader Development Groups”
Peachtree Presbyterian Church calls it “IronMentoring”
NewSpring Church calls it “Radical Mentoring”
Johnson Ferry Baptist Church uses the phrase “Alpha Mu”
Whether or not there’s a history associated with disciple making at your church, a new “brand” connotes new life and vision—hope for something new, different, life-changing, and church-energizing. Jesus makes all things new; we may not start off using the word “disciple” because it might not communicate as well or be as relevant to the people we’re trying to get to fill our seats. But Jesus-style disciple making is our end goal. He is the one we want to help people to build their lives around!
Written by Regi Campbell
Regi Campbell grew up in a small-town church. He’s belonged to congregations in multiple cities and gotten to know a quite a few pastors and churches. For the past twenty-three years, he’s been a part of one of America’s largest churches, Andy Stanley’s North Point Community Church serving as an Elder twice and in other leadership roles. His first three books—About My Father’s Business, Mentor Like Jesus, and What Radical Husbands Do—speak to business people, mature men, and husbands respectively. Campbell now speaks to Senior Pastors, Staff Pastors, and leaders in the local church, sharing what he’s learned about creating interest in discipleship and disciple making.
Regi is the Founder and Chairman of Radical Mentoring, a nonprofit focused on equipping and encouraging churches to build disciples and disciple makers through intentional men’s small group mentoring. Regi believes the future of the local church is intimately connected to the development of strong Jesus-following lay leaders who will lead their wives, children, businesses, neighborhoods, and churches with God at the center.
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