Making Disciple Makers: The Top Strategic Priority
Have you felt stuck in your leadership role?
You want to be effective, but you are not – it feels like your feet are figuratively bogged down in the mud. I have been there as a lead minister/pastor many times. Let me tell you about how I was once really stuck in trying to create a disciple making culture and how it led to a major paradigm shift.
My head was full of fog at that time. I was frustrated with my ministerial co-workers because we were not making progress at becoming a disciple making church (where the norm is to raise up disciple making disciples). And I was trying to coach a group of other ministers/pastors who were equally frustrated with their staff on the same point. Something wasn’t catching hold. I couldn’t figure it out.
And then everything converged.
It was like a light went on inside of me. It became the best disciple making insight I’d had that whole year. We were all making disciples. We had made disciple making the focus of our ministries. As senior ministers/pastors we were seeking to live it, teach it, and guide others into it – all the time.
That meant we were teaching our staff to make disciples – and we were modeling it. We were all focused on a limited number of discipling relationships. It was taking time, effort, and wading through a lot of messiness in the lives of those we were discipling. But we were all stuck there – it was a bottle neck in our church and in the churches of the leaders I was coaching. We were not making progress on getting the whole church, as a system, aligned around disciple making.
What was missing? The multiplication factor.
I knew it was important, but I couldn’t see how to get there.
Then I realized that my top strategic priority as a leader in the church is not to personally make disciples – my top priority is to make disciple makers.
I don’t like to say it the way that I just said it, but it is necessary. If the leaders of a church do not focus on making disciple makers, even when they are personally making disciples, they will become the bottle neck. They will get bogged down with all of the people they are personally discipling and the disciple making in the church will be restricted to those leaders alone. It will become a leadership focus, but not a church culture.
Stated differently, we can only disciple as many people as we have disciple makers. If the main people making disciples are just the staff and key leaders, disciple-making growth will be very slow.
We had to learn to focus on multiplying disciple makers.
So, I started to develop a clearer score card for myself, our ministerial staff, and the church leaders I was coaching. I learned more about this score card from Disciple Making Movement leaders like Curtis Sergeant, Shodankeh Johnson, and Josh Howard who lead amazing ministries and who will also be speaking at the 2023 National Disciple Making Forum on April 26th and 27th in Indianapolis.
At the top of that score card, personal disciple making is still there, but right beside it is making disciple makers. As leaders, we all have to be what we want others to be, so we have to personally make disciples. But that does not, by itself, lead to multiplication that reaches a lost and hurting world and raises up Christ-like people.
If we want to reproduce disciple making, we have to reproduce and multiply disciple makers. Multiplication of a disciple-making ministry has to be based upon multiplying disciple makers. THAT MUST become the culture of a church.
The everyday Christian in the church should say, “we focus on raising up disciple makers!” The more disciple makers we raise up, the more people that we can reach and disciple. This simple clarity changes what we expect of leaders.
Paul states this principle well in 2 Timothy 2:2:
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.
This text describes four generations of disciples. Paul, the disciple maker, made a disciple maker out of Timothy and then Paul teaches Timothy to make disciple makers out of the reliable and qualified people that he knows. From 1- Paul to 2- Timothy to 3- reliable people and then to 4- those they are discipling.
That is a lot of disciple making!
That means lots of lost people saved. Lots of spiritual infants and children who grow up and make disciples. Lots of people getting loved as Jesus loved. It is significant kingdom growth! God was pleased with it then; God is pleased with it now.
2 Timothy 2:2 is one of the applications of Matthew 28:19 -20 in the early church. As Jesus discipled his disciples and then commissioned them as disciple makers, Paul discipled Timothy and then gave him a practical commission in Ephesus on how he was to make disciple makers.
We must adopt Paul’s teaching in our churches if we want to create disciple making cultures.
We know that disciples are best crafted in relationships, a few at a time. The same is true of disciple makers, but there are some factors that help church leaders develop a culture that reproduces and multiplies disciple makers.
1. Be clear in your role as a leader – you are to focus on reproducing and multiplying disciple makers and leading a church (or ministry) of leaders focused on raising up disciple makers.
2. Fast and pray regularly that God will raise up disciple makers in your church or ministry (Jesus modeled this for us in the Gospel of John, leading up to John 20:21).
3. Pursue multiplication of disciple makers as an essential part of all groups, strategies, and systems in the church (constantly ask, “how is this helping us raise up disciple making disciples?”).
4. Implement a simple, effective, and reproducible disciple making model in the church (or ministry) you lead.
a. Simple – everyday Christians find it to be an easy model.
b. Effective – the model helps people come to Christ and grow up in Christ.
c. Reproducible – any person who has experienced the group can take the model and lead others.
Make it easy to lead and multiply a discipling group after a person has been in that group – make it easy for a person to do for others what has been done for them.
5. Commit to an intentional and reproducible model of raising up disciple makers in your discipling groups.
a. I lead, you participate.
b. I lead, you help me lead.
c. You lead, I help you lead.
d. You and I take leadership responsibility as we multiply into two groups.
e. We repeat the process.
6. Make the multiplication of disciple makers part of the job description of all ministerial staff and how they are evaluated (in terms of job performance). Ask the ministerial staff to evaluate themselves regularly by the multiplication score card.
This focus is an essential component of creating a disciple making culture.
This paradigm shift is a very significant game changer. I found that I was not alone, among church leaders who were trying to shift the culture of their churches, in my ignorance of this strategic priority.
Several years ago, I worked with Todd Wilson, CEO of the Exponential church planting network, to develop an assessment for disciple makers. We brought together over two hundred church leaders to try out our assessment (to beta-test it). We had lots of good input from these ministers/pastors.
We developed a grid that had five levels of disciple makers.
Please carefully review the five disciple making levels below (for more information on the assessment – see https://church-multiplication.com/disciplemaker/).
Here was our surprising insight – a significant number of ministers/pastors did not even aspire to be level five disciple makers. They just wanted to personally make disciples.
They were just like I was before my paradigm shift.
But now it is an important strategic posture for my leadership as a lead minister/pastor and with the church leaders I coach.
If you are a church leader, and you want to create a disciple making culture, then making disciple makers must be your top strategic priority.