Next Level Disciple Making

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by Justin Gravitt

This one may not be for you. This one is calibrated for those who aren’t easily satisfied. It’s for the few among us who like to go all in. If you’re pretty happy with where you are as a disciple and a disciple maker (and that’s okay!) this one isn’t for you.

Regardless, continue at your own risk…

David Goggins doesn’t do anything halfway. After tiring of his work as an exterminator, he decided to become a Navy SEAL. At the time he weighed 300 pounds, much too heavy to be allowed to even try. Three months later he returned weighing 190. Without spending too much time on his story, he passed the test to become a Navy SEAL, then became the only person to ever pass the most intense certification training that the Army and the Air Force has to offer as well.

Towards the end of his career in the military Goggins took up running. As you might expect, he wasn’t interested in jogging a couple miles through the neighborhood, instead he became an ultra-marathoner winning races up to 200 miles long.

For his next challenge Goggins decided to break the world pull-up record. It took three separate attempts, but on January 19, 2013, he completed 4,030 pull-ups in seventeen hours—setting the new world record.

Lots of people in the world are like Goggins, though not many are as intense. These people love a challenge, take life by the horns, and are committed to improvement. For them there is growth in the grind and joy on the journey towards excellence and success. They are motivated not to beat others, but simply to be the best they can, to reach their potential.

Our culture has various options for these go-getters. They are invited to compete in extreme ways. The goal isn’t to win, but rather to grow, to stretch their very best and to see where they stack up. Examples include ultra-marathons, long distance swimming, power lifting, memory competitions, etc. Not everyone wins, but everyone grows to a new level as a result of the training.

The motivation and energy of go-getters is powerful. It’s these types of people who move every facet of society forward by pushing limitations out. Over the centuries the church has benefitted from these types of people. Some of the most famous are: Martin Luther who challenged the Catholic church on 95 points, John Wesley who traveled 250,000 miles and preached some 40,000 sermons, and William Borden who left a life of earthly riches to take the Gospel to Africa, a region that would claim his life.

Can you relate to the passion of these go-getters? Do you know someone who does? Are you someone who is either all in or not at all? Are you motivated by challenge? Do you hunger after excellence as an aspect of worship (Romans 12:1, 1 Cor. 10:31)?

If so, this post is especially for you.

In most churches, disciple making is aimed squarely at the masses. The goal is to make it simple enough for everyone to do. Such “easy disciple making” is a fine place to start. Since we are all called to make disciples the goal of providing a low-bar entry point is helpful. The problem is when that low-bar entry point is the end point as well.

When easy disciple making is also the end point, it reduces disciple making to merely friendship, a few static questions, or simply reading the Bible or other prepared curriculum together. It’s the equivalent of banging notes out on a piano. Such a person is playing the piano, but if that’s all someone thinks a piano can be used for then it’s a turn off for many, especially for go-getters.

Again, easy disciple making is needed; disciple making is a call meant for everyone. However, there’s also a need for “next-level disciple making.” Here are three reasons why easy disciple making alone is insufficient.

First, easy disciple making is mechanical, but deep disciple making invites creativity. When disciple making can be learned and done too easily it remains shallow. Not only does shallow disciple making not expand into a lifestyle, but it also fails to penetrate the depths of a person’s vision and heart. Worse yet, it remains shallow in the life of the person being discipled. For most, that which lacks depth and intricacy is easily discarded.

Second, easy disciple making dehumanizes disciple makers. In other words, when it can be done by anyone then it can be done by anyone. When easy disciple making is the only option it leads the discipler to believe that his discipling ability isn’t affected by his immaturity. A healthy fear of passing on weaknesses should drive the discipler to strive for excellence. Additionally, disciple makers should be inspired to grow to maturity, to do his best, and to apply his specific gifting to those he disciples. Easy disciple making strips the process down so far that our humanity (both strengths and weaknesses) is largely ignored and deemed irrelevant.

Third, easy disciple making edges out go-getters that want to be challenged to reach new heights. It does so by communicating that only experts can innovate and that amateurs are left to implement. Many, including go-getters, see that the mechanics are easy execute. They see a piano that can be played with great ease—and what’s the fun in that?

So what’s to be done?

Church leaders need to value and clear space for higher-level disciple making practices. The church desperately needs next-level discipling because the best ideas for disciple making in our culture probably haven’t even been tried yet.

Our disciple making systems are churning out disciples who can play “Mary had a little lamb” on the piano, but are not skilled pianists.

What if disciple making demanded all of who you are?

What if no matter how hard you tried, you still had to trust God to do it?

It’s this type of disciple making that changes the discipler and the disciple. It’s this type of discipling that makes virtuosos.

This post by Justin Gravitt first appeared here. Used with permission.

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