Create A Disciple-Making Culture
There are many churches across the country who have mildly effective programs and events for men. But there are only a few where the majority of men are in discipling relationships (the regular study of God’s Word and authentic relationships with other men). What is the one thing that makes the most difference? Having a disciple-making culture.
We all know that what God really wants is churches who make disciples. This is why we describe our work as helping churches create an environment where the Holy Spirit inspires men to engage in life-on-life discipleship. Yet, we can talk about the importance of men’s discipleship until we are blue in the face, but without a disciple-making culture we’ll never get any real traction.
We see this with striking clarity in the field — churches with great momentum because they already have a disciple-making culture, compared to churches that even with great men’s leaders can’t keep the momentum going because the church in general does not have a disciple-making culture that supports their work.
One leader asked, “Since many/most churches would say they are creating such a culture, what would you define as the tangible characteristics of a church that truly is creating a disciple-making culture?”
Good point and a great question. How can you create a disciple-making culture? The best answer we’ve seen is to continuously highlight the discipleship nature of your activities and the discipling relationships that are making a difference in men’s lives. Communicate through testimonies, emails, videos, and announcements that God is at work because people in our church care enough to help other people grow in Jesus.
To tell this story well, you’ll need to have nailed down the answers to three simple questions: What is a disciple? What is discipleship? And what is a disciple-maker?
First, create a clear understanding about the “end product” you are trying to produce. In other words, what is a disciple? A disciple is someone “called” to live in Christ (salvation, abide), “equipped” to live like Christ (spiritual formation and growth), and “sent” to live for Christ (neighbor love, bear fruit).
These three tangible results will be happening all the time in a disciple-making culture: men (and women and children) will regularly be coming to Jesus by faith (calling), growing in their faith (equipping), and serving the Lord through love and deeds, especially in discipling others (sending). We like this three-part definition because it is first and foremost biblical (2 Timothy 3:14ff). And secondly, because it is also actionable. In other words, you can build ministry initiatives around it, and you can measure progress. People in discipling relationships can know that these are the priorities they should be focused on.
Second, create a clear picture of the “process” by which disciples are made. In other words, what is discipleship? Discipleship is not a “program,” although discipleship curricula can be part of the process. Here’s a better way to think of it-a more organic way, similar to the process Jesus used. When God puts someone in your path who is stuck, discipleship means finding out why and then helping them solve that problem.
What are those problems? Here are the seven top reasons men will feel they are stuck from my book Man Alive: “I feel like I am in this alone, I don’t feel like God cares about me personally, my life has no purpose, I have destructive behaviors that keep dragging me down, my soul feels dry, my most important relationships are not healthy, and I don’t feel like I’m doing anything that will leave the world a better place.” When a man walks into your church, it’s usually for one or more of these seven reasons.
Use testimonies to introduce people in your church who are helping others “get unstuck” and grow to be more like Christ. Use these true stories to highlight the process of discipleship in your church and to encourage more men to care enough about other men to enter into their lives. And that leads to the next point.
Third, create a disciple-making culture by raising up many “disciple-makers.” What do these disciple-makers look like? Let’s say a man walks through the front door of your church for the very first time with his wife and children. Imagine squads of men trained to mobilize and take action — men who have sat around a table and wrestled with the questions, “Why did he just do that? Why would a man visit our church? What is the problem he is trying to solve?” They understand what a big step it is for a man to walk through your door.
Those men are your disciple-makers. Disciple-makers are the ones who will take other men under their wings and show them the ropes — the spiritually mature men who will show the new guys how to become godly men, husbands, and fathers. They care, because someone once cared about them.
We also call these men allies, the men who really get your vision for discipleship and make it a priority in their lives. Instead of focusing on how many men come to events and activities, make it a point to identify and grow the number of allies willing to engage in life-on-life discipleship with other men. And encourage them to do this through all the ministries of the church, not just “men’s ministry.” The most important thing to do is to pray to the Lord of the harvest that he would raise up workers to disciple others.
In addition to prayer, God often creates a new ally when we give him a concrete step and ask him to connect with another man. For example, you may ask him to lead a short-term follow-up group for a few men after an event. Or you may equip him with an invitation business card and ask him to invite disconnected men from a church picnic to be part of the adult class he and his wife attend. These concrete directions give him a chance to step up and find out that God really can use him in the life of another man.
So how are you doing? Here are three questions that can help you assess the degree to which your church has a disciple-making culture:
- Disciples: Are we regularly calling, equipping, and sending people?
- Discipleship: When God brings us people who are stuck, do we have a process to find out why, and do we have people who are stepping up to help them solve their problems?
- Disciple-Makers: Are we consistently growing the number of men (and women for the women) who are intentionally making disciples who will, in turn, disciple others.
If you prayerfully implement good answers to these three questions, we believe God will give your church a disciple-making culture, for His glory.