Why Recentered? To Help Leaders Recover The Lost Art Of Discipleship

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I walked into the board meeting of a large and respected church renowned for its commitment to the Word of God and asked, “How many of you leaders have been personally discipled, either one-on-one or in a group setting?”

Blank stares.

Thinking on my feet, I restated the question. Trying to avoid churchy talk, I asked, “How many of you have been mentored by a more mature believer, either one-on-one or in a small group?”

Straining through their memory banks, they offered answers far from what I believe Jesus had in mind when He launched His disciples into the world.

“Well, I’ve listened to hundreds of sermons by (insert here the iconic pastor of the church).”

“I’ve been in Sunday School most of my life.”

“I spent four years in Bible School.”

To be honest, I was shocked.

Suddenly, the great disconnect between the Great Commission and church as we know it today made me sad for these sincere and devoted Christians. So I decided to make this part of my life mission — to equip the churches I pastored and the churches of those pastors who would invite me in to make disciples of all nations.

That was thirty years ago. What has changed since then? Apparently, not much. According to a recent survey on the current state of discipleship in the U. S. by Barna Group and the Navigators, less than 1 percent of leaders really know the impact of their discipleship efforts in the lives of people in their congregations. The majority of pastors have never personally experienced discipleship.

My passion hasn’t wavered, I’m still helping leaders recover the lost art of disciple making.

Discipleship is the same is it was before.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus walked up to eleven untamed Galileans and invited them: “Come, follow me.” They responded and stepped into a wondrous experience of doing real, everyday life with the Son of God for three years as He discipled them. Near the end of His ministry here on earth, the Master commissioned these same men to go and do exactly what He had been doing with them — to take the Good News to the world and make disciples of all the nations.

Notice that Jesus didn’t have a program, He simply did life with them to take advantage of teachable moments. The debate between one-on-one or small group discipleship seems irrelevant to the narrative of the Gospels. Jesus leveraged both to prepare His disciples to turn the world upside down in His name. Sometimes we see Him in personal conversations with one, two, or three of the eleven, but usually He taught them as a group.

If you want my definition of discipleship, it’s one simple sentence that usually becomes a bit messy and confusing in the trenches of everyday life: Building intentional, trusting, truth-telling relationships in community that encourage us to trust, follow and serve Christ.

Jesus said, “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31).

The word “disciple” simply means learner or follower. The church is to make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20) as we love one another (John 13:34-35). We often refer to these as Jesus’ Great Commission and Great Commandment.

Making disciples and loving one another should be at the center of everything we do in the New Testament church. A Christian disciple follows Jesus, becoming more and more like Him through doing life with other believers they trust and love in community.

I refuse to give up on discipleship.

In my mind, the choice is clear. Pastors are under more pressure to grow the church, meet needs, run programs, and make budget than any other time in church history. I get that, but it’s also true that people are lonelier, more crazed by a world of screens and bad news, and desperately seeking meaningful lives and a place to belong.

Our world is ripe for discipleship.

Or, as Jesus put it: “Look up and see that the fields are already ripe for the harvest” (John 4:35).

Before you give up on discipleship, contact me here. Let’s start a conversation that I believe will help you recover the lost and of discipleship.