I was convicted about 2 years ago concerning my approach to disciplemaking. Freshly minted with a PhD in Philosophy of Religion with a specialized interest in Philosophical Theology, I considered my role in disciplemaking to be building a robust, powerful system of doctrine into the people of God. If I was teaching doctrine, I was discipling; anything else was a waste of my time and was irrelevant. Idle small talk in the hallways: worthless. An hour focused only on fellowship through relational community: worthless. An hour of Bible teaching without systematizing those truths into appropriate doctrine: worthless. Oh, how I sold short what the Lord would have from His leaders!
Through great men of faith who did not think like I did but saw some hope for me, the Spirit began convicting me that I was NOT making disciples. These men spent time with me to talk about what it meant to be Christlike, which was more than being able to think like Christ at a moment’s notice. It was much more: to be transformed, formed, and conformed to the image of Christ such that the words and deeds (and thoughts) of Jesus naturally flow out of you. Doctrine alone will not produce such disciples.
I finished the book Discipleshift: Five Steps that Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples by Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington this weekend. They summarized well my transformation in a section called “From Informing to Equipping,” in a chapter titled, “A New Job Title: Equipper.” They claim that the job description of a disciplemaker consists of four major roles: an authentic disciple, a discipleship-system builder, a developer of leaders, and a vision caster. I want to mention one line or so on each of them.
An Authentic Disciple. In my South Carolinian vernacular: you can’t give what you ain’t got. We must model what discipleship means for our people by our own spiritual disciplines and investing quality time with them. We must live it.
A Discipleship-system builder. This line punched me in the gut, “Ineffective: Since I’m trained in the Bible and theology, I’m the primary one at my church who should teach the Bible. Effective: Since I’m trained in the Bible and theology, I can create support systems in my church that teach others how to teach the Bible in relational contexts.” (121) We must produce people to do the work to which God has called them, and our role in that is to provide the system for them to find that calling and flourish in it.
A Developer of Leaders. They write that “God promises that he will supply all we need in terms of gifted people to complete the mission he gave us (see Matt. 16:18; Rom. 12:4-8; Phil. 4:19).” I was just cranking out cogs who could defend doctrine rather than pouring sacrificially into people to see them grow to live their faith boldly. Who are the 2 or 3 individuals God would have you sacrificially pour into over the next year in order to reproduce yourself and raise up a new generation of leaders?
A Vision Caster. Who do you intend your people to become? And is that vision in line with the conviction of the Spirit in their lives? I intended to make doctrine warriors; the Spirit intended to make disciples who make disciples. I pray that we find our joy and find great purpose in the latter.
Paul Wilkinson is Adult Minister-Groups Associate at the Brentwood Campus.