Recently I wrote that churches with a disciple-making culture are having a radically greater impact on men than churches that don't have such a culture. Mike asks, "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 starting point to create a disciple-making culture is by implementing 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: people will regularly be coming to Jesus by faith (calling), growing in their faith (equipping), and serving the Lord through love and deeds (sending). We like this three-part definition because it is first and foremost biblical. And secondly, because it is also actionable. In other words, you can build ministry initiatives around it, and you can measure progress.
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: "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.
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.
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 calling, equipping, and sending people?
- Discipleship: When God brings us people who are stuck, do we have a process to find out why, and then help them solve their problems?
- Disciple-Makers: And, do we have men (and women for the women) who are intentionally making disciples who will, in turn, disciple others.
Concentrate on implementing good answers to these three questions, and everything else will fall into place. You will create a disciple-making culture.
Until every church disciples every man...