The Verifiers of Discipleship

Dempsey and Earley use the example of Paul and Timothy to illustrate the idea of being a multiplier in discipleship. Paul discipled Timothy and entrusted him with the church he planted in Ephesus. He challenged him with these words. “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2). The first generation was Paul, the second was Timothy, who was then to pass it on to the third generation (faithful men), and they were to pass it on to a fourth generation (“others”).[1] This was the paradigm shift from growth through addition, to growth through multiplication.

As all organizations do, we have to define what success looks like, determine how we will measure it, and finally discuss where we made mistakes and how we can improve. Obviously the church world will evaluate it’s success based on much different criteria that the corporate world. Yes, analyzing our attendance, balancing the budget and cutting cost is important and necessary, but we really need to be minding what matters most – people. When it comes to evaluating, Polhill encourages us to develop a new scorecard. “When we evaluate, we must make the shift from just attracting and gathering to developing and releasing as well…This ‘new scorecard’ is focused on how many people are released as growing and thriving ‘head, heart, and hands’ Christians.”[2]

Since our purpose as a church is to connect people to God and connect people to others so that they can connect people to God who then connect people to others, it would only be fitting for us to evaluate based on that criteria. We know that we are giving opportunity for individuals in every age group to connect with God through our weekend presentations. We have the data to show our numbers of first time visitors and first time decisions to follow Christ through our weekly response cards. They are not 100% accurate because not everyone fills them out but due to our intentionality, we feel that we are close to about an 80% completion rate.

In addition to our weekend experience, our small group leaders are trained to give salvation invitations when they meet. Another way we help others to connect to God is through our local and global missions program. Finally, we repeatedly encourage our people to “make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5) where they live and work. We encourage them to not only invite people to church, but to share their story of God changed their life and how he can change their life as well.

Everyone who completes a response form indicating that they have made a decision for Christ receives a packet the following week which includes: a congratulatory letter from the Pastor, a CD message from the Pastor, a card with the information for the daily devotion podcast and church app, and a “Faith” booklet that discusses practical next steps for spiritual growth. They also receive a follow-up call from a staff member who gives them details of the resources that we have for them such as daily devotional, water baptism, and our Connection Pointe.

Connecting people to others is tracked mainly through our two week class called Connection Pointe. As stated earlier, we are very strategic and constant in our communication about connecting and our “on ramp” is the Connection Pointe. During the two week class, their assigned coach builds a relationship and stays in constant contact to insure that they are meeting new people, take advantage of the opportunity to shadow volunteer, and receive all the resources they need to continue their journey of discipleship. Once they have completed the class they fill out a “next steps” form where they indicate their desire to: volunteer, get connected in a community group, receive counseling, and receive addition spiritual growth resources.

After completing the Connection Pointe, our win is to see them either plug into a volunteer group, engage in local missions (Serve Our City), join a group, or begin their own group. Many of our connection coaches are also group leaders. For some participants, joining their coach’s group is a seamless transition. For others the process of finding the right group that fits their stage of life or schedule can be a bit more difficult.

Our metrics are then based on the data accumulated when we measure attendance, first time decisions for Christ, Connection Pointe, volunteering, and groups. In addition, we are now in the early stages of growing our groups by multiplying through apprenticeships, beefing up our leadership development process, and modeling one-on-one discipleship. Once they begin meeting with someone for discipleship, they are encouraged to choose someone that they can now disciple as well. Disciples making disciples.

Conclusion

When speaking of discipleship: Jesus is central, the Spirit is essential, the Bible is mandatory, prayer is critical, the methodology is ever changing, and disciple-making guarantees exponential growth. The days of leaving spiritual orphans on the doorstep of the church are over. It’s time for the church to rise up and reclaim its God-given mandate to go and make disciples. That means that we as believers need to take up our cross and follow Jesus, fish for men, and finish the job of discipleship in the lives of those God gives us.

Discipleship is intentional. It is something we must make a priority in our life. Discipleship is relational. It is something that we give our time and emotion to. Discipleship is educational. Just as Timothy did with Paul, it’s a process of learning in the laboratory life. We live life together and pass on what God is teaching us. It’s where we do ministry together and see God’s Kingdom multiplied. Then ultimately, discipleship is where we see the disciple become the disciple-maker “so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ” (Col 1:28).

[1] Rod Dempsey and David Earley, Disciple Making Is (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2013), ch. 16.

[2] John Polhill, The New American Commentary: Acts, vol. 26 (Nashville: B&H Publishers, 1992), 202-203.

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