One of the glaring problems exposed in the church during 2020 was the lack of adequate spiritual formation, or discipleship, most churches have practiced over that last few decades. I’ve been in many meetings with church leaders during which someone points out that we have not done a good job of discipleship, and every head nods in agreement. A major concern is the lack of a well-formed, biblical worldview in many believers, but the main critique is that many churched people haven’t been equipped to be the kind of missional Christian today’s culture needs.
Years ago, in what many now refer to as “Christendom” in America, most people were raised with a Christian worldview. In this context, Christian formation took place in the home, so the local church simply supplemented it with Sunday School, youth groups, and occasional classes such as confirmation. Adult discipleship was mostly forming Anglicans of existing Christians coming from other denominations. There was very little, if any, training on evangelism and local mission. Sure, there was “outreach” but that was often serving needs without sharing the Gospel, not dissimilar to what a secular service organization would do.
What we need now is a reformation that involves local churches transforming culture for the Kingdom of God. We need every church member to become a missionary and every consumer Christian to become a contributor. This transformation won’t happen by accident. Church leaders will need to develop and deploy discipleship processes that actually “make” disciples who “obey all” that Jesus commanded as he instructed in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20).
I don’t know any church leader who doubts that fulfilling the Great Commission and making new disciples of Jesus is a major part of what the church is supposed to be doing. Yet, many Anglican congregations have no clear plan how to make disciples in their church. Yes, there are some Bible studies and classes, some small groups, and confirmation classes, but having a well thought through, clear, and doable pathway for brand new Christians to become fully formed, mature, missional followers of Christ, not so much.
I have often asked church leaders to describe their congregation’s discipleship process only to be met with blank stares. I then ask, “If Jesus’ main mission for the church given in the Great Commission is to ‘Go and make disciples…’, and your church has no plan whatsoever to actually do the main thing he’s called you to do, why on earth would God trust your church with any new believers?” I then say, “If I were God, I would look for a church that had a plan to disciple the people I went to such great lengths to save and, when I find one, send them all there!”
With that idea in mind, would God trust your church with the people he died to save so they could be made into his disciples? In other words, does your church have a well thought through plan to make the kind of disciples our current culture desperately needs?
If so, great! Please share it with me so I can pass it along to churches with no plan! In the AAC’s Anglican Revitalization Ministries, we do not promote a specific discipleship program or process. Instead, we teach principles and then help churches develop unique discipleship plans that fit their context. Sharing what you’re doing successfully will help others! Please email me at the address below with a brief description of your discipleship pathway.
If your church does not currently have a plan for discipleship, what clear, doable process could your church develop and deploy this year? Whatever plan you design, it should move people intentionally and incrementally from being brand-new believers to becoming fully mature, missional followers of Jesus who attempt to do everything he commanded them to do every day! If you’re not sure where to start, would like to talk with someone about ideas, or need more information, email me today at email@example.com to schedule a call. Partnering with you so your church can fully thrive is what we do!
Lastly, let me encourage you not to shy away from having plans and processes for making disciples. Jesus didn’t just “wing it” with his disciples. He had a plan over three years during which he moved them from a low commitment “come and see” (John 1:39) to the high cost of “come and die” (Luke 9:23).
I also noticed recently when rereading Genesis 1 that God used a process to create the world. Although he could have spoken once and made everything instantly complete, God made light, then sky, then land and sea, and then the rest one step at a time. Then in chapter 2:1 it says, “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.” So, creation was a process. In 2 Corinthians 5:17a, we are told, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” That being true, since God used a process to create, it makes sense for us, made in his likeness, to have a process to make “new creations” in Christ into mature, missional disciples!
God bless you, and I hope to hear from you soon either about your church’s disciple-making process or to talk about how to develop one!