Measuring Effectiveness in Disciple Making
This week I had breakfast with a disciple making leader at our church. We were talking about discipleship strategies and things we wanted to improve upon in order to lead others. As we talked, he asked me a great question that I think is helpful for all of us to consider. He asked me, "How do we know these discipleship groups are accomplishing what we want them to accomplish?"
It's the question of effectiveness. A football coach was once asked if he was more in favor of the "west coast offense" or the "Wing T"? He said, "I suppose whichever is helping us score touchdowns." Everyone wants to know if what they are doing is making a difference. We should be especially concerned about this in the area that is the focus of our mission as a church, which is disciple making.
So what are the measurables for disciple making? What does a maturing disciple look like? What should we be looking for to determine how effective our d-groups are at making disciples?
In Matthew 4:19-20, Jesus calls his first disciples to follow Him with this invitation.
"Come, Follow me, "Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed Him."
In this invitation I believe we see the expectations of a disciple.
- Disciples are with Jesus - Jesus invites these men to "follow Him." To follow means they have to come be with Him. They have to spend time with Him in relationship. They have to listen to Him and learn where He is going, what He expects them to do, how He expects them to think. To me this says the first measurement of a disciple is that they are cultivating the discipline of being with Jesus. Are they hungry to hear from Him in His word? Are they speaking to Him in prayer. Are they filling their minds and hearts with His presence? I honestly do not see how someone can say they are following, even dare say believing in Jesus, if they aren't reading scripture consistently. (John 8:31-32) Are they worshipers of Jesus?
- Disciples are being conformed and changed by Jesus - Jesus tells these men, "I will make you." I get the image of a potter sculpting a piece of art. He starts with material that looks nothing like the end product. There's always a progression of the potter rubbing off impurities, molding and shaping in the clay the Image he desires. As these men began following, there was an expectation that they would be changing into something. There was an expectation for them to obey the truths and examples they were hearing from the Lord. They would never be arrived, but they would also not be allowed to stay where they were. To me this says the second measure of effective discipleship is are people changing? Are they putting off sin? Are they able to relate to others with more maturity than when they started? (Galatians 5:22-23) Do they love others? Are they showing effort of continual repentance? Are they broken over areas of failure and open to challenge when rebuked? After all Jesus says that if we love him we will keep his commandments. (John 14:15)
- Disciples are being sent by Jesus - Jesus says in His invitation, "I will make you fishers of men." These guys were following a Lord who Himself came to seek and save the lost. They were being changed into the image of one who came into the world that the world might be saved through Him. As they followed Him, they would be given a vision for mission, equipped with the skills to do mission, given opportunities to experience mission, held accountable to do mission, and receive coaching on how to get better at mission. (Matthew 9:35-10:42) Clearly the expected end result of Jesus investing in these men was that they would become missionaries.
This says to me that the third measure of effective discipleship is mission-shaped living. Are they praying for lost friends? Are they intentionally building relationships with lost friends? Are they engaging people in gospel conversations? Are they inviting people to church? Inviting people to study the Bible together? Opening their homes to connect with those far from God? If they aren't doing these things, are they trying trying to learn how to get better at them in the power of the Spirit?
Our Discipleship efforts are effective when the people we disciple are growing in these areas. 1. Growing relationship with the disciplines of spending time with Jesus. 2. Growing in obedience to His commands, (loving God and loving others.) 3. Growing in an intentional pursuit of building relationships and sharing the gospel with lost people.
"How do we know these discipleship groups are accomplishing what we want them to accomplish?"
Grace and Peace, Scott