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Last week, my family of four had only 3 nights where we did not have any events or prior engagements planned. That means before the week began over half of the week was shot. In today’s society, busyness and overscheduled seems to be the new norm.

In the middle of all of this, our family is supposed to make Sunday morning church, small group, serving in the church and various ministries a priority. Plus don’t forget about raising your kids to love and fear the Lord. Where is discipleship in the midst of competing priorities? How should the church minister effectively in this high-octane world?

1. Discipleship requires patience

I love Amazon Prime. If you are not a member, then you have no idea what you are missing out on. If you need anything, you simply order it, and two days later it’s right at your front door.

You need a paper shredder. Boom! It’s there. Need a new keychain. Two minutes and a few clicks later, you will be the proud owner of a brand new key chain. Amazon has virtually anything you need and it happens so easily. Amazon Prime is wonderful to get Christmas presents. It’s terrible if people view discipleship the same way. If I go to this Bible study, a small group for a few weeks, and a few Sunday morning services, then BAM! I am disciple.

Pastors and church leaders must repeatedly teach against the instant discipleship mindset. A better way to explain discipleship is exercise and diet. Rarely does one meal or one weight lifting session change everything. Working out and changing your eating habits over time makes all the difference.

Discipleship is a process that requires time and patience, and our church must passionately teach what Eugene Peterson calls “long obedience in the same direction.”

2. Small Groups don’t solve all discipleship problems

Small groups are incredible. My wife and I currently lead one, and have either led or been a part of one for years. We love the transparency and authenticity that comes with being in a group. I believe it is one of the most valuable ministries in a church for too many reasons to explain in a couple paragraphs.

But despite the positives, small groups don’t solve all the discipleship problems. Not everyone can join groups for health reasons, schedule reasons, or myriad of other problems. Plus, while small groups are highly relational, they often struggle with necessary biblical information needed for people to grow individually.

This is why our church offers both classes and groups. We believe they both serve different functions and accomplish different goals. One season an individual or couple might need a class on how to read the Bible, foundational theology, or apologetics. That same individual or couple might need to join a recovery group, marriage group, or some other type of group in a different season of their life.  Discipleship takes both classes and groups. Both function and serve different purposes, but are equally necessary to growth process.

3. Measure relationships over rules

The old paradigm for success in churches was attendance. Pastors would often ask each other “What are your numbers?” Which invariably led to both pastors giving their Easter Sunday numbers hoping to sound just a little bit better.

We wanted to know how many people attended church, went to small group, and volunteered in ministry. While those measurements aren’t bad, they are still rules based. You attend or go to this event or do something then the church sees you as good.

What churches often find is that people attend church less, get involved in groups more infrequently, and serve less. These trends are happening all over the place. Now it feels like our discipleship processes are failing, but what if we weighted our measurements a little bit different?

What if attendance and involvement became less of a value, and relational connections became more of a value?

Currently one of our students is going through a rough patch (to put it mildly). This student despite the challenges has connected with a great God fearing and loving family. Now both the child’s parents and this family from the church are working together to help love on this student. Together they are trying to disciple her.

In my estimation relationships like this are far more valuable than whether or not someone missed a Sunday. What if the church learned to measure these types of relationships and started placing emphasis on them? Discipleship might become even more effective.

4. Use social media to disciple

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are wonderful tools to keep up with family and friends. They can also be used to inform others of thoughts, opinions or upcoming events. That’s not all they are good for though.

Social media is also a wonderful discipleship tool that gives churches a spiritual touch point with its members throughout the week. Sharing sermon clips, offering to pray for people, and giving devotionals gives the church a chance to impact the daily lives of the congregation. All of these platforms are a blessing from God to be used for the benefit of others.

Discipleship has never been a one size fits all, and it never will be. God uses all sorts of methods to train and develop all kinds of people. Your church or ministry, while holding true to the gospel, might need to adjust some of your discipleship methods to minister more effectively.

 

Chris Weatherly is the current Associate Pastor over discipleship at Christ Community Church. He regularly writes at chrisvweatherly.com. Stay connected with him through Facebook or Twitter.

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