At some point, the church planter must move beyond immediate follow-up to create an ongoing disciple-development program. Disciple development occurs through opportunities in which individuals consistently grow toward spiritual maturity.
Discipleship does not occur by accident. Jesus told his followers, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32). Church planters are called to create disciples, not just believers. By definition, a disciple is a follower of Christ. A disciple is a learner.
A disciple is also a believer who practices biblical habits that enable him or her to live the Christian life effectively. A mature believer displays many behaviors or habits. These habits include prayer, sharing faith, Bible study, and fasting. The disciple must intentionally practice these habits in order to develop effectively as a disciple.
Many churchgoers and leaders assume that younger believers develop these habits because they hear about the need to practice them. Although this assumption is probably not true in an established congregation, it certainly does not apply in a new church. Habits leading to Christian maturity must be practiced in order for a disciple to become developed.
The effectiveness of the approach used in a new church for disciple making is much more important than the particular approach used. The important question is whether the church’s approach produces maturing disciples. As long as the discipleship strategy is biblically based and God-focused and produces maturing believers, it is a serviceable disciple-making approach.
Part of the church planter’s task is to create an atmosphere—a congregational culture—in which discipleship and disciple-making surface as core values.
Ed Stetzer, Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2003), 284–285.