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Simple Discipleship


A guest article by Dr. Tom Cocklereece


What Process Does Your Church Use to Make Disciples?

The key word is "process." Prior to the twentieth-century, churches saturated their ministries with discipleship rather than treating it as a separate entity. Worship, music, prayer, Bible study, fellowship, and so on, were recognized as being a part of discipleship. A paradigm shift occurred in the twentieth-century when many churches adopted a program approach to ministry delivery, and for a few generations it seemed to work. But the program approach to ministry delivery is dependent upon strong nuclear families, church and denominational loyalty, and a homogenous community structure that is unapologetically Christian and active in church. Neither condition exists in much of the U.S. and especially in the metropolitan and urban cities. Church leaders did not see the change coming while Bible colleges and seminaries continue to educate ministers in the program ministry paradigm, and many church leaders continue to work harder at delivering ministry using the outdated approach.

The program ministry approach also has a major inherent problem—it is a silo delivery system. Several years ago I went on a mission trip to Wisconsin to help build a church, and I loved the countryside. I took several photos of dairy farms that included a big house and two or three silos for grain storage. In one they may store corn and in another they may store wheat. Your home probably has several silos in the kitchen—one for sugar and another for salt, along with several others. Churches have developed silos for ministry delivery—music, worship, Sunday school, Women's ministry, Men's ministry, children's ministry, sport's ministry, oh yes, and discipleship as a separate entity. The program/silo approach tends to lead to an unhealthy and ineffective leadership structure as department (program/silo) leaders become protective of their area, which leads to even more separation of each ministry. Over time the ministry delivery areas are separate and no longer function as a unified and connected process for disciple-making. Churches have done ministry this way for so long that if they are encouraged to return to a pre twentieth-century approach, they might say, "We've never done it that way before." For a bicycle to be an effective propulsion process, each sprocket, gear, and chain must remain connected, and if the chain becomes disconnected or jammed, the movement will stop. Such is the program approach to ministry delivery.

I am not suggesting that churches completely do away with the program approach to ministry delivery, as it is an effective method of providing some specialized ministries such as those directed to men and women, to name two. But disciple-making must permeate all ministries of the church since making disciples is the primary purpose of the church (Matthew 28:19). I do not believe there are five purposes of the church—worship, fellowship, ministry, missions, and discipleship—, but one: MAKING DISCIPLES. There are two sides to the making disciples balance sheet: evangelism (baptizing) and teaching (see http://drthomreece.wordpress.com/2008/09/22/baptist-church-decline-balance-both-sides-of-the-great-commission/) .

 Simple Discipleship (SD) is an answer to the program/silo approach to ministry delivery and disciple-making. It will return your church to developing a process for making disciples. Two respected Christian leaders and teachers recently reviewed Simple Discipleship and here is what they said:

Dr. Nelson Price, Pastor Emeritus, Roswell St. Baptist Church, Marietta, GA
SD is a life-support system for churches. The concepts are definitive and measurable. However, there is a little known secret of success in all of life. It is this: "Nothing works." This program will not work. You have to work it. If worked the result is a potentially renewed church comprised of confident and fulfilled Christians. It is to be commended as a method of permeating the life-style of individuals and putting the total church on task.

Dr. Chuck Lawless, Dean, Billy Graham School, Vice President for Academic Programming, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Far too many believers have never been discipled, and too few churches are prepared to address this problem. Tom Cocklereece has proposed not a program, but a process that drives discipleship into the DNA of a congregation.  Read this book, work the ideas for your church, and start making disciples!

 Here are some diagnostic questions for you to ask about your discipleship ministry:

  • What process does your church use to make disciples?
  • Is it a process or a program? (Remember that a processes connect systems while programs may be independent)
  • Is your process working?
  • How do you know it is working?
  • How do you measure results?
  • What expectations are communicated to the church?
  • Is everyone unified around the same clear expectations?

Leaders of Simple Discipleship churches can answer these questions in a definitive way. I look forward to helping to launch a discipleship revolution in many churches. To purchase your copy of Simple Discipleship: How to Make Disciples in the 20th Century, go to: http://www.simplediscipleship.com/Store.html


SD Blessings!

Dr. Tom Cocklereece


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