Posted on : Monday November 5, 2012

By Clarence Byerly, Faith Baptist Church, Glen Burnie, MD

We talk much about making disciples of Jesus. However, the overwhelming evidence is that we are not doing an adequate job of it. Many pastors and church leaders hold a “theology of disciple-making” but simply don’t have a practical handle or a process for helping people grow into committed disciples of Jesus.

About a year and a half ago, I invested in a covenanted coaching relationship* to help me focus on this challenge. Along the way, I discovered and purchased a book by Jim Putnam entitled, Real Life Discipleship. Reading it, my heart burned with the conviction that God was showing a strategy for connecting people and helping them become devoted followers of Jesus.

I did a crazy thing! I invited my Discipleship Team and their spouses to join me in a 12-week group study in mid-summer! To my surprise, thirteen agreed. By the conclusion, we were convinced God was pointing us toward a relational discipleship small group process to make disciples.

That October, four of us went to a training event in Knoxville, Tenn.** We came away excited by what we believed God was showing us – a pathway for making disciples in our church.

With funding help from the Baptist Convention and the Arundel Association, we invited two facilitators to come in February to lead 27 of us through a two-day event for making disciples. God lit a spiritual fire under us. Participants said, “We want to quit playing church and become ‘transparently real’ disciples of Jesus.” There was weeping and brokenness, joy and anger, reconciliation and healing.

We came away from that training hopeful that our church was about to go with Jesus where it had never dared to go before. It was reviving! The emotion, the passion, the hunger to get on with it was motivating.

Since that time, we have held two additional training events. After each event, we invite people to join a twelve week intensive study group. Since February, more than 80 people have gone through either the two-day event or the twelve-week intensive training.

We are discovering that many Christians are very unclear about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Simply exposing our people to a disciple-making process has helped them grow in their obedience to Christ. Many yearn for a deeper walk with Christ but don’t know how.

These discipleship small groups have unique characteristics. Evangelism is emphasized by inviting lost people to the group setting. The groups practice accountability and stress personal transparency. The group leader intentionally works to help each individual grow spiritually deeper.

Another unique characteristic is telling Bible stories (storying). We have been amazed at how stories have reconnected our people to God’s Word in a fresh way. Because our culture is visual and auditory, telling Bible stories as Jesus did resonates with people. The group leader does not teach a Bible lesson in the traditional sense, but helps group members discover God’s truth. Sunday school teachers and other leaders are beginning to use Bible storying effectively.

We are still too new in this process to know what larger impact it will have on our church, but our people are confirming that God is up to something fresh and exciting.

One caution:  Jesus said it would be costly to follow Him. This type of discipleship group is not for those who want a quick fix for their churches. However, the joy of seeing a person intentionally growing by leaps and bounds in their spiritual life is worth the effort.

For more information about Church Wellness coaching and grant opportunities, contact Randy Millwood at 443-878-4587 or [email protected].

*Covenant Coaching is a Church Wellness service provided by your BCM/D.
**Limited Church Wellness grants can also assist your Church with select strategies.