Is Discipleship the Focus of Most Churches?

February 22, 2013 — 4 Comments

Logo Transparent jpeg without wordsMaking disciples is not about a church program. It’s not one of the things the church does. It is the thing. Jesus’ last words to his followers were, “Go and make disciples.” So if this is the mission of the church, its reason for being, its all-encompassing purpose, then why isn’t this the focal point of all that we do?

I’m not suggesting that the church should never sponsor a Christian concert, or pot-luck supper or an exercise class. All of these things could contribute to its mission. But who can convincingly argue that discipleship is really the focus of most churches?

Of course, it is important that Christian disciples engage in worship. But count how many church members attend a “worship service” and how many attend Sunday School or other Bible study group each week? Now, take a look at these “worship services” and  “classes” that are supposed to be discipling our church members. How effective are they at “making disciples?” I would argue, as I have repeatedly in my previous blogs, that they are, in fact, not very effective.

Now that you have counted church members in worship, Sunday School classes and “Bible studies,” count the number who actually engage in some sort of accountable relationship with another Christian. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that these are the ones who will likely experience serious spiritual growth as a follower of Christ. In most churches this number will be extremely small; perhaps this group doesn’t even exist in most churches.

I’ve tried for years to get people involved in these more meaningful discipleship experiences without a great deal of success. Why is this? Why aren’t church members in America more interested in serious discipleship? To answer this fully would take a book but I will offer some brief suggestions in my next blog post.


QUESTION: Does your church offer the kinds of experiences that have a proven track record in developing mature, truly transformed disciples of Jesus Christ? Is becoming a mature transformed disciple of Jesus a priority in your life? Are you personally engaged in an accountable relationship with one or more other Christians?  Please respond in the Comments section below.

Dr. Gary Thompson


I am a retired United Methodist pastor. I write adult curriculum for the United Methodist Church and have been doing so for over 10 years. My passion is helping the Christian Church more effectively fulfill its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ and to help individuals identify and fulfill their God-given personal mission.

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  • SproutWings

    Yes, I completely agree with your conundrum…all my life I was searching for that church that would fill my identity with Christ and I found one in 2009….however, after doing all the bible studies, volunteering in alot of the different areas….i still felt empty….i was searching for an indepth relationship with Jesus but I was not feeling fed…my flesh has always been stronger then my heart’s desire to spend alone time with God and let him lead….also I just didn’t know how to be a mature Christian….my church is great…but…I still feel empty…i am taking measures into my own hands by having a buddy to hold me accountable…hope that works….discipleship! we are great as a church at that but facing the hard facts of e.g fruits of the spirit and growing in your relationship with God…I feel the tools available is greatly lacking….

    • Dr. Gary Thompson

      Your story is that of many. Let me know how the accountability partner/spiritual buddy is working out.

  • DrGaryT

    Your story is that of many. Let me know how your accountability partner/spiritual buddy is working out.

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