Five Changes Churches Need to Make to Be Disciple Makers

April 8, 2013 — 4 Comments

Logo Transparent jpeg without wordsGod is doing a new thing with Christians around the world and it’s finally coming to the United States. Of course, it’s not really a new thing, its actually an old thing. It’s called “making disciples.”


The 2013 Verge Conference was held this year in Austin Texas, the first two days in March. The theme was “Disciple Making.” The Exponential Conference is coming up April 22-25 in Orlando; the theme is “DiscipleShift.” This conference will be discussing Jesus’ Great Commission to His followers. Speakers will include Francis Chan, Ed Stetzer, Rober Coleman, Alan Hirsch, Craig Groeschel, Rick Warren, Wayne Cordeiro, Mike Breen, Randy Frazee, Neil Cole, and many others.  

This Exponential Conference will stress five shifts that churches need to make in order to effectively develop growing disciples of Jesus Christ. The following is copied from the conference web site: 

Shift 1 – From Reaching to Making DiscipleShift occurs when church leaders move away from only reaching people and toward relational disciple making that apprentices people in the ways of Jesus. 

Shift 2 – From Teaching to Modeling (from Leading to being Led) DiscipleShift occurs when church leaders move away from leading and toward being led by Jesus. Because leaders reproduce who they are, if we want to make strong, mature disciples, then we as leaders must first be strong, mature disciples 

Shift 3 – From Attending to Participating DiscipleShift occurs when church leaders shift their role from teaching to modeling, making disciples like Jesus did. Jesus’ strategy for influencing the world was apprenticing and equipping 12 disciples—as He modeled faith, service and leadership—and then commission these disciples to do the same with their lives. 

Shift 4 – From Connecting to Transforming DiscipleShift occurs when we as leaders move away from assimilating people into programs and move toward creating missional communities. Communities created around a cause foster environments of encouragement, accountability and risk taking where disciple making happens best. 

Shift 5 – From Attracting to Deploying DiscipleShift occurs when leaders shift their focus from drawing in masses of people to leading churches who send equipped Christ followers to the masses. Our scorecards must change from simply counting the number of people we attract to counting the number of people we deploy. 

If you have been reading my blog posts you recognize here the same themes I have emphasized over and over: relational disciple making, modeling rather than “teaching,” making disciples like Jesus did, apprenticing, moving from programs to mission, accountability, sending rather than attracting. It’s not about how many people we can get to sit and soak in church pews, it’s about how many people we can send out into our communities with transformed lives to make a difference in our world.  

Study after study such as the Reveal Study done by Willow Creek and the Transformational Discipleship study conducted by LifeWay Research tell us the church is not doing a very effective job making disciples. However, I see increasing signs all over America that God is beginning to do a new thing. More and more people are recognizing the importance of discipleship. And not only are they recognizing the need, they are rediscovering Biblical methods of developing those disciples.  

Attending the Exponential 2013 Conference or taking advantage of its webcast might be a good place for church leaders to get some new ideas. You can go HERE to register  for the conference or to register free for the webcast.

QUESTION: Which of these five shifts has your church made. 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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  • Sharon S

    I am not a pastor or church staff member. I am a small group leader for youth. My church is pretty much stuck in the past. We have an older generation that does not want to change and is very suspicious and questioning anytime money is spent on local community mission work. We have a middle age generation that seems to have no concern about discipling – Church is a social club. Young families are following suit in the social club attitude. The future generations are looking at us and following our example. But I have faith that, yes, God is doing something new, but it really isn’t new – making disciples. The church in general today does not know how to do this or realize that it must do this. We are beginning to have infighting and grumblings, and I pray that we wake up and follow the clear commands of Jesus. I know that personally, I have come to a crisis of belief….do I truly believe God and His Word? What am I going to do about it? I feel like a small, insignificant member of the church. How do we begin to make these shifts?

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