Regardless of denomination, research says that the church is losing 70% of church-raised kids.
One recent attempt to curb this alarming trend has been to assign the job and responsibility of spiritual influence entirely to dads and moms (based on Deuteronomy 6:5-7). And though I believe that parents do have the greatest opportunity as “spiritual influencers” in their children’s lives, I see this as only partially remedial. Recall that Moses plainly and simply taught the law to Israel so that parents could then instruct their children. As such, we see the church in partnership with parents and parents in partnership with the church. Discipleship is not to be relegated solely to parents; it is the job and responsibility of the entire church.
The Great Commission has three participles: “go,” “baptizing,” and “teaching” and one imperative verb, a command: “make disciples.” The main idea is to make disciples. The participles tell us how to do that: we make disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching. So the goal of discipleship is to make disciples, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:18-19).
If I am a born-again believer, it does not matter whether I am a dad working full-time as a plumber or employed 40-hours each week by a church; making disciples according to Jesus is MY job and responsibility and is accomplished right where I am today (first participle “go”). As I “go” I am to initiate people into the life of discipleship by ‘baptizing’ (second participle), and through the use of my gifts, teach them (third participle). Teaching is the continuous obligation of the church in the life of a new believer as they develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Teaching is the process of getting him/her to know Jesus in a life-long, deeper, and more intimate way – teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded. Scripture is an absolute essential element in the process of Holy Spirit-inspired transformation of knowledge, conduct and character. Discipleship is the corporate responsibility of the church and the personal privilege of every believer as they are gifted. Discipleship is a life-long process, beginning at the point of salvation, and participated in and contributions made by a variety of believers throughout the life of a disciple.
Being a disciple and making disciples is a direct command from our Lord Jesus and the primary responsibility of the church and every born-again believer. Everything we do in church or ministry should have discipleship as the ultimate core goal — our going, baptizing, and teaching needs to be discipleship-centered. What we do each time we gather, whether church services, Sunday School, children’s ministry, women’s ministry, men’s ministry, VBS, outreach, etc., should all be filtered through the question, “How will this help us make disciples?”
If you want to establish a long-term, life-transforming, disciple-making process in your church, prayerfully consider the following:
1) The senior pastor must personally champion discipleship in EVERY church ministry and department – this cannot be delegated and he/she must be personally involved in a discipleship group. Whether at home or when we gather together to worship, accountability begins with leadership.
2) There must be a strong vision to make a disciple of every person in the church – the church must embrace Jesus’ command to “make disciples” as their vision and the vision must be used as the “filter” for every activity. Believe the vision, preach the vision, teach the vision, and live the vision.
3) Develop a sustainable discipleship ministry. We have a tendency to build big plans and we oftentimes are overwhelmed because it is so big. Carefully and thoughtfully consider the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Pray. Share your vision with two or three others. Start small and then dream big. Allow God’s Holy Spirit to lead and develop. Remember, in God’s economy His big things always started out in His small ways.
Discipleship-centered Curriculum: DiscipleLand