My wife Suzie and I have been involved in ministry for two decades serving small and large churches in children’s ministry, youth, adult, singles, worship, founders, and elders. Through CORE Discipleship, our online discipleship ministry, I have had the great opportunity to visit with hundreds of pastors around the world regarding discipleship. As a pastor, I share your passion in seeing people become fully equipped, spiritually mature saints – believers who know Jesus and make Him known. I also know what it feels like to look out over the congregation and see that many are not growing up in the basics of our faith.
Back in 1988, my wife Suzie and I were members of Scottsdale Bible Church, Scottsdale, Arizona. Gary Smalley and John Trent led our Genesis 2 class – a group of about 120 people. Genesis was then broken down into even smaller life groups of 12-16 people who met in homes all over Phoenix. Both of these groups were comprised of folks of about the same age, marital status, number of children, etc. And though Sunday’s big gathering followed by our large Sunday school and the home groups were incredible, nothing altered my pathway more than the next level of discipleship. Two guys from our small group invited me to a once a week, 6:00am men’s fellowship. These men became disciplers and helped plant the seed for what is now known as the 3-Strand CORE Discipleship Process.
In 1989, we moved back to our roots in West Texas. There, in what we now look back and affectionately call our “wilderness years,” we were discipled by our dear friends JD and Donna Smith and began serving in various aspects of ministry culminating in Doug’s affirmation and calling to ministry. During that season, we were also introduced to and inspired by the personal teachings of Peter Lord, Bill and Delores Winder, and Sam Soleyn. Inspired to live a simple and devoted life in Christ, we developed a residential at-risk teen ministry in our home and began ministering to the broken, hungry, homeless, sick and those in prison. In 1994 and in partnership with life-long friend Steve Trafton, we developed a discipleship tool to assist others in developing the virtues of Christ (at that time, we could not find anything on the market that helped people develop Christ-like virtues as a study/journal). The Disciple’s Journal was published and soon became one of The Navigators most successful promotional books. Other discipleship books soon followed.
In 2001, Phillip Hearn, founding pastor of New River Fellowship, listened to my vision about implementing a third strand to our existing church discipleship process (crowd/cells). He agreed and I launched the first CORE Group. After 18-months meeting with three other guys and after having seen “real-life transformation”, we cast the vision to the church staff, realigned staff around the process, communicated the process to all church leadership (cell group leaders and ministry heads), and finally to the body in a 3-part sermon series entitled “The 4-12 Trilogy”. Within two years, I was overseeing 28 CORE Groups, had developed and published the CORE Discipleship manual, and once I believed the process soundly tested and evidenced into the second and third generation, I launched the CORE Discipleship website. Phillip went on to write his doctoral dissertation for Regent University on the findings, “The Three-Strand Church: Understanding the Scriptural Values and Structural Venues of a Three-Strand Approach to Discipleship” (soon to be published and available through CORE).
The 3-Strand discipleship process is not something new. Christ’s ministry was to the multitudes (crowd), the 12 (cell), and the inner circle of three (core). In 1743, John Wesley imitated this structure by creating societies (crowd), classes (cells), and bands (core). We call this the 3-Strand CORE Discipleship Process (crowd, cell and CORE) – a Biblical process that can help develop an unbelievable spiritual discipleship network and community in your church where no one stands alone, struggles alone, develops alone or grows up alone.