Updated: Sep 20, 2018
There truly is a wealth of resources that claim to be for “discipleship.” Just go to any Christian bookstore or look at a website. And in fact, most all of these resources are appropriate and useful to those Christians who are “in the state, quality, or condition of being mature disciples.” These many resources can help someone who already has been made a Mature Disciple continue to grow and walk in the state, quality, or condition of being a mature disciple. These resources are very helpful to a Christian living above the top dashed line on his or her SM/T Graph.
However, for the typical Christian who has not yet been made a Mature Disciple, these resources will be of limited value. Much of what a particular resource has to offer will be unappreciated and unapplied. It will likely be just one more “hit and miss,” incoherent, disconnected step on the believer’s random walk.
Why? Because, having not been discipled to the minimum level of necessary maturity, the typical Christian lacks the context, the frame of reference, the spiritual viewpoint with which to assimilate and apply what these discipleship resources offer. This will be especially true for a Christian still below the bottom dashed line on his or her SM/T Graph. Many of the so-called “discipleship” materials may be of some help, but they are not likely to produce a mature disciple or an intentional disciplemaker.
In contrast to the many “discipleship” materials, there are only a relative handful of available materials that are specifically aimed at “disciplemaking.” The Navigators have their series, as do CBMC, Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU), and other such ministries. So do several of the very good authors who are proponents of disciplemaking, such as Bill Hull, Greg Ogden, Francis Chan and David Platt.
Virtually all of the materials available for “disciplemaking” have three things in common.
They are usually 12 to 24 chapters/lessons in length.
They all cover a predictable series of essential topics such as the credibility of the Bible, the person and work of Jesus Christ, assurance of salvation, dealing with temptation, forgiveness, prayer, spending time in God’s Word, witnessing, etc. I call these topics the “Basic Doctrines and Disciplines” of the Christian faith.
They all end with the Great Commission and the challenge for the newly-discipled person to go and reproduce by leading another person through the same experience.
To be fair, many “disciplemaking” materials and approaches may well touch on areas that go beyond just the Basic Doctrines and Disciplines and contribute something to helping a person grow toward becoming a Mature Disciple. And some “discipleship” materials may well address or reinforce various Basic Doctrines and Disciplines. But I believe there is a good case to be made for saying that the following diagram illustrates the current state of affairs with regard to the focus of (a) the resources being offered and (b) the approaches commonly being used for growing Christians in America today.
Note the relative size of the two arrows. Much more resource and effort is directed to discipleship than to disciplemaking.
Note also the huge void in the center of the SM/T Graph. The areas enclosed by dashed lines are meant to recognize that some of the currently available and/or used “disciplemaking” and “discipleship” resources help grow some Believers along this part of their spiritual growth journeys. But as we've discussed before, 90% of Believers have not been discipled into and through this part of the journey to spiritual maturity. As we’ll see though, the problem is not a lack of appropriate resources for discipling people to maturity; the problem is in a lack of understanding God’s goal and means for growing us spiritually, and then how to appropriately choose and use the resources to accomplish His desired outcome.
Finally, note the “arc of reproducing” drawn in the lower left corner of the diagram. This recognizes that the typical resources currently available for disciplemaking do cast the vision and sound the call for becoming a disciplemaker. The person being discipled is challenged to use these same materials to help someone else learn the “Basic Doctrines and Disciplines.” However, becoming and making mature disciples requires much more than this.