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Discipleship is NOT Complicated

“Discipleship” is the new rage. Every church conference seems to be focused on discipleship. Every leader is trying to figure it out. Every church member is asking, “What does this church offer for discipleship?” And every pastor is leaning in to figure out what it is, how to measure it, and what they are responsible for. And I’m included in that list. I’m joining more than 5,000 leaders in a few weeks at the Exponential Conference called “DiscipleShift.” The topic is so popular that the conference sold out weeks ago (you can still tune in to the free webcast).

I wonder if sometimes we over-complicate the issue? Have you seen the new AT&T ad campaignwhere a bunch of little kids sit in a circle and answer questions? They say something crazy or off-the wall, and the narrator follows up, “It’s not complicated.” I think we need a little dose of child-like thinking regarding discipleship.

Sometimes we get so mired in the nuances of our argument that it paralyzes us from getting anything done. We sit around arguing the when, where, how and what–and we fail to inspire people to get on the path and start moving.

I’ll admit that sometimes I’m pretty simple, but this is how I look at it:

  • A disciple has his feet pointed toward Jesus and is moving.
  • A disciple-maker is intentionally taking someone else with along for the journey.
  • A mature disciple doesn’t require anyone else to continue taking steps with and toward Jesus.

I don’t think it’s any more complicated than that. Very simple. But loaded. This means:

  • People who are not yet convinced (pre-Christians) can be disciples (yes, discipleship includes conversion). 
  • Speed of growth doesn’t matter. 
  • How far you are along the path doesn’t matter.
  • Spiritual maturity isn’t measured by knowledge or time traveled.
  • Any disciple can be a disciple-maker.
  • One goal of the church should be to make people less reliant on the church for their growth.
  • If you are still relying on the church to feed you spiritually, that is okay. But it probably means you are not a mature disciple.

Is it any more complicated than that?

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Tim Stevens served as the executive pastor of Granger Community Church in Granger, IN, for twenty years before joining Vanderbloemen Search Group as the Director of the Executive Search Consultant Team where he helps churches and ministries around the world find their key staff. Tim has a passion for the local church and equipping leaders with practical advice and tools about church staffing and church leadership. He has co-authored three books with Tony Morgan, including Simply Strategic Stuff, Simply Strategic Volunteers, and Simply Strategic Growth, and authored three books of his own, including Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles To Revolutionize Your Workplace. Connect with Tim at LeadingSmart.com.