Most Christians can easily communicate the importance of making disciples, but few can articulate how they are personally engaging in the process. Proclaiming the need for discipleship in theory is not the same as prioritizing its implementation in life. Most churches and ministries are very busy with numerous activities, yet many regularly lament the lack of tangible success despite extensive efforts.
What if the problem is not what we are doing, but how we are doing it?
Despite our sincere intentions, we will fail at making many disciples if we are unable to make just one. Our efforts are often unsuccessful simply because they are unfocused. The destination of discipleship is the same for every individual, but each unique journey demands specific directions.
Think of it like you would a Sunday morning. As people gather at a church campus for worship, they all arrived at the same place yet traveled by different paths. Some took a left out of their driveways while others turned right. The commutes of some took less than ten minutes while others required more time. Upon arriving at the destination, some saw the church buildings through the driver’s side window, while others viewed them through the passenger’s side. The church all gathered to the same place, but none of them shared the identical set of directions to get there. If someone wanted to join you next week, you are unable to give instructions if you d on’t know where they are starting. It is impossible to provide directions to the destination until you identify the point of origin.
The same is true for our spiritual conditions. While all true Christians will end up in the same place one day, none of us are in the same position currently. We all might be aiming for spiritual growth, but we each are starting from different bases and stunted by unique challenges. All of our advantages, disadvantages, successes, failures, habits, and surprises have positioned each of us at different starting locations.
Christian maturity should be the ambition for every single one of us, but none of us are lingering in a precisely similar situation as another in our spiritual development.
That’s why our call to make disciples is so important. While our souls are where they need to be after conversion, that does not mean that they are where God wants them to stay. We must grow up in our faith. If the goal of spiritual formation is to see immature believers grow into mature disciple-makers, we must have a coherent strategy. Followers of Jesus do not gradually look more like him by accident.
If every Christian is in a spiritually unique place surrounded by specific challenges, why do we think that a broad approach will work for every single one of us?
Each of us needs a precise plan whether we realize it or not.
That’s why I tell whoever will listen to come up with discipleship plans tailored to the individual disciples. I have some resources you can check out if you are curious about how to make distinctive disciples.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.
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