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Do Any of These 17 Discipleship Flaws Sound Familiar?

Here are 17 specific ways in which our typical thinking about discipleship and disciplemaking is flawed -- fuzzy, confused, incomplete, misguided or otherwise defective. Many of these flaws are interrelated. This means our failure to recognize one of them can amplify the negative effects of others.

  1. Disciplemaking is misplaced in the mission/purposes/functions of most local churches.

  2. Ministry to men is misplaced in the ministries of most local churches.

  3. Church leaders are not zealous about the spiritual development of people.*

  4. We divert our best leaders to ministries other than disciplemaking.*

  5. Few churches or Christians have a clear and measurable definition or picture of “spiritual success” (maturity).*

  6. We have defined “discipleship” as head knowledge rather than complete transformation.*

  7. We assume people are farther along than they actually are.

  8. In our disciplemaking, we don’t understand, and thus are not intentional about, our part (vs. God’s part) in His transformational process.

  9. There is virtually no accountability for what we say, do, think or believe.*

  10. In our disciplemaking process, we overlook what we need to learn from the stages of Jesus’ ministry with His disciples.

  11. In our disciplemaking we tend to omit, or take for granted, some of the key foundational areas of life that are common to all people and that God wants to transform to His view and ways.

  12. In our disciplemaking process, we overlook what we need to learn from the order of God’s creation.

  13. The primary method on which churches rely for spiritual development -- small groups -- typically fails to provide comprehensive spiritual nurture.*

  14. We have chosen to teach people in random, rather than systematic ways.*

  15. When it comes to “discipleship,” we promote programs rather than people.*

  16. There has been a long-standing lack of a coherent disciplemaking process which is supported by resources that address all 3 key aspects of a disciple’s life, namely: walking with God, succeeding in life and multiplying.

  17. We tell believers what they should be and do to experience the Christian life, but then do not help them develop the practical skills essential to ensuring their success.

  18. The 17 flaws can be grouped into four broad areas of confusion about disciplemaking:

  19. The priority of disciplemaking

  20. The “product” of disciplemaking

  21. Our part (vs. God’s part) in disciplemaking

  22. God’s process for disciplemaking

All of these are conclusions I have reached during thirty years of studying, observing, and attempting disciplemaking in a wide variety of situations: one-on-one and small groups; men only and coed; inside local churches, in homes and in the marketplace.

Eight of the 17 are also conclusions reached by George Barna in his book Growing True Disciples, published in 2001. Those are marked with an asterisk.

The last one or two I added only recently, thanks to Every Man A Warrior, a resource from Navigators written by Lonnie Berger, who has over 30 years in Navigators ministry. I agree with him that it is a very big blind spot for most American churches.

How has your experience lined up with these points?

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