Joining the Discipleship Revolution – Part 3

Guest post from Missions Frontiers by Robby Butler

Finding an Effective U.S. Church Model

Jim Downing of the Navigators taught me that information transfer alone is inadequate; guided experience is also necessary to impart the skills and motivation for disciples to reproduce.

Jim and I attended an experience in the church discipleship model developed by Real Life Ministries (RLM), a church in northern Idaho. There we experienced firsthand what a useful tool Bible storytelling can be in the right context, even here in the U.S. Jim and I subsequently visited RLM’s headquarters to learn more about their model.

RLM has a masterful structure for coaching small group leaders (spiritual parents) to multiply reproducing disciples. They have discovered the critical importance of engaging each member in growth to reproducing maturity, and of providing coaching (spiritual grandparenting) to those who are leading this process.

Learning from One Another

David Platt’s sermon series Follow Me explores the practicality and benefits of laying down our lives to work with God in making disciples.

Among many gems in Dr. Platt’s series, I appreciate these in particular:

In John 17 Jesus assessed His life solely by His investment in the twelve, not by the standards we often use to measure our ministries (see p. 21).

An illustration of how two disciples, working together in the same outreach, can help each other to grow faster.

A detailed analysis of how our investment in the growth of others accelerates our own growth.

We learn and grow even more as we tackle the additional challenges in making disciples in other cultures.

Aiming Beyond a Single Generation

The Training For Trainers (T4T) church planting movement has, in the last decade, started an estimated 140,000 new house churches and baptized 1.7 million new believers, keeping pace with Dawson Trotman’s theoretical potential in the opening table.

Many mass-produced materials are available for those wanting to shift from ministering to the masses to making disciples, but the kind of fruit T4T and RLM are producing does not result from simply adopting these few discipleship principles and hoping God will take it from there:

–> Spending more time with fewer people,

–> Focusing on leaders who can pass on information (2 Ti 2:2),

–> Communicating basic spiritual truths.

Yes, all of these are important, but Jesus didn’t focus His time solely on these things. He engaged the twelve to become effective disciplers, teaching them to do for others what He was doing for them.

Jim Downing calls this “guided experience.” RLM calls it “coaching” with “opportunities to play.” T4T calls it “training.”

Whatever we call it, amidst our other work or ministry involvements, we must learn from and follow Jesus’ example to be intentional in bringing others along, enlisting and coaching them to become disciplers who, amidst their own work or ministry, will also enlist and coach others.

I wasn’t discipled by exposure to important insights but by peer coaching through decades of opportunity to “get in the game.”


Check back next week to see Part 4 of this Series. Check out Part 1 and Part 2.