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Author Archives: Randy Willis

Shaping a Discipleship Culture

Shaping a Discipleship Culture

I recently had the honor of leading a workshop at the 3D Discipleship event held in Williamsport, PA. The event was sponsored by Growing Effective Churches of the Susquehanna Conference of the UMC. Here are some of my notes from the workshop.

Centre Grove’s Story
I shared a little about what God has been doing at Centre Grove, especially in recent years since engaging the Matthew 28 Initiative in 2011 and beyond (see my 2012 post). I talked about what has gone well (outreach) and ironically, our current challenges (shaping a discipleship culture).

Discipleship Puzzle
There are a lot of pieces to the discipleship puzzle. Thankfully, several of them were discussed at the 3D Discipleship event. What follows here are some pieces I want to focus on (but it’s not the whole puzzle).

Developing a Discipleship Culture
Having a discipleship culture matters. A discipleship culture helps people follow Jesus! A discipleship culture maximizes the quality (and quantity) of disciples of Jesus!

There are several components of a discipleship culture.

CULTURE
Culture is hard to define. Culture is everywhere. It’s all around us! It’s “The way we do things here” (Deal/Kennedy, Corporate Cultures). “Culture is to the church what the soul is to the human body” (Lewis/Cordeiro, Culture Shift). Culture is important because it ultimately determines behavior!

DISCIPLESHIP
There are no cookie-cutter approaches to making disciples!

Discipleship is about building and growing disciples of Jesus. A disciple is a follower of Jesus, someone who has responded to Jesus’ call, “Come, follow me!” By definition, a disciple is a student, learner, and an apprentice of Jesus. As such, a disciple is teachable and coachable!

Interestingly, the word “discipleship” itself does not appear in the Bible. My favorite word in the Bible for discipleship is “training,” which I’ve written about before (see this post). In one of several uses in Scripture, Jesus told his disciples, “A disciple is not greater than his teacher, but everyone when fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6.40, NET). I love the word training because it conveys that discipleship requires effort and is a process!

DISCIPLESHIP CULTURE
Many churches, especially churches that are plateaued or declining, do not have a discipleship culture. Many of these church cultures could perhaps be described as a “membership culture.” While membership isn’t inherently bad, it’s come to mean certain things in today’s culture (i.e., it needs redefining/reenvisioning).

In a Membership Culture, people tend to be self-centered and inward-focused. There is a consumer mentality. There’s apathy. And, “It’s all about me!”

On the other hand, a Discipleship Culture is all about Jesus. Disciples grow to become more and more like Jesus. People experience spiritual transformation. People are growing servant’s hearts and becoming more active as the hands and feet of Jesus in the world!

SHAPING A DISCIPLESHIP CULTURE
Shaping a discipleship is not easy because it involves significant change. Member values and Disciple values clash; they cannot coexist!

The leader’s job is to cultivate the culture as a gardener cultivates the ground. Here are some things to cultivate in order to help shape a discipleship culture …

Model Discipleship
First and foremost, leaders must model discipleship. If we’re not growing as followers of Jesus ourselves, others will not grow, either. We model discipleship through our attitudes as well as our actions. We must be lifelong learners!

Teach Discipleship
We must talk constantly about discipleship, training, growing in Christlikeness. This is certainly part of our Wesleyan Methodist tradition (sanctification, works of piety and works of mercy). At Centre Grove, we often say, “Stay humble! Stay hungry! Stay in tune with God!”

Plan Discipleship
We must model and teach discipleship, and there must be practical ways for people to grow: Sunday school, small groups, women’s and men’s fellowship groups, etc. Bishop Robert Schnase writes in Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, a book which we’ve spent a lot of time in at Center Grove in the past …

Growing in Christ-likeness is the goal and end of the life of faith. … This growth in Christ spans a lifetime. … Christian faith is not static but dynamic. It requires cultivation (64).

At Centre Grove, we encourage people to prayerfully choose a One Word each year to focus their spiritual growth for the year. We use the Events feature in the Bible App to share sermon notes so people can refer to them throughout the week. Find practical ways to help people grow.

Pray Together
I also believe it’s important for disciples of Jesus to talk to Jesus together. A few core prayers have developed at Centre Grove over the years, including …

  • God, give us hearts like yours!
  • God, break our hearts for what breaks yours!
  • God, do something unpredictable and uncontrollable!
  • God, please use us to make your name great!

I think these are some prayers disciples of Jesus should pray, and I think it’s important we spend quality time praying together. Let’s pray for the cultures of our churches, that they will be discipleship cultures where people grow more and more like Jesus, and reach out and engage their community as the hands and feet of Jesus!

The Role of Tribal Leaders in the Church

The Role of Tribal Leaders in the Church

In 2012, Centre Grove UMC’s church council read Winning on Purpose: How To Organize Congregations to Succeed in Their Mission by John Edmund Kaiser. At the time, we were transitioning from a traditional United Methodist multi-committee structure to an alternative single-committee structure. In the book, Kaiser shares Paul Borden’s somewhat humorous metaphor of the board,… Continue Reading

Short-Term Sabbatical

Short-Term Sabbatical

United Methodist pastors are encouraged to take sabbaticals on a regular basis. Our conference allows for one-month sabbaticals once every four years (longer sabbaticals are available, a little less frequently). This will be our first sabbatical since beginning ministry in the UMC in 1998. The appropriate committees from both Centre Grove UMC and West Side… Continue Reading

A Prayer for the 2016 General Conference of the UMC

The 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church takes place May 10-20, 2016 in Portland, Oregon. General Conference, which takes place every four years, is the top policy-making body in the UMC and is the only church entity that has authority to speak for the entire denomination. General Conference meets every four years to… Continue Reading