In baseball, nothing beats the excitement of a home run. But it is even more exciting to hit a home run when it comes to the Great Commission and its command to make disciples. While we all shout, “Amen!” to the need for evangelism, we sometimes drop the ball when it comes to Jesus’ instruction to teach everythingHe commanded. Yes, discipleship is easier said than done, but that does not remove our responsibility. Perhaps your church wants to make disciples, but simply does not know how. Our church found itself in a similar predicament. But after an intense training camp, we started swinging for the fences with a simple game plan for home run discipleshipthat any church can manage…getting people around the bases.
UP TO BAT—Goals: engaging and informing.Any time a life is touched by our church, we believe that person steps into the batter’s box. We wantnon-churched people to come in contact with believers and the gospel in a way that is honest, winsome, and informative. We reach out deliberately with every service, every ministry, every event, and every activity. We constantly remind our church members that they represent the team everywhere they go. Many people are saved as a result of their efforts. It takes this first important step before discipleship can begin.
FIRST BASE, SUNDAY SCHOOL—Goals:belonging and beginning.Most people come to Christ because they develop a relationship with a believer that leads to deeper encounters with other believers and the Word of God. When a person connects with a Sunday School class, the probability that they will be saved and grow spiritually increases dramatically. Sunday School gives them a sense of belonging. A caring group leader ministers to them. They build closer relationships with other class members. They begin to understand basic teachings of God’s Word, and learn to recognize the importance of fellowship, outreach, prayer, evangelism, and service.
SECOND BASE, SMALL GROUPS—Goals: knowing and growing.After developing relationships within the church and learning the basics, new believers are ready to deepen their level of commitment to personal Bible study, to discover and develop their spiritual gifts, and to discern spiritual issues and principles. This makes an accountability partner or group essential. At our church, the Sunday night Cross Training Institute (CTI) encourages in-depth Bible study, teaches a biblical response to contemporary subjects, and offers extensive training in specific areas of ministry including the F.A.I.T.H. outreach strategy, D.A.W.N. (Discipleship And Weekly Nurture), home groups and student groups.
THIRD BASE, SERVING—Goals: expanding and building.In this important step, believers become committed to personal, faithful involvement in evangelism and edification. They study the Word, pray, develop holiness, and share their faith daily as they live and proclaim the gospel. They use their gifts, skills, and talents to worship God and to edify those around them. They tithe faithfully, support, love, and mentor others by leading them around the bases. Now that’s home run discipleship!
How can you begin a program of discipleship in your church? Ask four questions to your circle of leaders. First, Got game?Prayerfully and deliberately evaluate what you are doing to make disciples. One or two hours of preaching each week simply will not suffice. Are you doing anything else to disciple believers? If not, your home runs may be few and far between. Look further. What is missing or weak in your discipleship program?
Second, Got goals?Decide what you want to produce. Sit down with church leaders and describe what a disciple looks like. Dream about how many disciples your church would like to have and what could happen if you got them.
Third, Got game plan?Work with church leaders to develop a strategy for reaching the goals you set, and then share that plan with the rest of the church.
Finally, Got guts?Swing for the fences and implement the plan. Set aside meetings or entire services for explanation and prayer. Involve your church leadership in the process so they share in the plans and vision for discipleship. Pick a day for the opening game, and “Play ball!”
Article adapted from ONE Magazine, December 2005-January 2006.