What is a Discipleship System?

Craig Miller defines a faith community as made up of two cooperative, interacting components: worship and a discipleship system: The primary evangelistic strategy of the 21st century is the establishment of new faith communities . . . A faith community is created when a worship experience is tied to a discipleship system. A worshiping group without a discipleship system is not a faith community; it is simply a place to worship God. A faith community intentionally creates settings that link worship to discipleship and spiritual formation.

In a discipleship system, converts learn behavior obedient to the commands of Christ, including the command to make disciples. New faith communities reach out to a people group, involve them in worship that praises God and spiritual disciplines which systematically develop a person as a Christian disciple and a maker of disciples. Discipleship systems cooperate with Jesus to support God’s work of helping people progress through phases of prevenient, justifying and sanctifying grace.

A discipleship system is a natural, biblical process of grace and the primary task of a church. A healthy discipleship system begins with God’s work with the lost in prevenient grace, moves a person through the landmark experience of justifying grace, and forward in God’s work to mature the faithful in sanctifying grace. As a process, a healthy discipleship system consists of clear, precise steps toward a clear, precise goal. Specific steps will vary; uniformity is not necessary. The progress of individuals through each of the steps in the process can be measured. In a discipleship system, God utilizes people to help other people grow in faith, move through maturation stages and then make their own disciples just as a adults in nature form partnerships to produce children and raise them to become parents.

If one is to observe all the commands of Christ, as demanded by the Great Commission, that obedience must include the Great Commission. To be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ means that each person goes, makes disciples and teaches them mature obedience to all the commands of Christ, including the Great Commission. While Jesus did heal, preach and teach, his primary activity was relationally equipping his disciples. No concept of holiness or “being like Jesus” is accurate without this priority. One cannot be like Jesus without making disciples. The making of disciples cannot be delegated to institutions, clergy or others who are evangelistically gifted. Jesus commands it through the Great Commission as the responsibility of every faithful individual.

It is rare in this twofold expression of ministry for worship and the discipleship system to be in balance. Normally one will gain a priority and the other will be neglected. When worship has a priority over the discipleship system, then proclamation or preaching will be perceived as the primary means of evangelism. The role of proclamation has been prioritized over the discipleship system in the Church in the centuries since Constantine.

Sources:

The above is quoted from Chapter Two: Discipleship Systems from the DMin project which can be downloaded from the Resources page at www.disciplewalk.com. (Please see this resource for other footnotes to ideas mentioned.)

The quote from Craig Miller is from Craig Kennet Miller, NextChurch.Now: Creating New Faith Communities (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 2000), 6.

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