Section 4. The Discipleship System

Section 4. The 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.[1]


A. A Discipleship System delineates the path for a disciple from the world, into the church and onward to maturity. One aspect of the adaptive competence of a church is the quality of the Discipleship System. Discipleship Systems cooperate with God’s work of making disciples in prevenient grace, justifying grace and sanctifying grace. A quality Discipleship System vastly increases system competence which overcomes systemic Limits to Growth, and the reinforcing process fills in the extra capacity with new members.

B. A quality Discipleship System smoothly moves new disciples through the stages of spiritual maturation.[2] The Book of Discipline suggests four stages of maturity:

            Christians experience growth and transition in their spiritual life just as in their physical and emotional lives. While this growth is always a work of grace, it does not occur uniformly. Spiritual growth in Christ is a dynamic process marked by awakening, birth, growth, and maturation. This process requires careful and intentional nurture for the disciple to reach perfection in the Christian life. There are stages of spiritual growth and transition: Christian beginnings; Christian birth; Christian growth; and Christian maturity. These require careful and intentional nurture for the disciple to come to maturity in the Christian life and to engage fully in the ministry of all Christians.[3]

            The world’s largest churches have very competent Discipleship Systems.





[1] The quote is a selection from David O. Kueker’s Fuller Seminary Doctor of Ministry project submitted in September, 2007, entitled Diagnosis, Dialogue, and Decision: A Threefold Process of Revitalization For the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
It is shared here in recognition of its 12th Anniversary along with comments to update and provide perspective on the material. The original project was a Training Manual/Study Guide of three Seminars supported by three chapters of research and an Introduction. The material is available for download at In 2009 it was provided for purchase as a softcover book entitled Designing Discipleship Systems: Christian Disciple Making For Any Size Church, Any Theology through

[2][3] [4][5] [6][7] [8]

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.

[1]Craig Kennet Miller, NextChurch.Now: Creating New Faith Communities (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 2000), 6. Cf. Craig Kennet Miller, “Creating New Faith Communities” in Congregational Development Manual, under (accessed June 15, 2007).

[2]One author who has written on this topic is Greg Ogden, Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples A Few At A Time (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 75-118.

[3]Paragraph 134, Book of Discipline 2004, 91-92.

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