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Almost every church across the U.S. has some type of discipleship program, but few churches are full of disciples.  For too many in the church, ‘discipleship’ is a worn out word used to describe a program or catchphrase for a ministry.  Even worse, the casual church attendee is not even sure what discipleship is.

A recent Barna Group survey asked people to describe their goals in life.  Almost nine out of ten adults described themselves as “Christian.”  Four out of ten said they were personally committed to Jesus Christ, had confessed their sins, and believed they will go to heaven after they die because of God’s grace provided through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  But not one of the adults interviewed said their goal in life was to be a committed follower of Jesus Christ or to make disciples.  This survey included interviews with pastors and other church leaders as well as hundreds of people who regularly attend church services and programs.

Discipleship is not a program or ministry—it is a way of life.

I know that for all of you (the ITEC audience), that is the case…  You are working to be a part of the change.  How do we know?  From the feedback in the Discipleship Survey we sent out not lang ago.  Here are just a few of the questions and responses we received.

Survey Question: Is discipleship important to you?  Why / why not?

  • It’s the most important activity of my life. Jesus’ last command was “go and make disciples” Yes!!!! I know it’s what Jesus told us to do.
  • Yes, because it is one of the essentials that we are to do
  • Yes, because that is what Jesus commanded, & the only way to grow the church in numbers & depth.
  • Yes. We are commanded to take part in it.
  • Yes, because that’s the last thing Jesus asked us to do. (or one of the last things) 🙂 We try to influence our grandchildren, so they would be at the top of our list to disciple. it is important. I have been actively involved for years

We could go on and on…  Everyone was pretty sure of the answer on this one, as every follower of Christ should be.

Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave this final command in Matthew 28:18-20:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The Great Commission is not primarily about evangelism, but about discipleship.

Survey Question: What does success in discipleship look like to you?

  • Pointing others to Jesus and watching him transform others as they abide and trust Him.
  • Having my disciples grow in depth & go out to make more disciples.
  • Consistency. Depth. Longevity in faith.
  • The disciple can emulate the discipler without continued input and is able to make disciples themselves.
  • Teaching and living Christ-likeness with others.
  • Mature Christian that has been transformed into a leader. They know their gifting. They rely on the scriptures for their sources. They can impart to others to the third generation.

Wow, great stuff!

Survey Question: What challenges are you facing in discipleship? What’s your biggest frustration?

  • To get out of the way at the right time.
  • People taking the time to do it
  • When do I disciple someone? I’m a homeschool mom…is discipling my children “enough” right now? What does true discipleship look like? I need someone to disciple me too…?!?!
  • Helping others to recognize the importance of discipleship. I’m frustrated that the organized church doesn’t recognize the importance of discipleship
  • My challenge is time my frustration is no set formula for developing a disciple
  • The Lord has given me sick or elderly or others with challenges, so they are not passing on training to others.
  • People are not interested in God

We all face challenges and frustrations, but that does not mean we stop fighting the good fight.  Unfortunately, a Christian whose life purpose is centered on the Great Commission—living everyday purposed to share Jesus, make disciples, and live as a disciple as well—is hard to find.

Jesus lived as our example, recruiting 12 men who became known as His disciples and spending the remainder of His earthly life pouring into them.  He prepared them to carry on the mission after He was gone.

We know this is what we should be doing with our lives… but somehow many of us get distracted.

How are we going to make an impact on the world and in our communities when the lives of church attendees are the same as those on the outside?  The answer is not through larger buildings or more events. If we are going to transform our world, we need to be individuals devoted to knowing, loving, and serving Him with all of our heart, mind, strength, and soul. This is living intentionally while focusing eternally.

We wish we could wrap up this email with a simple solution for immediate change.  But by the responses we received from you guys, it sounds like you are on the right track.  Stay intentional, stay focused, and keep fighting the good fight.

Thank you for being an encouragement to all of us at the ITEC Team.