3-D helps build disciple-making culture

by C. Walter Overman
  • Brian Upshaw

  • Lynn Sasser

  • Russ Conley

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 | 3 yrs old

Although Scripture instructs churches to focus on disciple-making, making the leap from affirming disciple-making as a priority to being a disciple-maker is often easier said than done.

Lynn Sasser, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) executive leader for congregational services, believes churches can make that leap once they commit to developing a disciple-making culture.

The process of developing that culture begins by identifying the true values of a church.

“Think about the culture of your church,” Sasser said. “When you consider the calendar and budget, what is it that is really important in your church? What are the behaviors that are rewarded and reinforced?”

When forced to answer those questions, some churches may discover that disciple-making is not as highly valued as they once thought. Sasser said it’s a problem that is manifesting itself in the decline of too many churches.

“I’m convinced in my heart of hearts that what is wrong with the church today is that we are not making disciples,” he said.

Sasser shared about the importance of disciple-making during the recent “Looking at your church in 3-D” workshop at First Baptist Church, Rocky Mount. This was the first of four regional workshops scheduled this year.

“Looking at your church in 3-D” is a BSCNC disciple-making initiative to assist North Carolina Baptist churches in these efforts. The initiative calls churches to work through three phases necessary for the establishment of a disciple-making culture. The three phases lead churches to discover, develop and deliver an effective strategy of making disciples of Jesus Christ.

During the discover phase churches learn where they are in their efforts to make disciples and where God wants them to be. In the next phase churches develop a comprehensive disciple-making strategy that fits their unique context. During the deliver phase they implement and evaluate the strategy.

Simple, but not easy

Brian Upshaw, BSCNC church ministry team leader, said all three elements are critical in a church’s efforts to make disciples. With that in mind, he cautioned that some churches might be prone to skip one or two of the steps. It’s a mistake he wants churches to avoid.

“3-D wants to take you through all three steps,” Upshaw said. “It’s simple, but not easy.”

During the workshop pastors learned how to identify the efforts in their churches that are contributing to a disciple-making culture and which ones are not. They also spent time discussing ways to implement the 3-D process.

“What we are presenting to you today is a process, not a one-time effort,” Upshaw said. “Hopefully it will become a new way for you to go about all of your ministry planning and execution so that you’re always in a mode of discovery, always in a mode of development, always in a mode of delivery.”

Russ Conley, BSCNC senior consultant for leadership development, pointed out that some churches need to begin the process with a fresh vision for reaching the lost people in their communities.

“You can’t make decisions on what ministries to continue or end without a clear vision of what God has called you to do,” he said. “What passes for vision in most churches is manmade, not God inspired.”

Conley said the process of changing the vision in some churches will be hindered by an outdated framework for ministry built around a constitution and bylaws that was constructed decades or even centuries ago.

“The structure in your church is perfectly designed to achieve the results you are achieving,” he said. “The challenge is to have a structure that is appropriate to your vision that does not overwhelm the life of the church.”

As most pastors know, changing the structure of a church is not easy. But it can be done when pastors commit to orienting the life of their church around making disciples of Jesus Christ.

James Clark, pastor of Powells Point Baptist Church, said the 3-D process can accomplish that goal. Prior to participating in the workshop, Clark attended a one-hour presentation of the 3-D material through his local association. That presentation stimulated a desire to learn more and the workshop experience confirmed his initial assessment.

“The potential of the program warrants the investment and time,” he said. “I believe that it absolutely holds the key to breaking open our churches.”

For more information on “Looking at your church in 3-D,” including future workshops, visit www.ncbaptist.org/3d. The next workshop will be held April 19 at Hopewell Baptist Church in Monroe.