8 ways pastors can lead in disciple-making

by Chuck Lawless, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Tuesday, March 27, 2018 | 116 days old

Our calling as Christ-followers is to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). That task includes everything from sharing the gospel with a nonbeliever to leading believers to do all that Jesus commanded. That’s a lot of work, and no pastor can do it alone. Here are some ways a pastor can lead his church members to be disciple-makers:

1. Make sure the church has defined “Discipled Dave”
That is, make sure they can describe what a New Testament disciple should look like. The church that has never answered the question, “What is a disciple in this church?” will be doing “hit and miss” discipleship.

2. Start church-based discipleship in the new members class.
The time to start the process is at the beginning — when new members are most excited and ready to be a part of the church. Show them the church’s discipleship strategy, and get them enlisted immediately.

3. Require that small group leaders be discipled.
They may have already been discipled to some extent, or they may be in that process now — but all small group leaders must be growing disciples. To be honest, I’d reduce the number of small groups before I would place an undiscipled person in leadership.

4. Build intentional discipleship into small groups.
Any curriculum or strategy used in small groups should clearly contribute to the church’s overall discipleship process. Discipled small group leaders will understand that point, too.

5. Use the preaching event to make disciples.
Exposit the Word, but also make sure that application is clear and simple. Help members know what they must do with the Scripture teaching. Head-based preaching with no application might produce scholars, but it seldom produces disciples.

6. Develop a disciple-makers training class.
Most people don’t know what disciple-making looks like, so a brief class of instruction and encouragement can be helpful. Reading Robert Coleman’s Master Plan of Evangelism might be a good start. You might require your elders and/or deacons to be involved as well.

7. Personally invest in the few.
Prayerfully ask God to direct you to believers in whom you might invest yourself. From the beginning of that relationship, challenge them to turn around and teach others what they’re learning. Discipleship fires tend to start small, but they do spread.

8. Hold the members accountable for being disciplemakers.
Most likely through the small group system, evaluate whether members are growing in Christ, participating in the church and investing in others. An expectation of disciple-making that is not accompanied by some type of accountability is often an unmet expectation.

What ideas might you add to this list?  

Editor’s note: Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president for spiritual formation at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also team leader for theological education strategists of the International Mission Board. He and his wife, Pam, live in Wake Forest, N.C. This article originally appeared on his blog at chucklawless.com.