Simple Discipleship: A Resource for the Church

For over a decade I have been teaching evangelism and church planting courses, and for the last eighteen months a discipleship class for Liberty Seminary.  There are numerous discipleship materials available, but few walk a pastor through the implementation of a comprehensive strategy. Another major deficiency common in the genre is the lack of assessment strategies. We want to make disciples, but never have a means to evaluate if we are truly accomplishing the task. As a result, little changes. Tom Cocklereece’s Simple Discipleship satisfies these concerns. The following will give you an overview of the text.  This would be a great addition to your ministry library.   Remember, the Great Commission is all about making disciples, which encompasses evangelism, missions, and results in church planting.  -Bill

Simple Discipleship: A Comprehensive Disciple-Making Plan

Many people think that Simple Discipleship (SD) is merely a collection of Bible studies designed to enhance the spiritual growth of individuals, but that does not describe SD. Simple Discipleship grew out of my reading of Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger in which they challenged pastors to become designers of disciple-making ministries. Happily, many pastors have accepted the challenge, but organizational development is not a strong point for many church leaders. I was immediately attracted to the challenge. I observed that while Simple Church listed four characteristics of disciple-making churches (clarity, measurement, alignment, focus), the authors did not provide sufficient detail as to how church leaders might develop a ministry that was in fact a simple church. In short, to develop and write Simple Discipleship I took their work to a new level. Perhaps a look at disciple-making methods would be useful, as there are six disciple-making methods used in varying degrees by church leaders:

  1. Platform Discipleship- Virtually all churches use platform discipleship as the pastors preach and teach during the worship and Bible study time each week using sermons, sermon series, testimonies, drama, and other worship arts. In Simple Discipleship it applies to the Worship dimension in which people Connect with Jesus Christ.
  2. Program Discipleship- Many churches employ programs that use curricula that is developed by their denomination or other organization outside the immediate church. Think of programs as already prepared spiritual meals for various aged groups and provided to help people spiritually grow. Many churches administer all of their primary ministries using a program approach. Large churches use this method as it is an easy delivery system for large groups of people. However, the effectiveness is difficult to measure and the programs can become self perpetuating silo-style ministries that may or may not be effective.
  3. Peer-group Discipleship- When people join a small group Bible study, they become part of a partnership with everyone in the cluster. We might call this koinonia or fellowship disciple-making. The strength of this method is that it provides collaboration and cooperation in an accountability format that is caring for all involved.
  4. Personal Discipleship- One-on-one discipleship may be the least used by churches even though Jesus Christ used it with great effectiveness. It requires commitment and the development of discipleship coaches and leaders who are proficient in developing other people as they grow spiritually.
  5. Proficiency Discipleship- One may think of the three years the apostles spent with Jesus as he helped guide them to become the leaders of the church after his ascension. It may include aspects of each of the other methods listed above.
  6. Process Discipleship- This is the preferred method, as it not only incorporates all of the other five methods, but it also does so with an intentional desire to move people from where they are presently to the next level of spiritual growth. Additionally, process discipleship recognizes the need for spiritual balance as growing disciples must be actively involved in worship, Bible study, ministry in the church, and sharing Christ outside the church.

In short, Simple Discipleship is a ubiquitous disciple-making strategy using platform, program, peer-group, personal, and proficiency discipleship delivered in a process manner. Use of the material presented in the book Simple Discipleship will provide church leaders with a new comprehensive disciple-making plan that will grow people and grow their churches.

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Dr. Tom Cocklereece