Discipleship is not one of the things the church is supposed to do.
It is THE thing the church is commanded to do.
Jesus knew he only had a 3 year window to build into his ragtag team, everything they needed in order to be trusted with the kingdom.
3 years to teach them everything they needed to know,
3 years to give them hands-on training and experience,
3 years to develop spiritual disciplines and
3 years to turn them into LEADERS.
He could not waste his time; he had to maximize every moment. Everything he did with them was purposeful and moved them closer to the leadership goal.
Jesus’ message to the church was to stay focused on the primary task of making disciples who, in turn, would make other disciples. Every church believes that it makes disciples, and it probably does to some degree. The question is, “How effective are we at intentionally and strategically creating leaders who, in turn, create ongoing disciples?” Jesus did it in three years.
Of course, we typically do not take the same 24/7 approach Jesus did, so our discipleship process may take longer. But if a skeptic were to walk into your church tomorrow, what process do you have for him or her that would move them forward in their walk, such that they could be ready to leave your church to help start a new church within a few years?
Jesus never intended that his disciples would stay together as one cozy, close-knit family. He expected that they would embrace a mission that would lead them through the world, spreading the message and making disciples as they went. The goal of discipleship is to equip people so that they can go and reproduce elsewhere. Not that we kick people out of church once they reach a certain stage, but we expect that a good number of the people we train will have a sense of calling to plant churches or take the mission abroad… if we have done discipleship well.
“The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity.”