Why most discipleship programs fail

Discipleship programs are everywhere. You can get the latest discipleship curriculum or discipleship process that a certain church is doing and have high hopes that it is going to catapult your church to new heights.

Everybody is excited and sold out. You do a church wide campaign. You produce videos and materials for “THE DISCIPLESHIP PROGRAM”.

Every member of the church started inviting people to attend your weekend services. You see a growth in your attendance for the first few months. You are on a verge of a breakthrough in your church and then “THE THING” happens.

The thing that you dread the most – the fire, passion and the attendance starts to dwindle. You then called for an emergency meeting trying to assess the problem. You brainstorm and you try to improve your discipleship program. Somebody then suggested for the church to adapt this new discipleship program that is working in another church. Maybe if you could tweak and add more programs then people would come.

The cycle continues. Sporadic growth then the numbers dwindle. After a year or two you find yourself with the same people and the same crowd. Growth was not achieved. No disciples were produced – what went wrong?

You take out your checklist for church success:

Prayer meeting – check

Strategic Meeting – check

Discipleship pastor and admin – check

You scratch your head and wonder why it is not working? It should work. The discipleship program promises results.

Here lies the problem when it comes to discipleship ministry in almost every church I know: PROGRAM.

Not that they don’t have nice discipleship programs but that they treat discipleship as a program of the church. Discipleship is not a program. Discipleship is not just one part of the church’s ministry.

DISCIPLESHIP must be the lifestyle of every church member. Box discipleship as a program and what you have is a recipe for artificial growth.

DISCIPLESHIP is relationship. You can take away the program from discipleship and it will still work. But you take away the relationship – then it won’t work. You can have the most flashy program but if no relationship is built, then nothing will be built.

Discipleship is relationship. Discipleship is threefold:

1. Discipleship is following Jesus. It is first and foremost your walk with Jesus. It is building a relationship with Jesus. It is knowing and loving Jesus.

2. Discipleship is fellowship with other believers. It is spiritual family. It is being connected to a local church. It is having accountability with people that pushes you to follow Jesus.

3. Discipleship is fishing for people who don’t know Jesus. It is a relationship with the world. Discipleship starts when we engage people with the gospel. Discipleship is loving people as Christ loved you.

The best discipleship manual is your life. Discipleship works if you understand what discipleship really is all about.

Matt. 28:18 ¶ And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
Matt. 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Matt. 28:20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Know more about discipleship, get Pastor Steve Murrell’s book Accidental Missionary, you can buy here, read my book review here