From the Archives: Creating an Environment of Discipleship

By H. Gerald Rudd

Preach, teach, and practice biblical holiness

Our first responsibility is to get people to see discipleship as a ministry, not a program. Many congregations believe that discipleship is nothing more than a class to take. We don’t have a discipleship program. Discipleship is the fulfillment of the Great Commission—making disciples.

Programs begin large and eventually become small. Ministry starts small and becomes large. If you have a program, people see it as your program. If they see discipleship as a ministry that God has called them to, they invest themselves in it.

True discipleship is an investment of your life with another person by studying the Bible, praying, believing in the importance of the fellowship of believers, sharing your faith, and winning someone to the Lord.

Provide continuing discipleship opportunities for believers of all ages

Discipleship includes the entire body of Christ in ministry. At our church, discipleship is self-perpetuating. We invest in someone else so they become true disciplers themselves, and then invest in another.

Develop small groups and small group leaders

When we began discipleship, we started with just one man. I went to a discipleship conference and God showed me the biblical mandate of discipleship. I began working with two other couples and my wife. From that group of six, we began discipling others. When they discipled someone and that person grew mature in the faith, then they became disciplers themselves.

Every two weeks disciplers report the results of their discipling. We ask them if they believe their student is ready to become a discipler. This discipleship process can take from six months to two years.

Provide discipleship materials to guide believers into Christian maturity

There are many dynamics in church growth. Discipleship has been the foundation of growth at our church, not only in numbers, but also in ministries that reach into the community and the world. People have become aware of the necessity to build believers.

We provide the materials, the tools, and the training for disciples to grow in our church. We work with individuals until they become established in their faith. Because of this, we have a higher retention rate. Disciples have learned how to fight the spiritual fight, and they have learned how to find the areas in which God would want them to work in the life of this congregation.

Prepare young people for a life of faith and service

Discipleship has helped everyone in our congregation learn to minister, even without formal theological training. They may not be the pastor, but they can do ministry. In the Word of God, we are all called to be the body of Christ.

Equip clergy and laity

We have a young man, who over seven years, has developed and grown to the point that we have called him to be our minister of discipleship and outreach. We have a woman who has been with us a year and made a commitment to the Lord. We placed her in a discipleship relationship with another Christian. Soon this woman began to disciple her husband and best friend. Both were eventually brought to personal relationships with the Lord. Through being discipled, she became a discipler.

We also sponsor a discipleship conference for pastors in the community and around the nation. This event features noted speakers and offers encouragement and practical handles on beginning discipleship ministries. Our congregation is committed to discipleship.

H. Gerald Rudd is the chairman of Pastors’ Fellowship. At the time of this writing, he was the pastor of First Church of God in Pekin, Illinois. First Church of God in Greeneville, Tennessee, became another one of his very fruitful pastorates. Article originally published in the mid-1990s in a brochure titled The Church of God: A Statement of Our Vision for Today and the Future. Republished by permission.

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