Most church ministries do a pretty good job at discipleship through teaching. We are weakest at encouraging and preparing women to intentionally build relationships with unchurched women and share their faith in casual conversation as opportunity arises. In other words, local churches are good at establishing Christians but not-so-good at launching them to do the work of ministry apart from the church. Have you been trained and encouraged to start a Bible study apart from your church? As you have read through this series of articles, I hope you have seen ways to be a disciplemaker while growing in your faith. The next phase of disciplemaking is to LAUNCH us to do all of that with their peers. This article will look at how to launch disciplemakers from an individual perspective and from a church ministry perspective. This is blog #9 in our “Lifestyle Disciplemaking” serie, adapted from our book, Leap into Lifestyle Disciplemaking.
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As we have defined in this series of articles, a disciplemaker is one who makes disciples that make disciples. The goal is not just to teach but also to train others to continue the process. This is how we described that in “The Call to Lifestyle Disciplemaking” as the LAUNCH phase of lifestyle disciplemaking. It goes beyond just growing in your own faith.
Disciplemaking is seeing people trust in Christ and grow in Him while at the same time equipping them to go back and help others repeat this process. Disciplemaking is outward-focused.
This is the process: You trust in Christ, choose to follow Him, and grow in your faith (discipleship) while at the same time you learn how to reach new people for Christ, build them up in the faith, and help them reach their peers (disciplemaking). Discipleship is incomplete without disciplemaking. Jesus did not leave the option open for us to focus only on ourselves. And He trained His followers to make disciples then launched them to do so using what they learned from Him.
The example of Jesus
The training phase
Jesus challenged His followers to become “fishers of people” (Mark 1:17). He spent His second and third year of ministry preparing them to connect with nonbelievers and to establish believers in their faith.
Reading the gospels, you will see Jesus preparing His followers to teach the gospel message, to have compassion on people and meet their needs, and to interact with different kinds of people—both the faithful and the skeptics.
As Jesus traveled with His followers, He let them take part in His ministry to prepare them for their own work. They watched Him connect with different kinds of people—locals, foreigners, preachers, prostitutes, poor, rich, distraught parents, and others. Then, He began to launch them into ministry for themselves.
The launch phase
I like that word “launch.” According to the Oxford Dictionary online, the definition of launch as a verb includes these aspects:
- to set (a boat) in motion by pushing it or allowing it to roll into the water
- to start or set in motion (an activity or enterprise)
Since we know that four of the disciples were fishermen, the first definition fits well. They were the boat being pushed by Jesus. But the second definition fits better with what Jesus spent His time doing. In His training, He prepared them so that He could release them to start something new—making disciples for Him.
Let us look at what He did while He was alive on earth.
When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.… 5 If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere. … 10 When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, (Luke 9:1-2, 5-6, 10)
Jesus sent them out as a group to take the gospel to nearby towns and practice what they learned from Him. They did what He told them to do then reported back to Him what they had done.
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” … 16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” 17 The seventy returned with joy … (Luke 10:1-2, 17)
Jesus expanded His ministry beyond Himself and the twelve Apostles by sending out seventy disciples to take the gospel message to nearby towns to prepare for His arrival in those same towns. Notice that He sent them out in pairs. Our Lord knows we need encouragement and support from other believers as we connect with people who do not already know Him.
After His death and resurrection, Jesus met with His followers and launched them out to do the work of making disciples who make disciples. He turned His ministry over to those He had trained.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Jesus followers would not be alone, relying on their own power to do what Jesus commissioned them to do.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
Jesus followers were prepared and launched to be disciplemakers. This multiplication of disciplemakers has continued through the years to the one who shared the good news with you.
Launching disciplemakers today
From all the disciplemaking trainings I have done in recent years and visiting with many women church leaders, I have concluded two things:
- We do a pretty good job of teaching Christians once they become believers and start attending our churches. Praise God for that!
- We are weakest at encouraging and preparing women to intentionally build relationships with unchurched women and share their faith in casual conversation as opportunity arises.
In other words, local churches are good at establishing Christians but not-so-good at launching them to do the work of ministry apart from the church. As you have read through this series of articles, I hope you have seen ways to be a disciplemaker while growing in your faith.
Let us look at how to launch disciplemakers from an individual perspective and from a church ministry perspective.
Launching as individuals:
Are you discipling a new or young believer to help her get established in her faith? Then, also teach her how to connect with her peers to share her new faith with them. Another option is to invite a friend to do this with you. Both ways are multiplying disciplemakers for Jesus. See all the tools we shared with you in previous articles:
All of these are included in the “Prepare to Share” booklet we offer to you.
Then, you can help her establish a new believer. Whenever someone she knows trusts in Christ, she can disciple her friend with the same resources you used to establish her. That is why having a prepared Bible study guide such as A Fresh Start is so beneficial. It becomes easily transferrable. You could also establish the new believer together—first, with you helping her then with you watching her and supporting her while she does it. That is the coaching method: you watch what I do, you do it with me, you do it while I watch, and you do it on your own. Train women in your sphere of influence to connect with and establish others.
The next step is to actually release them to pursue disciplemaking as a lifestyle, individually applied. We are not called to do ministry exactly the same way. One may be great at one-on-one teaching. Another might be a wonderful small group leader. Some might be effective engagers at church events or serve well in the local community. We need to encourage one another to pursue ministry the way Jesus has designed for each of us to do. That is how Jesus’ ministry multiplies.
Lifestyle disciplemaking works best out in the world away from the church building. That means individuals are doing it in their daily lives. You can be a part of that multiplication of disciplemakers as you train women within your sphere of influence to connect with nonbelievers and establish believers on their own.
Launching from women’s ministry or other church ministry:
The same tools mentioned above for connecting with nonbelievers work well in a church ministry setting where there is training and support to actually use them. Continual encouragement and easily accessible tools are very important to instill a lifestyle of disciplemaking in the women of your church.
An effective ministry is not necessarily a big or busy ministry, but one that is regularly reaching new people for Christ, building them up in the faith and equipping them to reach their generation for Christ. (Sonlife Ministries, “Growing Healthy Women in Ministry”)
The goal of any ministry is not just to produce disciples but to grow disciplemakers for Jesus. That means you are not to just teach but also to train.
If you are a ministry leader at your church:
- Provide transferable resources and methods for women to CONNECT with nonbelievers and ESTABLISH new believers. That would include help in preparing one’s faith story, starting conversations with nonbelievers, and sharing the gospel facts. You should provide follow-up materials to use with new believers, such as A Fresh Start and other Bible studies for beginners. See “Establish: Nurture Women New to the Bible” for suggestions. Keep them on hand and make them readily available for women to use in discipling others.
- Practice the inflow/overflow principle. Women turned on to Jesus and introduced to Bible study want to soak up the learning. That is a natural tendency. They may feel inadequate to teach someone else. You need to intentionally communicate to mature Christians their commission to teach others. Help women to trust in Jesus for the ability to teach someone else. He is the one who makes each one of us able to do what He calls us to do. We need to be obedient and dependent on Him. Encourage them to start and lead a Bible study outside of the church ministries. Provide support and resources for them to do so.
- Give inexperienced women opportunity to teach and disciple within women’s ministry. Encourage a culture of permission and trust where people feel the freedom to use their individual giftedness, to try leading, and to fail so they can learn from that. Pair them with an experienced leader. Jesus allowed question and answer sessions about His own teaching (Mark 4:10; 9:11, 28-29; 10:10) and took His disciples aside to talk about their ministry experiences (Luke 9:10; 10:17). He taught them how to handle opposition to their teaching (Mark 11:27-33; 12:13-17). He coached them as they were doing the work. You can coach women new to ministry as well by doing the same things Jesus did.
- Train small group leaders for discipling and disciplemaking. Since small groups are fishing pools for young Christians, this is a great place to incorporate disciplemaking and encourage it among the mature women who attend—participants as well as leaders. Our book Be a Christ-Focused Small Group Leader has a section on disciplemaking in a small group.
For more help to incorporate disciplemaking into your women’s ministry, see “Launch: Transition to a Disciplemaking-Focused Women’s Ministry.“ That is the subject of our next blog in this “Lifestyle Disciplemaking” series. We give you help to transition your existing women’s ministry toward disciplemaking, not as a program but to make disciplemaking part of the everyday life of women in your church.
Stay Christ-focused as you take the next steps
You are commissioned by the Lord Jesus to make disciples. Ask Him to help you be part of the multiplication process of disciplemaking by launching those you have been teaching or training into reaching their peers for Christ.
Through this blog series, we have prepared you to do so as Jesus prepared His own disciples. The next step is to choose lifestyle disciplemaking and depend on the Holy Spirit to give you opportunity to lead others to Christ.
Jesus Christ calls us to a new life, clothes us with himself, commissions us with a purpose, and empowers us to fulfill that purpose—to follow Him as His disciples and to live for Him as disciplemakers.
Trust Jesus to help you do this. Then, watch what He does!
Lifestyle disciplemaking activities are interwoven throughout our Live Out His Love Bible Study of New Testament women.
Let Jesus lead you into lifestyle disciplemaking. Jesus followers become disciplemakers.
- The Call to Lifestyle Disciplemaking
- Connect: Build Intentional Relationships with Nonbelievers
- Connect: Become a Designated Engager
- Connect: Prepare to Share Your Faith Story
- Connect: Prepare to Share the Gospel Facts
- Establish: Give Believers Strong Roots
- Establish: Choose to Disciple Others
- Establish: Nurture Women Who Are New to the Bible
- Launch: Multiply Impact Beyond Yourself
- Launch: Use Your Workday Lunch Break for Disciplemaking
- Launch: Transition to a Disciplemaking-Focused Women’s Ministry
- Live Out His Love Bible Study on Amazon (New Testament women, disciplemaking preparations)
- Be a Christ-Focused Small Group Leader on Amazon (prepares group leaders for disciplemaking)
- Lifestyle Disciplemaking resources on my website (including everything in this blog series)
- Host a “Leap into Lifestyle Disciplemaking” retreat
- “Prepare to Share” booklet
- “Establish New or Young Christians” booklet
- “Designated Engagers Preparation” checklist
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