Why Small Group Churches Are Confused About Disciple Making, Two Types of Disciple Making


If you follow this blog, you’re vividly aware that I have a passion for disciple making through groups. It is my passion and my life. And yet, it is perplexing to me how so many churches view disciple making differently. After all, we have the Old Testament as well as the New Testament giving us information about this, the primary call of the church.

Just determining how many people should be in a disciple making group is greatly debated. Some will say, without any hesitancy at all, that disciple making must be done one-on-one to one-on-three, that anymore than that is an ineffective, even an impossible way to do disciple making. Others will demand that it takes a village, that is, a small group of people doing life together to make mature disciples. Some churches have concluded that if those who are part of their church are living out the core values the church has created, then a spiritually mature disciple will rise out of the ashes of the program driven fire. And others have concluded that, if people serve alongside others passionate about the same area of ministry that spiritual growth will ultimately occur. Who’s right? Great question. Maybe all of them are.

Here’s the deal… As Bill Hull tells us in his amazing book, The Disciple Making Church, there are two types of disciple making (Dr. Hull, please forgive if I’ve accidently misinterpreted your work.), Christocentric and Churchocentric.

  1. Christocentric disciple-making. Christocetric disciple making sees Jesus as the model for disciple making. That is, he took a few people under his wing and personally discipled them. Some would say this was a group of four, Jesus and his three closest confidants.
  1. Churchocentric disciple-making. Churchocentric disciple making is communal disciple making. This type of disciple making sees the church whole as the essential ingredient in the disciple making process. When Jesus sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost believers were empowered with spiritual gifts and, when those gifts, the one anothers in the New Testament are lived out between believers, believers are experiencing the teaching gift exercised by pastors preaching the Word of God, etc… that a mature disciple will be created.

Who’s right? In my opinion, both are important. Most disciples of Jesus Christ need an individual to guide their journey, encouraging them, holding them accountable, modeling a disciple’s lifestyle, teaching them how to witness, have a daily time with God, etc… and answering their many questions. But, in my opinion, they also need a family of fellow followers of Jesus to be the church to them and alongside them in order for them to reach full spiritual maturity.


One comment

  1. Rick – I love the image of a collapsable cup whenever I think of this… there is the soul care of the one who is developing intimacy with God – next ring out is the same-stage micro-group (3 or 4) – next ring out is the spiritual family (the smaller group of 10, 12, whatever) of people at different stages in the Christ-life who are modeling and nudging each other forward – and, finally, there is the extended family (the covenanted congregation) who are celebrating God and His work in one another. I don’t see them as separate groups (I’m an introvert – that would be way too many groups for me) – but a collapsable community, getting smaller at each ring.

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