Ministry Today – Serving and empowering church leaders

Dr. Steve Greene is now sharing his reflections and practical insights as a ministry leader on Greenelines, a new podcast. Listen at

How Jesus’ discipleship model applies to the local church

Thirty years ago I had the privilege for a short season of traveling with Youth With a Mission founder and president Loren Cunningham. During one flight, Loren asked what my spiritual gifts were, to which I responded with my best guess as a 20-year-old. He affirmed my gifts of leadership and communication/teaching, but really got my attention when he said: “You know, Dave, it really doesn’t matter how many you lead or teach that counts. From God’s perspective, your life and ministry will be regarded as fruitful only to the degree you invest the ways of God into the third and fourth generations.”

Loren wasn’t talking about 40-year generations, but instead the kind of generational transfer Paul spoke of in 2 Timothy 2:2: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” This is the heart of discipleship—the multigenerational execution of Jesus’ great commission to us. The initial phrase in Matthew 28:19 is literally translated: “As you are going, make disciples.” As we go about everyday life, are we 1) intentionally investing what God has deposited in us into 2) someone else, who then deposits it into 3) another person, who in turn pours that into 4) yet someone else?

Henry Blackaby recently labeled this generation as “the most undiscipled generation of believers that I’ve ever known. ... Evangelism is a byproduct of discipleship, but we have made discipleship a byproduct of evangelism.”

Indeed, Jesus taught the multitudes yet invested in only 12. Since He knew He’d eventually return to His Father, I’m sure during His three years of discipling Jesus felt the weight of His followers really “getting it.” But the disciples “got it,” even sacrificing their lives to advance the kingdom. The bottom line: Jesus invited them to follow, the Holy Spirit drew them to follow, and they made a deliberate choice to follow.

So where does a pastor begin when it comes to applying these truths of “followship” at the local church level? The book of Matthew reveals a pattern that provides us with a glimpse of how to go about this disciple-making process:

1. Calling (4:18-25)—Jesus built relationships and, after prayer, invited the 12 to be with Him. Discipleship happens in the context of commitment, relationship and community.

2. Maturing (5-9)—Jesus taught His disciples the truths and values of the kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount, then modeled what they looked like in “real life.”

3. Mobilizing (10)—As the disciples matured in God’s ways, Jesus sent them out to “flex their muscles” in faith, character, values, authority, evangelism, gifts, wisdom and persecution.

4. Multiplying (28:18-20)—After walking with them for a time, Jesus commissioned His disciples to replicate His ways by “teaching them to obey what I’ve commanded you.”

Both the Gospels and Acts 1 show this practical progression: 1) Jesus did it; they observed. 2) Jesus did it; they helped. 3) They did it; Jesus coached. 4) They did it; Jesus left!

Discipleship involves intimate replication, which often contrasts with our modern mass-evangelism-driven church culture. As you apply Jesus’ simple principles and begin the discipleship process, challenge those learning from you to pray about who they too can begin to disciple—people they’re simply “one step ahead of.” Within a local church, this establishes a Christ-like culture in which the pastor leads and models, with others following close behind, followed by others, followed by .... It’s discipleship at work.

Dave Buehring is the founder and team leader of Lionshare Leadership Group.

Ministry Today Subscription Special - Subscribe to Ministry Today magazine today and get 12 issues (2 full years) plus Amplified Leadership, a free leadership book for only $24.

Order Life in the Spirit to actively grow your ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. Your congregation will stay saturated in God's Word, learn to hear His voice, understand their purpose and calling and move into an active role in your ministry.

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
  • Jentezen Franklin encourages church leaders to encourage their flocks to vote their values.

    Why We Must Count the Cost—and Vote

    There is a propaganda war that is raging in this country, and it is full of manipulation, lies, ...

  • Graveyard

    An Autopsy of a Deceased Pastor

    There are eight common patterns to look for.

  • Why did you choose the church you attend?

    7 Key Reasons People Choose a Church

    The real issue is not the intrigue of this research; it is what you and your church will do about ...

  • Many of these issues are self-inflicted.

    10 Poisons That Will Kill Any Church

    Here is why the churches that die from them do so by their own hand.

  • The Key to True Power

    The Key to True Power

    Jesus overturned every worldly idea about power when He introduced the concept of servant leadership.

  • Have you ever had a cringe moment during your church announcements?

    The 7 Deadly Sins of Church Announcements

    Sometimes they just miss the mark, albeit unintentionally.

  • Some of these reasons for leaving the church are simply not plausible.

    7 Reasons People Leave Their Church During Crisis Times

    Some of the excuses are pretty extreme and, quite frankly, lazy.

  • Do yourself and her a favor. Take the target off your pastor's wife's back.

    Why Pastors' Wives Have a Target on Their Back

    Here are three instances of what we are doing to the wives of God's servants sent to ...

  • The heart of a leader is more important than any other characteristic.

    5 Qualities to Seek in the Heart of a Leader

    The hope here is that you would reflect on your own leadership and consider your own heart as a ...

Use Desktop Layout
Ministry Today Magazine — Serving and empowering church leaders