Ministry Today – Serving and empowering church leaders

The Great Suggestion

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

What’s happened to real discipleship in America ... and how we can get back on track

It was a small gathering with a big name. The “World Apostolic Summit.” February 1999. Singapore. Thirty “apostles” from around the world spent three days answering the question: What do you feel God is saying to His church?

As usual, I was the youngest in the room and the only one wearing jeans. I was simultaneously inspired and intimidated as I listened to these spiritual giants talk about what God was doing in their nations. I felt like a lion in a den of Daniels.

When it was finally my turn to suggest what I felt the Lord was saying to His church in 1999, I said that He was probably saying the same thing He said in 1899, in 1599, in 999 and in 99: “Go and make disciples.” I wasn’t trying to be smart. But sadly, I was the only one in the room who mentioned anything about making disciples.

Why do church leaders spend time doing everything but making disciples? Why do we try every church-growth gimmick known to mankind, yet ignore the one strategy Jesus endorsed? Shouldn’t His last message be our first option?

Discipleship isn’t supposed to be complicated. Difficult sometimes, complicated never. Two thousand years ago, discipleship was so simple that a carpenter explained it to uneducated fishermen in one sentence: “Follow me and I will send you out to fish for people” (Matt. 4:19, TNIV). Those simple fishermen followed, fished and changed their world.

If modern discipleship is confusing or complicated, it is because we have strayed from biblical principles and the simple biblical process that Jesus lived and taught His disciples. Sadly, the fruit of this departure is glaringly evident today in the United States (see “What’s Going Wrong”).

For Jesus, discipleship was and still is top priority. Yes, He fed the hungry and healed the sick. But He always gave the 12 disciples His prime time. His final word to them before He ascended into heaven was a commission not just to be disciples, but also to make disciples. Like the original followers of Jesus, we are supposed to be disciples and we are supposed to make disciples. In others words, we are supposed to follow Jesus and we are supposed to help others follow Him.

Shhh ... Don’t Say the D-Word

Ever wonder why it’s so rare in the modern church to hear leaders talk about discipleship? Or why it’s even more rare to see a leader prioritize discipleship? We’ve gathered huge crowds, built massive buildings, published books, recorded CDs, preached on TV and radio, and exerted political power. We’ve had healing revivals, laughing revivals, crying revivals, repenting revivals, manifestation revivals and offering revivals. We’ve built faith churches, charismatic churches, nondenominational churches, megachurches, cell churches, house churches, organic churches and emerging churches. Yea, we’ve done it all during my 29 years in ministry, but have we made disciples?

Unfortunately, not very often.

The problem is that although most Christians agree that discipleship is important, even essential for Christian maturity, few understand biblical principles and even fewer apply a biblical process when it comes to discipleship. We seem to prefer random acts of ministry and call it being led by the Spirit.

Copying methods and models can often seem easier than understanding and applying biblical principles and biblical process. In the never-ending search for a perfect model, countless desperate-for-growth leaders copied David Yonggi Cho’s Korean cell model in the ’80s, Ralph Neighbor and Lawrence Kong’s Singaporean model in the ’90s, only to turn to Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven model or Bill Johnson’s miracle model ... or whatever the latest greatest get-big-quick method that’s come down the pike.

It’s time to stop copying methods and models, and instead start understanding biblical principles and biblical process.

Methods and models are unique to a particular time and location. Principles and process can be applied in every ministry context, at any time and in every nation. They are universal. The trick is to understand the principles and the process. Rather than copying something that worked at Saddleback or in Korea, why not discover the same principles that Warren and Cho discovered and do the hard work figuring out how to apply them in your community?

Leaders are readers! Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Ministry Today, Charisma and SpiritLed Woman all for $24. YES - I'm a leader!

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.

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
  • Discouragement can be a serious struggle.

    Guard Your Spirit Against These 4 Crippling Attacks

    Are you struggling this Valentine's Day with one of these discouraging issues?

  • Some of the toughest lessons reap the greatest rewards.

    10 Tough Lessons Every Pastor Should Remember in Ground-Shaking Trials

    One is that your suffering may turn out to be the highest compliment the Father ever gave you.

  • Why Many Christians Misunderstand This Crucial Leadership Trait

    Great leadership doesn't start with a great education, although that is incredibly valuable. ...

  • Worship leaders, keep your team's attitude in check.

    This Can Quickly Erode a Worship Team's Culture

    God has given us talent and He calls for excellence, but excellence with this is not honoring ...

  • Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Watch how God can take one spark and turn it into a wildfire that impacts your ministry, your community and even future generations.

  • Your Source of Unlimited Kingdom Energy and Power

    Jesus said that we can do greater works than He did and that He will do whatever we ask in His Name.

  • What reasons can you think of that leaders might not choose to delegate authority?

    7 Reasons Some Leaders Dump Delegation

    These could have a lot to do with stalled growth and low team morale.

  • These seven responses can get you on the right track.

    Responding Like Jesus When Your Church Kicks You Out

    It's a pain that many in the ministry have felt at least once and maybe more.

  • A 'What's in it for me?' mentality could bring your church down.

    The Mentality That May Be Killing Your Church

    And we wonder why so many congregations are stagnated, plateaued or declining.

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