The Discipleship Strategy


In 2005, I completed a year long program called The Horizon School of Evangelism. The director there was big on discipleship (we did a weekly study in Mark on discipleship that took all year). He believes that we should be making disciples b/c that’s what Jesus did, that’s what the Great Commission explicitly tells us to do (“make disciples of all nations”), and, practically, that’s what will win the day.

I think I agree with him. The MOST INTERESTING PART to me, is the numbers. Did you know that if the original 12 disciples (or 11 or whatever), had done what Jesus did – get 12 disciples, spend 3 years teaching, training, doing life with them – and their disciples did this as well, after 24 years (or 8 generations of disciplemaking) over 5 Billion disciples would’ve been made. – and that’s if all they did their whole Christian life was spend 3 super intense years, then slacked-off the rest of their Christian life.

The whole freaking world could’ve gotten saved a long freaking time ago!

If each one of us would just make 1 disciple every year (and kept doing that every year) – spending a whole year with them, meeting with them very often (every day?) teaching them, etc then 1 > 2 > 4 > 8 > … after 32 years … > OVER 8 BILLION DISCIPLES! THE WHOLE WORLD … in 32 YEARS! The power of exponential growth is exciting!

Now, obviously, this would be pretty difficult to do. Not all of us are gifted disciplers. I doubt I could, in 1 year, train someone to make disciples. Ok, how about 1 person every 4 years. After 128 years, again, 8 BILLION DISCIPLES (approximately).

Ok, not all of us are gifted to do this – we use our gifts in other ways to help the body. In a more complex model, a discipler spends 3 years with a group of 10 people – only 3 of whom go on to become disciplers themselves (the rest either fall away or use other gifts to facilitate the process). After 30 years (10 iterations) a discipler retires from making disciples. Here’s how it would look:
year 0: 1 Discipler, 1 Reached
year 3: 1 + 1×3 = 4×1 = 4 disciplers, 1 + 1×10  = 11 Reached
year 6: 4 + 4×3 = 4×4 = 16 D, 11 + 4×10 = 51 Reached
year 9: 4×16 = 64 D, 51 + 160 = 211 R
year 12: 64×4 = 256 D, 211 + 640 = 851 R

year 54: 17.1 Billion Reached.

We can play with the equation and ratio of diciplers, but it seems to me that if we focused our efforts on making disciples and disciplers, we could potentially reach the whole world by the end of the century. I’m not foolish enough to think this will actually ever happen, HOWEVER, I’m compelled by the numbers to believe that if we at least tried to do something like this, we’d have a greater measure of success than we’re currently having.

This is part of the reason I question our current system.

What do you think of these numbers/this system? Does this light a fire under you? Are you moved but unconvinced? Are you unmoved? Please share your opinions!


6 Responses to “The Discipleship Strategy”

  1. 1 earthforaliens

    I have to say, it’s not the numbers that compel me. If you are going by numbers, then technically a typical church *should* be far more efficient – a few ministry professionals supposedly reaching hundreds at a time… those people reaching even more… It doesn’t work that way though. Churches already seems obsessed with numbers – how many people are in your church, how many got saved/baptized last year, how many people did the 40 days of purpose, yada yada yada.

    The thing that DOES compel me about discipleship, though, is the fact that it is personal. It happens in the context of relationship, rather than hundreds of people listening to one guy preach once a week. I love the way that Jesus just did life with his disciples. They hung out. They shared stories and experiences and adventures. They ate together. They went to parties and funerals. They had Q&A time all the time.

    That’s far more motivating to me than any mathematical equation for world salvation. But maybe that’s also because I sucked so bad at math in school 🙂

  2. 2 dewde

    Good ol’ compound interest. I’ve applied it with much success to my stock portfolio and retirement investments. Yay! My mortgage company has applied it with much success to my home loan. Boo!

    I’ve never applied it to evangelism before. Neat.


  3. 3 Paulg

    This is a good thought, but it’s an overly individualistic approach to discipleship. Jesus had far more than 12 people. When they replaced Judas they selected from a group of people who were “in and out among us beginning with the baptism of John until the day that he was taken up.” When we think of discipleship in the terms ‘fishers of men’ we approach it in the way we fish, one pole catching one fish at a time. But fishing
    meant entire nets being cast out to catch enough fish to feed a village. These nets are the sum total of our communities, which is why our love for one another will prove we are his disciples. True discipleship is interested in mending these nets which means bringing our hearts and mind united in the single purpose of bringing about the Kingdom of God.

    My fear in the ‘all we have to do is get 12 people” is that people will become even more isolated than the thousands of denominations with the millions of churches, and the hundreds of millions of individuals who compose those churches. We trade millions of small communities not connected in a body for billions of small groups not connected to the body. Jesus built a network of 150 people, who were unified before and after Pentecost, and this unity provided a large net by which “Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and even the remotest part of the earth” could be caught in…I obviously agree in the personal approach, our churches have embraced individualism and consumerism, but the scope of what we do needs to be far more reaching.

    p.s. the women in India who has never eaten told me all of this : ) lol, sorry inside joke

  4. Jesse,

    Not sure if you have seen this video on YouTube, but it lines up with your post. Enjoy


  5. This approach to discipleship may seem a little audacious, but I do understand the underlying meaning that you are trying to get at here. It is quite intriguing to rap our minds around the numbers and how if we each played our part, the world would forever be changed 3-times over. What I love about this is that the challenge is not to amass numbers, but to build personal relationships – one person at a time. It shows the heart and mission of Jesus Christ which was simply just to love people.

    It challenges us to stop hiding behind the walls of not knowing how to effectively engage people with the Gospel. It exposes our insecurities and our fear of coming across like the typical Christian to a non-believer… judgmental, arrogant, and self-righteous. It simplifies our complex rationalization by offering us the opportunity to just get to know people and expose them to Christ through doing life together.

    I think so many of us are more comfortable attending church and hanging out with other believers, thinking that our church will handle the soul-winning. Sadly, many of us can attest to this mindset. Words like “Discipleship”, “Fishers of Men” and “Spreading the Gospel” have been drowned out with hip terms like “Online Worship Experiences”, “Relevant Environments”, and “Multi-Site Campuses”. Don’t get me wrong, I think all of that stuff plays an important role in today’s modern world, but we cannot forget what it feels like to “BE” the church rather than “DOING” church.

    Great post… the numbers help to bring Christ’s Great Commission to a conceivable light.

    T H I N K | C H A N G E

  6. I think before numbers get involved, it’s really about defining what discipleship is and what the process looks like.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: