Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How do we build disciples? (Part 4)

This is the 4th in a series of posts looking at the question 'How do we build disciples?'  Here we look at a summary of discipleship models used by churches effective at making disciples. The next post will wrap up the series with some principles derived from this study.

I found a new book to go on my must-read list - "Growing True Disciples: New Strategies for Producing Genuine Followers of Christ " by George Barna. (Good news for me that it's required for an upcoming course at Rockbridge Seminary)  Barna takes a look at the need for discipleship, biblical examples of discipleship, and presents the results of a study in which he examined discipleship approaches in many churches and identified five churches/five models that were particularly effective.

The Five Models presented by Barna, along with effective discipling churches that use these models, are:
Competencies Model (Pantego Bible Church, ). Ft. Worth, TX.  David Daniels
Missional Model (Fellowship Bible Church, ). Little Rock, AR. Robert Lewis
Neighborhood Model (Perimeter Church, ). Duluth, GA. Randy Pope
Worldview Model (Fellowship Bible Church North, ). Plano, TX. Jeff Jones
Lecture-Lab Model (North Coast Church, ). Vista, CA. Larry Osborne

The "Competencies" model looks at ten core beliefs, ten core practices, ten core values, taking a very systematic approach to learning. Lessons are applied as well via local community ministries and connection groups / home groups. Personal assessment is key. The missional model blends aspects of compentencies (six core qualities) with some worldview teaching along with small groups and specialty classes. The mission of the church is the mission of discipleship. At the heart of the Neighborhood model are geographically-close small groups, along with a discipleship curriculum which is written by the church. Direct modeling of evangelism is also important. In the worldview model, a significant investment in discipleship and teaching occurs over a 2-year small group process, imparting biblical wisdom that transforms lives. In the lecture-lab model, related content is delivered both in sermons/lecture and in small groups/lab. Small groups are the key venue for learning, reinforcing and putting into practice what is heard.

Barna then goes on beyond describing these models, and puts together a composite, or "Best-Of" model that looks for the best of each approach, and highly recommends not copying a program or a template, but rather which looks for principles. He also points out that the senior pastor must be an outspoken proponent of discipleship - and all ministry programs must be tied to discipleship outcomes. Barna also recommends reducing the number of programs so as to increase focus on discipleship. Some of the specific techniques or practices which Barna recommends a church consider include: the use of personal development plans, disciples built not in one venue but in small groups, mid-size groups, worship services, and in teams doing community service.

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