Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is a lofty vision. Precisely because it can never be fully realized is what makes this vision worth striving for. When the fulfillment of an inspiring vision is just out of reach, it coaxes and compels you to reach just a bit harder. My question is, are you making strides toward realizing that vision?
If you’re not making strides, or progress is slow, you’ll want to read the experiences of pastor Mike Schreiner and coach Ken Willard in their book, Stride: Creating a Discipleship Pathway For Your Church. Based on their experiences at Morning Star Church in the St. Louis area, it contains practical ideas for jump-starting intentional disciple-making in your congregation. Here’s what I gleaned in conversation with Ken Willard about the book.
Ken, were there any new learning experiences for you in creating a pathway at Morning Star Church?
There have been so many, Rebekah! If I had to pick one, it’s that discipleship is not linear. It’s messy. In the church world we tend to think in terms of 1-2-3-4. We offer classes in a certain order, and even title classes “Discipleship 101.” Even the image of a “pathway” can be misleading. People are at different places on their spiritual journeys; we need to meet them where they are and just help them take their next step. This realization is what led us to use more circular images of a fully devoted follower of Christ. We believe the church’s role is to help people move closer to Christ.
What challenges have you run into when a church tries to create a discipleship pathway?
One of the top challenges we’ve faced, Rebekah, is this: Even after the team has read Stride, and I’ve coached them, there is a strong pull to create new classes. This is a hard paradigm to shift. Classes are great. Many people will learn and grow as a disciple in a class of some type. However, we believe that classes should support the church’s discipleship process. Not be the main focus.
Ken, is there anything else you would like to share with churches?
Yes, most of the issues and challenges at the local church level are Spiritual issues. Think about what the leadership team at the churches you work with have focused on the most during the last year or so. Someone’s bad behavior, lack of resources, challenges with filling serving positions, etc. We believe at the heart of these issues is a lack of discipleship. We would challenge all church leadership teams to focus as much time and effort on making disciples as they do on facilities, finances, and programs. Our job as leaders in the church is to equip others to make disciples. It must start with us. We need to be growing ourselves and other leaders first.
I appreciated the conversation with Ken. While he sees lack of discipleship at the heart of church dysfunction, I see lack of vision. The two are deeply interrelated, of course. Their advice to grow ourselves as disciples of Christ as a first step on this path of discipling others resonated with me. Through my life-changing leadership training program, Creating a Culture of Renewal, church leaders actively take this step and continue down the path, maximizing their own growth as leaders, and empowering them to Dream Like Jesus®–effectively engage their congregations, increase financial support, bring visions to life, and partner with their communities. Groups are forming now!
In the meantime, you can order Stride and pre-order Stride’s participant handbook, (to be published 9/18) from Abingdon Press.