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Disciple-Making approaches are a “measure up” method of renewal that prescribe benchmarks to assess whether members are becoming more committed disciples. Like other diagnostic/prescriptive approaches, these tools help churches measure themselves against specific qualities and move toward improvement. Not all of the resources in this genre are diagnostic, but all are to some extent prescriptive.
This is a growing genre, as some churches who successfully followed the attractional, seeker-sensitive movement became disappointed these converts were not maturing as disciples. While this is certainly not true of all who adopt church-growth strategies, it is widespread enough to create concern. Others in the current era who are of a missional mindset never bought into church-growth assumptions, but still share concerns about discipleship as part of the missional lifestyle that is necessary for renewal in our time.
Below is a list of some of the more widely recognized resources. They are listed in suggested order, yet all are good.
- Ed Stetzer and Thom S. Rainer, Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations — Reflects an effort to discern how God transforms people and communities through his church. The research involved over 7,000 churches, hundreds of pastors, and 15,000 church member surveys to discern how these churches led people into deeper life transformation.
- Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson, Reveal: Where Are You? – A courageously honest effort conducted by the Willow Creek Community Church and 5,000 members from seven like-minded churches to get answers to the question, “Are things we’re doing really making a difference in helping people become more like Christ?” It is a substantive, well-researched presentation of four successive stages of spiritual development.
- Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger, Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples — Rainer, who is arguably America’s leading researcher on effective congregations, teams with Eric Geiger to describe their extensive research on the kind of simplicity, clarity, movement, and alignment practiced by churches that move their people effectively through the stages of spiritual growth.
- Jeffrey D. Jones, Traveling Together: A Guide for Disciple-Forming Congregations — Proposes a movement back to the basics of the earliest disciples and Jesus as revealed in the gospels and Acts. Jones offers a description of the elements of true discipleship — deepening, equipping, and ministering. Throughout the book, he underscores how important it is to view discipleship formation in the context of the community of faith. Presents one of the best surveys of literature regarding the question, “What kind of church community builds disciples?”
- Charles Halley, The Heart of the Matter: Changing the World God’s Way (TCP Leadership Series) — An excellent approach to congregational discipleship that integrates spiritual formation and strategic congregational development. Looks at all of the significant activities of an established church through the lens of spiritual transformation.
- Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift That Changes Everything — A lesser known but substantive volume. It is a fresh perspective on helping church leaders elevate disciple-making.
- Greg Ogden on Discipleship – Ogden’s volumes are based on his successful model at Saratoga Federated Church in Saratoga, California, which was used by over 15,000 people. His books describe the ministry philosophy and lay out strategies for duplicating his program in churches.
- Bill Hull, Disciple-Making Series — Hull has written several volumes on the subject, four of them designed for church leaders.
- The Disciple-Making Church explains the essential philosophy of Hull’s disciple-making strategy.
- The Disciple-Making Pastor expands on the role of church leaders in fully-integrating the discipling concept into one’s congregation.
- Jesus the Disciple-Maker describes in more detail Jesus’ method of making disciples.
- Revival That Reforms shows how these principles express themselves structurally and organizationally in congregational life.
- Bill Hull and Dallas Willard, Choose the Life, T-Net Disciple-Making Churches – A recent work by Hull, co-authored with Dallas Willard in partnership with T-Net Disciple-Making. T-Net is a comprehensive process used by over 1,200 churches internationally to help churches develop and implement their own process of bringing people to maturity in Christ. It is one of the most intentional processes of congregational maturation.
- George Barna, Growing True Disciples: New Strategies for Producing Genuine Followers of Christ — A result of the Barna Research Group’s study of two dozen churches that have effectively produced genuine followers of Christ.
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