Discipleship doesn’t happen in a weekly meeting. Discipleship happens when we do life together, when we become a community of Jesus followers who challenge, encourage, support, push and help one another to grow in following Jesus, becoming more like him, and in making more disciples in our spheres of influence.
Im a great lover of strategies and structures. They help a lot. Having the right system, the right structure can facilitate a lot of good things being released. Weak and ineffective structures can harm teams, relationships, churches and ministries creating unnecessary conflicts, problems, gaps and issues. Controlling structures can quench the Spirit of God among us. So structures are good. If we need to change our structures and systems to be more releasing, or more effective, I believe we should. Structure needs constant evaluation based on fruitfulness (effectiveness).
Having said that, I also firmly believe that changing structures without changing heart, attitudes and beliefs really doesn’t accomplish much. They are the foundation from which true discipleship and fruitful ministries flow. So I want to address a belief here. The false belief is- We can make strong disciples if we meet people once a week and teach them something. The new belief I’d like to suggest is this- Making disciples requires time and effort to build deep and intimate relationships with one another.
Many of you know that in the last few years I have been promoting something called T4T (Training for Trainers). It’s a great system….a great structure. I really like it. The T4T meeting structure includes all the important elements that are so vital to multiplying disciples; celebration/accountability, member care, worship, the Word, goal setting, fellowship. Like I said, I really believe in and like this structure. Not only do I like it, but it’s a proven structure that has produced great fruit around the world.
Having said this, T4T is just another structure that will not produce fruit if it is not overlaid upon a deep commitment to relational discipleship- to going deep with those in that T4T circle. If there is no time spent with those disciples outside of the T4T meeting, if no intimate and real relationship of love develops between those people in T4T, Im pretty convinced it won’t work or produce a lot of fruit.
Making disciples requires a lot of us. It means taking a risk to love people deeply and pour your life into loving them. That is what Jesus did with his disciples. They lived together, spent lots of hours around the fire cooking fish and eating together, they did ministry together and Jesus spoke into their lives not only as a group, but one on one.
Part of YWAM’s success in making disciples has been the DTS model. What is it about the DTS model that has worked so well in leading to transformation of lives? Is it the topics? The quality speakers we bring in? No, it is the relational aspect of discipleship. By living together in DTS, doing work duties together, praying together, learning together…deep relationships of trust are formed. In this environment, students are able to be confronted and held accountable, loved on and ministered to, prayed with, challenged to grow, etc. This is one of YWAMs great strengths. Most people find their DTS a life changing experience having never been a part of that kind of a “community” before.
Our T4T groups, the churches we plant, need this same kind of relationship and trust so that those we are discipling to disciple others, are truly transformed people who are becoming more like Jesus everyday- in heart and in actions. The T4T group has to have that kind of loving relationships or we can’t really call them churches. We want to reproduce disciples who are absolutely transformed people, who regularly have deep encounters with Jesus, who love one another deeply. Please don’t think that a new structure will create that, no matter how wonderful it is.
If you only have time to run a T4T group once a week, but you don’t have time for any further relationship with those in the group, I am pretty skeptical about whether or not you will see the results you hope for by using this “system.” Our busy lifestyles are one of the greatest barriers to us making strong disciples that will reproduce, that will multiply and make more disciples.
In the midst of structure and system changes in YWAM and in FM, let’s make sure our hearts and beliefs are also changing and that we don’t loose our greatest discipleship strength- intimate, open and real love relationships between disciples. T4T together with relational discipleship…wow! That is a very powerful combination that can lead to some incredible increase.