How to Cultivate a Disciple Making Culture

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Fifty-four inches of rain fell on the Houston area in 48 hours. Our little church plant put aside business as usual and assembled “mud out” teams to go help families in our community. At the first house my team was sent to, I met Greg, Laura and their three daughters.  They were sorting through the belongings that could be salvaged and were more than happy to have us there to help start the process of recovery.  Hurricane Harvey was devastating, but at the same time one of the greatest blessings. In the muddy mess of the flood, I met Greg.

Greg and Laura had been away from the church much of their married lives. Greg wanted nothing to do with church, but he was open to spending time with a group of guys. Several times a month I invite men over to my house, we sit in the back yard and just talk life. Three weeks after Hurricane Harvey, I invited Greg to hang out with us. Greg showed up and our friendship began. As the months went by Greg continued to come over and then one Sunday morning, he led his family through the doors of our church. Eventually, Greg and Laura began attending the small group that my wife, Amber, and I lead in our home.

Greg has grown spiritually by leaps and bounds. Last December, he was baptized and then he baptized his wife and three daughters. Greg and I continued to do life together, meet in small group and on multiple occasions Greg even led our small group.

Several weeks ago, Greg taught the devotional lesson at our monthly Men’s Breakfast with over 60 men in attendance and he did a magnificent job! Not only is Greg discipling people in small group, he is beginning to use the gifts God has given him to influence the men in our church.

So, how did this happen? How did Greg go from a non-believing, anti-church guy to someone who passionately and intentionally disciples others? What happened in 18 short months that led him to stand in front of the men of our church speaking about the power of disciple making?

To answer those questions, we must look at the culture. Simply stated, culture is “the way we do things.” Culture is not the product of what is written in the church bulletin or declared in a set of by-laws. Culture is the product of the deep values and convictions of those who live within the culture.

Why is the culture of a church important?

Peter Drucker, amanagement consultant, and author, who greatly influenced modern business and corporation practices said,“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” So often I see churches trying to implement the newest strategies or reinvent something another church has done. Chasing different strategies without a clear disciple making culture will lead you to implement strategies that are unsustainable. The culture will constantly shift, leaving your church community confused and disillusioned. Unhealthy church culture, at best, leads to ineffective churches, but more alarmingly it harms individuals and the name of Jesus.

So,how can we create a healthy disciple making culture in a new or existing church?

First, we must start with a Biblical Foundation. We have to look and see what examples there were in the Bible for creating and maintaining disciple making culture. What did disciple making culture look like for Jesus and his disciples?  What did it look like in the early church? I invited Greg to my back yard because that’s what Jesus modeled when he spent time with Zacchaeus, for example.

Second, we must understand the importance and role of an Intentional Leader. As the leader goes, so goes the culture. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and in doing so, he intentionally established a value of servant leadership for the culture of the early church.

Third, we must create Relational Environments. God created every person with a deep need for relationship, so relational environments must be part of our culture.  Here we can feel safe to be authentic about our needs and struggles, we can work through conflict in a healthy, biblical manner and our church body can experience shared community similar to that of the early church.

Finally, we must have a Reproducible Process. When the culture is consistently communicated, simple to understand, moves us toward mission and is joyful to live out, people will celebrate and repeat the behaviors that define the culture. Then the culture will be passed down through generations, can be replicated in other churches and will even be adopted into the culture of individual families.

When a disciple making culture is intimately woven into the church body a movement begins. People are released to be the very disciple makers Jesus has called them to be. We are able to fulfill the Gospel as Jesus intended.

I want to encourage you today. You can do this! Regardless of how many anniversaries your church has celebrated or how young your church plant might be. Whether you are staff, elder or volunteer you can, right where you are, begin living out a disciple making culture from a conviction of who you are. So, let’s get started!

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