Rick Howerton

Many churches believe they’re disciple making churches when, the truth is, they are not. Oftentimes these churches have a misguided view of what disciple making is, have a program in their church they call “discipleship,” or believe that all churches, because they have the title, “church,” is making mature disciples. Here are five indicators that your church is a disciple making church.

How can I be so sure these are the most important indicators? I’m 100% certain because these five behind the curtain indicators reflect the mindset of the church leadership. If the church leadership doesn’t understand discipleship or isn’t making disciples, or isn’t planning for disciple making, you can rest assured the church isn’t a disciple making church… no matter how often someone says that it is. Why? Because leaders determine where followers will go and to what church members give their time.

Leaders determine where followers will go.

The spiritual maturity of the pastors/elders.

The biblical expectations of pastors/elders denote individuals who are spiritually mature. If these leaders in your church are not living a life “above reproach” as described in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:7-9 you can be certain that these church leaders are not spiritually mature. This means that they haven’t been discipled and those who have never been discipled will see no need for others to be discipled.

The senior pastor models the church’s disciple making process.

If the senior pastor believes that the sermons he preaches are his role in the disciple making process, then you are not in a disciple making church. Church leaders realize that they are the model for the rest of the congregation. A senior pastor who really wants his church to be a disciple making church is discipling a few people who he believes will then disciple some others.

A plan that goes beyond reading books.

Many churches today instruct their church members to read specific books. In most instances, the book coincides with the present sermon series. When a church consistently asks their congregants to read specific books but never directs them to read Scripture daily, you can be certain that this church isn’t a disciple making church. A disciple making church will direct their members to dive deep into God’s Word.

A questionnaire for leaders that reflects a disciple making process.

Many churches request candidates for deacon or elder fill out a questionnaire. This is a very good idea and gives those determining who may be worthy of church leadership some indication of the person’s history. But, when the questionnaire asks what authors you read most but never asks who discipled you (or who had a major influence on your life), that church probably doesn’t realize that spiritual growth doesn’t ultimately occur as someone gains knowledge. Spiritual growth occurs most powerfully when someone personally disciples another individual. Discipleship is more relational than informational.

The core values are taught and understood.

Great churches have a clear and simple, yet strategic set of core values that everyone in the church learns and lives out. If disciple making isn’t one of the core values then you can be certain, discipleship isn’t a top tier priority of the church leadership. And if discipleship isn’t a top tier priority then you can be 100% certain your church isn’t a disciple making church.

This is not an exhaustive list. I am sure there are many other indicators. I hope you will use this to begin thinking about how your church can become a better model of one that is making disciples.

Rick Howerton is the Regional Consultant, South Central Region for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.