60 influential Christians take a stab at defining discipleship (‘Discipleship Is …’ 70+ Leaders on Discipleship) but 58 of them miss the mission-critical component.

Do you see what they missed?

Here’s a hint: Derwin Gray and Jeff Jaekley are the only two to name the mission-critical component for making disciples.


Being an exceptionally sharp reader – you are, after all, an interim pastor! – I’m sure you observed that 58 of the 60 neglected to mention the local church’s role in making disciples!

The Great Commandment to make disciples wasn’t given to individuals, it was given to Jesus’ Church. The characteristics that distinguish Jesus’ disciples can’t be developed in private nor even in a one-on-one relationship. Disciples are grown in a community.

The aphorism that “discipleship isn’t something we do to people, it’s something we do with them” rings true to scripture. (BTW, if you know who wrote or said that please let me know. I’d like to give proper credit)

The body of believers gathered is vital to disciplemaking because in the group we have access to all the spiritual gifts; we’re not confined to those possessed by a mentor. In the group new believers learn how fully devoted followers live, how they cope with stress and hardship, how they conduct family life and how they serve the Lord moment-by-moment of every day.

Scientists have in the last few decades learned how a group powerfully influences personal behavior. Although its not news to students of scripture (Hebrews 10!), it is interesting.

Psychologists and social science researchers use the term “social proof” to name the group’s influence over individual behavior Robert Cialdini discusses the power of social proof to explain why canned laughter works even though we all know its fake.

To discover why canned laughter is so effective, we first need to understand the nature of yet another potent weapon of influence: the principle of social proof. This principle states that we determine what is correct by finding out what other people think is correct. The principle applies especially to the way we decide what is what constitutes correct behavior. We view a behavior as correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it. Whether the question is what to do with an empty popcorn in an empty theater, how fast to drive on a certain stretch of highway, or how to eat the chicken at a dinner party, the actions of those around us will be important guides in defining the answer. (Robert Cialdini, Influence [affiliate link], p. 100. My emphasis)

Anyone who has had teenagers “rebel” by closely mimicking their friends already know how powerful “social proof” is as a guide to acceptable behavior!

Even the Billy Graham crusades are known to use the principle of social proof to good advantage. If you’ve ever participated in one you know that people are instructed to come forward at various times during the altar call. The net effect is to create the impression of a spontaneous mass movement toward the gospel invitation. (I’m not offering an opinion on the ethics involved; I’m merely reminding you of a well known fact)


Bottom line?

It takes a church to make a disciple.

How’s your church doing?

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