Plan Your Discipleship Process Sequentially

Do you want to develop basic disciple-making practices, but serve in a weekend-only culture?

Every church should have a clear, simple process for making disciples. Does yours?

Almost every church engages in some form of discipleship. When a pastor uses the Bible in a sermon, or a leader opens the Scriptures to a small group, the church is providing the initial phases, but lasting discipleship must go far beyond that.

If a new Christian who attends weekend worship services only asked for help in becoming more like Christ, what would your answer be? Would everyone in leadership give the same answer? Do you share a clear, simple first step? Followed by a second step?

But this is important for more than just a “new” Christian. How are you intentionally and methodically helping other believers to deepen their walk with Christ? How can you impact a “weekend only” culture and begin to instill basic disciple-making practices into your church’s life?

Solution: Plan Your Discipleship Process Sequentially

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Simple Church, by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger

The simple revolution is here. From the design of Apple products to Google’s uncluttered homepage, simple ideas are changing the world.

Simple Church guides Christians back to the simple gospel-sharing methods of Jesus. No bells or whistles required. With insights based on case studies of 400 American churches, Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger prove the disciple-making process is often too complex. Simple churches thrive by taking four ideas to heart:

Clarity. Movement. Alignment. Focus.

Simple Church examines each idea, clearly showing why it is time to simplify. This updated edition includes a new chapter with further insights the authors have gained through hundreds of conversations with church leaders since this landmark book’s original release.


Congestion on a busy highway is no picnic for commuters wanting to get to their destination. Many times it’s simply a matter of inadequate design of the highway for the number of cars currently occupying it.

Congestion in your head or chest prevents proper airflow to the lungs. Reduced airflow to the lungs means your body is not functioning as it was designed.

Congestion causes pain when traffic makes you late or shallow breaths make even simple tasks complex. Congestion in your church is painful, too. Church congestion occurs when competing programs or ministries result in lots of activity, but little or no movement in a person’s spiritual growth.

According to the Scriptures, believers should become more and more like Christ. Movement and transformation is implied, but church congestion slows or prevents growth.

One step away from a “weekend only” culture may require the decongestant of simplicity.

Simple church leaders have learned the wisdom of sequential programing. By placing the programs in sequence along the process, the programs truly become tools to facilitate the process of transformation.

As you sequentially place programs along your ministry process, here are three essentials to guide your thinking.

Order the sequence of your programs to reflect your process. In other words, the order of the programming must flow from the order of the process. If you place the programs sequentially, people will move through your process simply by moving from one program to the next. As people are progressing through the programming, they will simultaneously move through the process that God has given your church.

Designate a clear entry point to your process. The entry point is the first level of programming in your simple process. Without a clear entry point, there is no beginning to the process. When a process lacks a clear beginning, it is definitely not simple.

The entry point is the program through which people are most likely to enter your church. It is the weekly program that guests are most likely to attend. It is the program you encourage your people to invite friends to attend.

Identify the next levels of programming. Just as you have designated an entry point, identify the next levels of programming in your process. What program do you desire people to attend after they have been to your entry-point program? What is the program you want them to attend after that?

– Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger, Simple Church


Does your church have a simple process designed to move people along a path to maturity in Christ?

At your next team meeting, create a fictional person named Joe Grow whose life your team will use to illustrate your process. Using a whiteboard or chart tablet, create a narrative of how Joe Grow came to Christ at your church, listing programs, activities, or processes. Continue to develop the story of Joe Grow’s faith journey toward full Christian maturity.

After completing Joe Grow’s journey, step back and look at your current church programming. Ask these refining questions:

  • What potential areas of congestion or confusion appear in the gap between what should be and what is?
  • Does Joe Grow’s faith journey follow a clearly defined process?
  • Are there currently multiple processes attempting to achieve the same result?
  • Are next steps clear in each program or process?
  • Are there multiple programs for each process, resulting in divided attention and energy?

After these careful considerations, guide your leadership team to exit the congested highway of church busyness toward a simple, yet effective, pattern of disciple-making.

The real beauty in clarifying, focusing, and strengthening the disciple-making process of your church is this: the people who are growing will, by nature, take other people along with them.

Growing people grow people. Consuming people consume programs.

Without stating and integrating a simpler, intentional disciple-making process, your church will remain stuck in a bottleneck of the status quo and “weekend only” follow-ship.

With a simple but sequential process, your church can develop an effectiveness of growing disciples.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 11-2, published March 2015

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.


Mission: Show Jesus Through Word & Action

The final part of a series of posts from the book “Transformational Church.”

The third transformational loop described by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer is labeled Engage. It contains three elements, the third of which is Mission: Show Jesus Through Word and Action.

Good news and accompanying good deeds are like the two wings of an airplane. Each is incomplete without the other. Each complements the other. Each gives “lift” to the other. To study the life and ministry of Jesus is to study a tapestry woven of good news and good deeds.

Transformational churches create environments to present the gospel of Jesus Christ. They train, model, and create platforms to invite people to cross the line of faith and follow Jesus.

Transformational churches have found a way for the convergence of value and activities to result in something specific – transformed lives.

Transformational churches engage people in ministry within the church and mission outside the church.

Transformational Churches seem to have a greater number of people who share their faith out of the overflow of the rest of their Christian experience.

To live as a missionary is to live and work among the people.

Engaging Fully in the Mission

  • Define success
  • Prepare
  • Provide personal leadership to believers

To be transformational, a church must constantly commission their people into service for the city to display and tell the gospel

The mission of God does not progress unless people are talking about God’s mission to save.

Transformational churches multiply vibrant missionaries for the harvest.

In a Transformational Church the influence is on moving people from new to the mission to active on mission to leader in the mission.

Mission is the opposite of self

The excerpts above are from the book “Transformational Church” by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer. TC is the result of a comprehensive study of thousands of churches where truly changing lives is the standard set for ministry.

The principles in Transformational Churches are powerful. If you want to “transform” your church, this is a great guide for the journey.

Previous posts in the series include:

Community: Connect with People

Part 7 of a series on the book “Transformational Church

The third transformational loop described by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer is labeled Engage. It contains three elements, the second of which is Community: Connect with People.

The church must have a process (organic and/or systematized) by which believers are connected to one another and growing in Christ. Today’s church needs to experience a methodological regression to the early church of Acts 2.

The point of this transformational practice is that believers join their lives for the purpose of maturing in the faith and engaging in God’s mission.

Values That Support Small Groups

  • A smaller number of people provides a greater opportunity for personal discovery
  • Smaller communities are just that…communities
  • Small groups are the best way to genuine life change through the local church

Five Myths About Smaller Communities

  • Your current small group configuration is permanent
  • Small group meeting locations are limited to church facilities or member homes
  • Your facilitator must be a highly trained spiritual superstar
  • Small group organization must be complex
  • Only pastors are qualified to administer pastoral care

The Five Deliverables of Smaller Communities

  • Smaller communities deliver deeper friendships
  • Smaller communities deliver accountability relationships
  • Smaller communities deliver environments for spiritual growth
  • Smaller communities deliver maximum participation
  • Smaller communities deliver missional opportunities

Five Obstacles Facing Transformational Church Smaller Communities

  • Transference of information is valued much more than life transformation
  • Teaching is valued more than learning
  • When they become a reflection of past practices
  • Segmentation of the mission of God
  • Lack of intimacy

Five Elements of a Transformational Church Small Group Environment

  • Missions orientation
  • Word-driven mentality
  • Multiplication mindset
  • Stranger welcoming
  • Kingdom focused

Living in community creates a “safe zone” where unbelievers feel comfortable asking hard questions and believers feel comfortable finding the encouragement they need for growing in the faith.

The excerpts above are from the book “Transformational Church” by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer. TC is the result of a comprehensive study of thousands of churches where truly changing lives is the standard set for ministry.

Next: EngageMission: Show Jesus Through Word and Action

Previous posts in this series include:

Worship: Actively Embrace Jesus

Part 6 of a series on the book “Transformational Church

The third transformational loop described by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer is labeled Engage. It contains three elements, the first of which is Worship – Actively Embrace Jesus.

Reasons for corporate gatherings:

  • God is glorified when Christians gather together to worship Him
  • People will look over our shoulders to the God of our experience
  • Worship provides a defense for the faith that is not man-made but is God authored and supernatural

What Happens When We Gather?

  • How many encountered the transforming presence of God through worship?
  • Are we creating consumers of religious goods and services or making disciples?
  • When people attend worship, are they simply observing a show or being transformed by God?
  • The Transformational Church plans on seeing people drawn in before God’s presence, experience His power, and be transformed by His grace

Worship serves to connect us with Christ and equip us for ministry. Little of substance will be done in the name of a God we have never experienced. True worship allows us to experience God at a deeper level. When you experience God on a deeper level, personal and corporate mission will always follow.

Real worship will transform the worshipper. Transformed worshippers will change the world.

Worship Pleasing to God 

  • Transformational Churches find a way for people to avoid the debates about place, style, and method. They focus on maximum participation in worship.
  • Passive worshippers usually live passive Christian lives
  • Transformational Churches actively engage people in worship and are led by worship leaders who value participation over performance

The Purpose of Worship

  • In corporate gatherings, we are not called to lead worship but to lead people into the presence of God
  • Worship is a spiritual discipline that communicates a biblical meaning in a cultural form
  • Worship from your unity and choose music out of your mission
  • How can worship be planned to lead people in this time and place to worship an eternal God?
  • How can our worship be planned so people can focus on God and give Him praise, glory, and honor?
  • Worship is to be understood by those in need of transformation

Address Tough Worship Questions Together

  • Ask the Lord
  • Involve people
  • Study Scripture
  • Die to self
  • Avoid “truces”
  • Ask new questions
  • Focus on revelation
  • Design new scorecards 

When lives have been reformed by the presence and power of God, then your worship is working.

The excerpts above are from the book “Transformational Church” by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer. TC is the result of a comprehensive study of thousands of churches where truly changing lives is the standard set for ministry.

Next: Engage – Community: Connect People with People


Previous posts in the series include:

Prayerful Dependence

Part 5 of a series on the book “Transformational Church

The second transformational loop described by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer is labeled Embrace. It contains three elements; the first two have been covered in previous posts here and here. Today, a look at Prayerful Dependence.

Prayer is our link to receive understanding from God about His church and move forward in obedience to His mission.

Prayer is done with expectancy rather than out of repetitive behavior

Strategies, excellence, methods, or even commitment cannot substitute for humble dependence on God

Prayer Priorities of Christ

  • The proper use of His house
  • The accessibility of “all people” to a relationship with Him
  • The response to His praying people

Transformational Prayer Practices

  • Praying churches experience breakthroughs
  • Praying churches have praying leaders
  • Praying churches commonly experience answers to prayer
  • Praying churches pray for members by name
  • Praying churches have systems and processes
  • Praying churches have corporate prayer
  • Praying churches engage their communities through prayer
  • Praying churches have praying events 

Prayer is the engine of Transformational Churches.

The excerpts above are from the book “Transformational Church” by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer. Transformational Church is the result of a comprehensive study of thousands of churches where truly changing lives is the standard set for ministry.

Next: EngageWorship: Actively Embrace Jesus

Previous posts in the series:

Relational Intentionality

Part 4 of a series on the book “Transformational Church

The second transformational loop described by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer is labeled Engage. It contains three elements, the first of which, Vibrant Leadership, was covered here. Today, a look at Relational Intentionality.

A relational approach to reaching and developing people is woven throughout every ministry and practice. Relationships are the substance of the church culture.

We Are a Friendly Church

  • Transformational Churches intentionally build platforms to create relationships
  • The purpose of relationships in the Transformational Church is to see lives changed through the power of Christ

The Look of a Relationally Intentional Environment

What are the challenges within your church environment to cultivate relationships, and how can you address them?

What are the challenges in your church environment to intentionality, and how can you address them?

  • Produce family
  • Practice one-on-one relationships
  • Provide space for difficult people

Every member must be willing to minister because when God really moves, broken and hurting people show up. The outcast and marginalized need the compassion of Christ.

Systems and processes are present and must be aligned

  • A system is an environment, a way of doing things, providing the “how”
  • A process is a path with a purpose, a destination, providing the “where”

God’s delivery system for the gospel is relationships with people who have met Him

The excerpts above are from the book “Transformational Church” by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer. TC is the result of a comprehensive study of thousands of churches where truly changing lives is the standard set for ministry.

Other posts in the series:

Next: EmbracePrayerful Dependence

Vibrant Leadership

Part 3 of a series on the book “Transformational Church

The second transformational loop described by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer is labeled Embrace. It contains three elements, the first of which is Vibrant Leadership.

Transformational leaders let God shape their church. The Transformational Church is Christ being presented to the community. Transformational Churches are tenacious about the vision and are people focused.

Understanding Transformational Leadership

  • Transformational Leadership understands that the church exists for the mission of God, and God gives leaders to help churches focus on the mission
  • Transformational Leadership focuses on leveraging every life for the kingdom of God around the world
  • Transformational Leadership is focused on the outside of the leader’s world
  • Transformational Leadership is missional in perspective and action-oriented in decision

Shift in Thinking

  • From one to many leaders
  • From “me” to “we”
  • From personal power to people empowerment
  • From church to the kingdom of God

Whether from bricks and mortar, programs, or just the inward pull of self, the church can become distracted from the mission of the kingdom. It did not take long in the early church for the epicenter of God’s activity to move away from house to house and life to life. With the advent of church buildings, the temptation was to become building-focused, inward, self-absorbed congregations. People became spectators. Scattering throughout the community as the church was replaced with the sacred, passive gathering in one place. When church is reduced to that place on the corner where we go on Sunday, we reduce the church and kingdom to something smaller than God intended.

The Leadership Structure of Transformational Churches

  • Traditional committees gave way to affinity-based teams
  • Membership is encouraged to discover strengths, spiritual gifts, and talents
  • Churches had less structure as opposed to more structure
  • Structures reflect confidence in their pastor and positional leaders
  • Congregational members did not vote on every issue
  • Small advisory teams and accountability groups worked alongside the pastor and staff

Jesus, Leading Transformation

  • Jesus invested in people
  • Jesus saw long and far
  • Jesus sent people away from Him on mission
  • Jesus grieved for communities
  • Jesus led a balanced life
  • Jesus embraced other cultures
  • Jesus gave up His will
  • Jesus surrounded Himself with lost people
  • Jesus’ harvest vision was leveraged by prayer
  • Jesus felt the needs of the people

Transformational Leadership Environments

  • Value a team approach to ministry
  • Values a sharper mission focus
  • Values new leadership priorities

Transitional Leaders advance through the following steps:

  • I join Him on mission or the “encounter” level
  • I lead others to join Him on mission or the “influence” level
  • I lead others to lead others, to join Him on mission, or the “leading leaders” level
  • I lead others to lead others to lead others to join Him on mission, or the “movement” level

The excerpts above are from the book “Transformational Church” by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer. Transformational Church is the result of a comprehensive study of thousands of churches where truly changing lives is the standard set for ministry.

Next: EmbraceRelational Intentionality

Previous posts in this series:


Missionary Mentality

Second in a series of posts from the book “Transformational Church

The first “transformational loop” in the transformation process is Discern – Transformational churches live out the essence of disciplemaking in their activities through worship, community, and mission. But they do so in the context of their culture.

To do worship, small groups, mission, leadership, prayer, and relationship effectively, you have to know the story of the people to whom God has sent you

Unfortunately, Christian leaders are often more in love with the way they do church than they are in love with people in their community.

Transitional Churches empower and release people to live on mission, with a missionary mentality, where they are right now – at the right time, following God’s activity and obeying His assignment.

The Missionary Mindset

  • Restless to look, learn, and live out the gospel
  • Activate ministries that are on behalf of the people to whom God has called them
  • God has called you to a people first and then to the task

Three Default Modes to Avoid

  • Deconstructionist – discontented tribe of leaders who obsess with what they will not do anymore
  • Methodologist – obsessed with what they will do better than the rest
  • Impressionist – students of conferences and successful leaders

Transformational churches demonstrate a passion to touch the world. They have learned to address the need to work both locally and globally.

Transformational Churches fully embrace missional without losing the mission:

  • They recognize it is God’s mission, and they are passionate about the mission as He describes it
  • They understand and obey God’s call to serve the poor and the hurting and are not afraid of a stronger engagement in social justice
  • They share God’s deep concern about His mission to the nations – that His name be praised from the lips of men and women from every corner of the globe
  • They are serious about joining God on His mission and obey His commands to disciple the nations

Transformational Churches are truly Acts 1:8 churches. They have a mindset to be a missionary in their community and ultimately to the entire world.

The excerpts above are from the book “Transformational Churches” by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer. Transformation Church is the result of a comprehensive study of thousands of churches where truly changing lives is the standard set for ministry.

Next: Embrace

Watching the Scoreboard

Last night I was watching preseason Sunday Night Football – maybe not quite the real thing (the Panthers played their starters for the first half only; ditto with the Jets), but to the teams playing, it’s real enough. They’re out there to play well, help their team score, and be ahead at the end of the game.

Couldn’t you say some of the same things about the church?

Congregations have long measured success by “bodies, budgets, and buildings” – a record of attendance, the offering plate, and the square footage of facilities. But for growing, healthy churches, the scoreboard can’t stop there.

Maybe it’s time for a new scoreboard – one that reflects transformation, not just information.

LifeWay CEO Thom Rainer and LifeWay Research president Ed Stetzer led one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind to understand what sets “transformational churches” apart from others. In their book “Transformational Church“, they take us to the thriving congregations where truly changing lives is the standard.

As a part of my responsibilities with Auxano, I am working with LifeWay and their Church Partners network. Transformational Church has been an integral part of their work for the last two years, so I thought it appropriate to take a deeper look into the material.

After distilling down their research, Rainer and Stetzer found three principles that were common to transformational churches. These principles transformed people to look like Christ, congregations to act like the body of Christ, and communities to reflect the kingdom of God.

In the first of a multi-part post on the book, here is a brief overview:


Missionary Mentality – church understands the community and will minister in contextually appropriate ways to reach local people with the gospel


Vibrant Leadership – leaders showing passion for God, His mission, and its transforming power on people

Relational Intentionality – deliberately connect with one another; accountability, encouragement, long-term relationships

Prayerful Dependence – natural disposition of communicating with God about the hope for transformation; dependence on prayer rather than a program for prayer


Worship – expectancy; knew something great was going to happen; trusted God to deliver transformation rather than the musicians to deliver a good show

Community – activity of joining lives together through ministry systems

Mission – God’s mission to make disciples of Christ and to engage the world as Jesus calls; understand disciplemaking as the normal sate of the Christian’s life

Stetzer and Rainer develop these three categories of transformation as a loop that can be entered at any point.

 Principles of the Loop

  1. Connecting to the loop – all three categories and seven elements are necessary parts for a transformational ministry, but churches can begin anywhere.
  2. Cathartic Experience – the change to a transformational mindset begins with a moment of decision that is beneficial and liberating.
  3. Convergence of Elements – churches with transformational disciplemaking allow for a free convergence of all the elements.

Tomorrow: Discern