Discipleship in 3 simple steps (Part 2)

Yesterday I started discussing three simple questions for effective discipleship, and got through the first two.  If you haven’t read that post yet, either scroll down to do so or access it here.  I won’t waste your time reviewing what was said there.

After my exposure to Mike Breen’s approach I came across a book on discipleship by Ralph Moore titled Making Disciples: Developing Lifelong Followers of Jesus.  Ralph started a church in Hermosa Beach California that grew into a mega church.  He always had a strong emphasis on personal discipleship through small groups and the system he uses was developed there.  He left Hermosa Beach to move to Hawaii and start a second church in a park that grew into another mega church.  But the important thing is that both of those churches gave birth to many daughter churches that gave birth to other daughter churches.  Here is how Ralph tells it:

Now, many miles down the road, I’ve still only personally started one youth group, planted two churches and had a direct hand in multiplying just over 70 church plants from the congregations that I pastored.  Somewhere along the way, the multiplication process got out of control.  Those few churches have become a movement that keeps generating new congregations.  To date we can identify more than 700 church plants.

The interesting thing about this movement is that Ralph does not go to Bible Colleges and seminaries to find pastors and church planters to do this.  Every one of those pastors and church planters has come out of the churches started by the movement, most of them getting saved and baptized and discipled in his church and starting a new church without formal Bible education.  Hmmm…. that kind of sounds like the book of Acts.  What kind of a discipleship program produces that?

He describes their Small group system in the book, and the description is so simple it only takes up only one page of the book.  Each small group (they call them mini-church) does this every week:

  1. Eats a meal together.
  2. Then each person speaks a word or two (yes, 1 or 2 words) that characterizes the previous Sunday sermon.
  3. Then they go around the circle and each person answers this question, “What did the Holy Spirit say to you while the pastor was talking?”
  4. Then they discuss what they will DO because of what the Holy Spirit said.
  5. Then they close by dividing up into 2’s and 3’s and praying for each other.  But they do NOT take prayer requests.  Instead they restrict the prayer time to praying for help to do what they felt the Holy Spirit was telling them to do.  Along with the prayer comes the promise, “If I pray aloud for you in this meeting I am committing to pray for you for the next 7 days.”
  6. The following week, while they are sharing food, they find themselves asking, “What happened to you since we prayed for you?

After describing this system, Ralph makes this statement:

“This simple process is at the center of all our organized disciplemaking efforts.  It has birthed more than 700 congregations in four decades.” 

By now you have noticed that this process includes the first two questions that are at the heart of Mike Breen’s especially effective discipleship process in Britain, but Ralph adds one more that is asked the following week.  So here are the three simple steps (questions) that highly effective discipleship revolves around:

  • What is the Holy Spirit saying to you?
  • What are you going to do about it?
  • The next time you meet you start with the question, “You said you were going to do x.  How did it go?”  (or What has happened since we prayed for you?”)

I see a lot of similarity between Mike Breen’s and Ralph Moore’s approach.  They were developed on different continents without any knowledge of what the other was doing.  But in both cases, they have resulted in exponential growth of churches and movements.  And an impressive part of that is that in both movements, all of the leadership is developed from within, with common lay people getting saved, growing up in their faith, and going on to preach the gospel and make disciples resulting in new churches being planted.

Tomorrow in part 3 I’m going to explore the whole issue of questions, why they are so powerful, and why these questions in particular are so popular.