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A Diagnostic Tool for Disciple Makers


By Justin Gravitt: Let’s take a moment to appreciate doctors. They really are amazing people. Whenever anything goes wrong with your body, they embark on a quest to diagnose, then treat the problem. They start by intently listening to your experience. They ask questions. They use instruments to poke, and to prod, and to see. Next, they often use tests such as an EEG, a MRI, a CT-scan, a GTT, a PFT, or any number of other tests that have three-letter acronyms. When it’s all said and done, they can tell you what’s going wrong and your best next step.

Much like a doctor works to diagnose what’s causing the patient’s problem, a skilled disciple maker should diagnose a disciple’s current obstacle to health. One common obstacle is stagnation.

Every relationship has an ebb and flow. The same is true of our relationship with God and in our disciple making relationships. Stagnation goes beyond that natural rhythm of ebb and flow; rather it’s the state of being stuck, of spinning your wheels, of an apparent inability to move forward toward becoming a fruitful disciple maker. In situations like these, disciple makers must do their best doctor impression.

One of the best tools disciple makers can use is the VHS (vision, heart, skill) tool. Used properly it helps a disciple maker understand what’s keeping a disciple from normal, healthy growth.

To use the tool a disciple maker must first recognize that healthy disciple making develops vision, heart, and skill in the disciple. These three areas must be nurtured if she is to become a well-rounded disciple maker who is committed to a lifestyle of reproduction. Let’s briefly define each area.


Vision answers the question, “How do I fit into what God is doing?” A disciple with vision doesn’t lose sight of the forest while he is planting, cultivating, and pruning the trees. He can clearly see the BIG story God writing and the task God has given him to do, but at the same time he also sees the LOCAL work he must do to help accomplish the global (& eternal) aspiration.


Heart answers the question, “Why do I care?” A disciple with heart is willing to sacrifice to do her part. It’s possible to see the vision, but still not want to participate in it. Understanding without doing is widespread in our culture and in the church. A disciple with heart emotionally understands that her work of disciple making has eternal consequences. When she wins and disciples a young mother she plays a big role in that mother’s eternal destination. When that young mother wins and disciples her children and other moms, the eternal impact is multiplied in a generational way. A disciple with heart not only sees the mission, but she feels the mission. She is compelled to do her part. Sitting on the sidelines is not an option.


 Skill answers the question, “How do I do it?” A skilled disciple maker has sufficient courage, competence, and confidence to disciple others. Disciple making is a spiritual endeavor, so he should never feel fully skilled. Yet he brings all of himself to the relationship and prayerfully trusts God to provide growth. At the same time, a disciple maker who has heart and vision is motivated to continually develop his disciple making skills.

Now that we understand each area let’s look at how to use the tool.

When you recognize that something just doesn’t feel right in your disciple making relationship, ask yourself, “Is the problem she’s having a result of a lack of vision, heart, or skill?”

“Is she having trouble seeing what to do? or Caring about why it should be done? Or is her problem the result of not knowing how to do it?

Vision problems need to be addressed with prayer, Scripture, and by passionately casting a clear vision while living it out. Problems of the heart need to be addressed with prayer, Scripture, and by helping the disciple align her expressed priorities to everyday life. Finally, problems of skill need to be addressed with prayer, Scripture, and through life-on-life equipping.

This tool should only be used in the hands of a disciple maker. If a disciple uses the tool for self-assessment, the results will likely be warped. For example, a disciple without vision or heart will wrongly believe that they aren’t discipling because they don’t have the skills they need. In reality, a disciple without vision will have trouble connecting to the big why (heart) of making disciples (isn’t disciple making God’s job?, won’t others in the congregation feel like I’m playing favorites?, I make disciples by serving and modeling, etc.), they are stuck, not because of their lack of skill, but because of their lack of vision and heart.

The VHS tool is one (but not the only) way to diagnose a disciple making relationship that is not quite right. Often it uncovers an area of need that the disciple maker can intentionally work to strengthen in the life of the disciple.

Now that you have this tool, when will you use it? When will you own it?

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By Justin Gravitt. Used with permission.

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Source: A Diagnostic Tool for Disciple Makers