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Church-Follower or Christ-Follower?

Where does your discipleship strategy lead?

If making disciples is in your mission statement, it should translate into your resource allocation.

At Church @ The Springs in Ocala, Florida, led by church-planting expert Ron Sylvia, there was great concern about the results of Willow Creek’s Reveal Study a number of years ago. “It said we had grown a generation of church followers rather than Christ-followers,” says their discipleship pastor Joe LaCognata, “and we wanted to change that.”

In fact, “changing that” is likely part of the mission of most church plants these days. Whether it’s expressed as “Becoming fully-devoted followers of Christ,” “Love God, love people, make disciples,” or “Reach up, reach out, reach in,” most church mission statements have nothing to do with building church followers, but everything to do with creating Christ followers.

But, has that translated into the spiritual pathway most churches offer to achieve their mission? According to Greg Hawkins, who spearheaded the initiatives that Willow Creek developed in response to their Reveal Study, churches say discipleship is their main thing, but they don’t make it their main thing. Hawkins found that when the discipleship process takes place exclusively in an elective class or a short-term Bible study, it assimilates people less effectively than should be true of something that is the primary stated mission of the church.

In a bold move, Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas decided to approach discipleship differently. Senior Minister Randy Frazee explains two key decisions they made that have radically transformed their discipleship pathway.

Decision 1: Leverage Our Biggest Resources

According to Frazee the first decision Oak Hills made was to “leverage our biggest resources against spiritual formation – our resources of worship, preaching, students, children and small groups.” They are choosing to not relegate their spiritual pathway to adult ministries classes, but to devote their main resources to their main mission – discipleship.

Decision 2: Use Our Most Effective Mechanism

Their second decision was to choose as their primary mechanism what Frazee terms “integrated Bible engagement.” By this he is referring to the pioneering work at Oak Hills Church in developing whole-church, all-ages, aligned-learning Bible engagement experiences. Over the past 8 years, Frazee has been instrumental in creating The Story and Believe, two different 7-month programs designed to take everyone from ages 2 to 102 through the Bible together – first chronologically, then theologically.

Now he wants to shift integrated Bible engagement from being an occasional program to being the only program whereby the people of Oak Hills Church will be discipled. “Integrated Bible engagement has proven to be the number one catalyst for spiritual growth among our people, with no close second,” says Frazee. To that end, they are developing a six-year rotation of all-ages experiences where the preaching, worship, small groups, and teaching to adults, students and children will all be aligned for several months of the year.

For their curriculum and preaching content, they will be using The Story (chronological Bible survey), Believe (what we believe and why), and other resources currently under development on the themes of Jesus, the Church, the Bible, and a Max Lucado series that will be called People of the Promise.

Frazee figures that if a baby is born and stays at their church for 18 years, he will go through the discipleship cycle three times at different stages of his development. Such a pathway, according to Frazee, “would be awesome to plant a church on!”

To learn more about THE STORY, click here

To learn more about BELIEVE, click here

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Shelley Leith, Director of Church Relations for Zondervan

Special thanks to Shelley Leith, Director of Church Relations for Zondervan Publishing, for providing this post. We greatly appreciate your support!!

The Story and Believe Logo setup