We’ve got this saying in the Vineyard, “everyone gets to play.” And a while back, Michael Gatlin was visiting the Anaheim Vineyard and noticed they had this tagline: Disciples Making Disciples. It caught his attention because that’s really just another way of saying “everyone gets to play.”
Discipleship is really the heart and soul of following Jesus. And it is the heart and soul of multiplication. It simply means becoming a student of Jesus, becoming more like him, and consequently, turning around and helping others do the same thing. Jesus taught his disciples how to do this—to be disciples making disciples. Our job today is the same.
Multiply Vineyard has partnered with Bob Logan to create a few great tools for helping every single disciple of Jesus make more disciples, one of which is a series of eight study guides called Dimensions of Discipleship. These can be used as small group guides, or for individual study. But they are designed to make the basics of discipleship as accessible and as simple as possible.
For example, Joel Seymour, pastor of the Lancaster Vineyard, was using the guides in his church. When he was telling a group that he was going to be gone the next week, one of the new Christians in the group told him, in effect, “Well, you don’t need to be there. This is really easy. I could lead this.”
That’s how discipleship is really supposed to work, and we worked on these guides with that in mind. They are so easy that you don’t need to have been following Jesus for very long to use them to disciples others. Bob developed these really great questions for a group to discuss. All you really need to be able to do is keep things on track and ask the questions that are there. So anyone can do it, because everyone gets to play.
In addition to structure, the content is all designed with ever-deepening and reproducing discipleship in mind. Here’s how they are set up:
Picture a healthy disciple as a healthy tree. We start with the roots. The roots are a tree’s connection to the earth, and they draw strength, support, and nourishment from it. In a healthy disciple, the roots are experiencing and worshipping God. That is the topic of the first guide.
This is really where we have to start with discipleship—if we don’t have any real experience of God, we’ll have a hard time becoming more like Jesus. We’ll have a hard time growing. Experience and worship of God is the basis of becoming more like Jesus. It was foundational in his life, and if we want to be like him, it has to be foundation in ours, too. Learning to truly and authentically meet God in worship gives us a starting point to grow from. It also gives us something to give away to others—a reason why the people around us might want to be disciples, too.
Next, moving up from the roots, picture the trunk of the tree as partnering with the Holy Spirit. We grow and we teach others to grow by practicing listening to the Holy Spirit and taking action in obedience to what we hear. It helps connect our experience of God with practical actions and decisions in our lives.
Branching out from the trunk are sacrificial service, generous living, disciple-making, personal transformation, and authentic relationships. Each of these aspects sprouts from a dependence on the Holy Spirit that is rooted in worship. They fill out the tree to be balanced in all areas of life. As we grow more like Jesus, we reflect him in our servanthood and our generosity. We replicate the way we are growing and changing in others as we share our personal growth in honest, real relationships.
The natural outflow of this is community transformation. A mature tree transforms the space around it in a number of ways—providing shade, shelter, beauty, food, and sending out hundreds of little seedling replicas of itself. And a mature discipleship process begins to transform the community around it. If our churches grow in discipleship, our communities will be blessed and transformed by the increasing number of people in it who are beginning to resemble Jesus.
This is the cycle we want to perpetuate. This is the chain reaction we want to see happening in all our Vineyard churches and church plants. Disciples making disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples. That’s how everyone gets to play. And that’s how our communities are transformed.
What aspects of discipleship are the easiest to reproduce? What ones are the most challenging for you to pass on to others? What are your experiences with reproducing discipleship?