A Tool to Measure Discipleship

tape-measureHow do we measure discipleship? It is relatively easy to measure church attendance, giving, or small group participation, but how do we measure church members becoming more like Christ? The Willow Creek Reveal Study pointed out that church activity doesn’t necessarily lead to fully devoted follower of Christ, but are there activities we can measure to help our congregation grow?

I think there are six vital areas that point to a growing disciple:

  • Serving in a local church. Church attendance without service does not grow me as a disciple. To grow I have to serve generously with my time, talent and treasure.
  • Praying consistently. This is so obvious that it seems to get overlooked. A growing disciple follows Jesus’ pattern of consistent, heartfelt prayer.
  • Reading the Bible daily. Separate studies by the Willow Creek Association and Lifeway on discipleship came to the same conclusion; the single biggest factor in growing as a disciple is reading the Bible every day. It’s the magic pill of discipleship.
  • Engaging in biblical community. Discipleship throughout the Bible is always in context of community. Being in a small group does not guarantee discipleship, but not being in biblical community prevents it.
  • Actively involved in missional outreach. Biblical disciples engage in Kingdom transformation in their home, their community and their world.
  • Developing other disciples. Jesus final command was very clear, Go make disciples. Every growing disciple of Christ develops other disciples.

I’d like to suggest the following tool to help determine the temperature of discipleship in your congregation (and in your own life). I have used the acronym SPREAD to make the six areas easier to remember. Your church attenders may need some additional information to understand how you define each area in your context.

Create a simple survey with the following questions. Give the survey and a pen to everyone who attends one weekend, and take time during the service to fill out the survey out together.

As a growing disciple of Jesus I (circle all that apply)

  • Serve my local church generously with my time, talent and resources
  • Pray consistently
  • Read my Bible almost every day
  • Engage regularly in a biblical community (small group)
  • Actively participate in missional outreach
  • Develop other disciples

The first time you take the survey serves as a baseline for discipleship. Use the results to celebrate where the congregation is strong and to focus on helping them grow in areas where they are weak. Choose one area that seems to be weak across the board and focus for the next quarter on growing in that area as a church. Retake the survey every three months for a year to measure progress.

Be sure to let me know if you use this tool and how I can make it more effective.

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22 Responses to “A Tool to Measure Discipleship”

  1. David January 4, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    This is helpful! Thank you for sharing. Please be encouraged, Geoff… God has used this to encourage a brother and motivate him to live and serve more faithfully.

  2. Derwin L. Gray January 4, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    Great blog. Very concise and measurable.

  3. Joel Zehring January 4, 2013 at 11:32 pm #

    Neil Cole suggests confessing sin and reading the Bible are like spiritual respiration: exhale through confession to another believer, inhale the Bible. True growth requires persistent repetition of this pattern.

  4. A. Amos Love January 7, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    Geoff

    You write….
    “…Go make disciples.
    Every growing disciple of Christ develops other disciples.”

    In my experience…
    Jesus is the only one who can make a “Disciple of Christ.”

    Don’t know if you ever noticed…
    But – Paul, with all the instructions in his epistles to the ekklesia of God…
    Paul never mentions disciples, making disciples, discipleship, or discipleship training.

    Neither does James, John, Peter, or anyone, in the NT epistles,
    mention disciples, making disciples, discipleship, or discipleship training.

    Seems Jesus is the only one recorded making disciples and…
    Giving instructions: Where to “Go.” and what to “Teach.”
    That most who think they can “make disciples” tend to “Ignore” or “Twist.”

    With all the books, seminars and conferences about making disciples…
    All I’ve ever witnessed and been a part of is…

    1 – Man making disciples of “Their Denomination,”

    Baptists making disciples of Baptist beliefs.
    Lutherans making disciples of Lutheran beliefs.
    Assembly of God making disciples of Assembly of God beliefs. Etc. etc…

    NOT making “Disciples of Christ.” Learners and pupils of Jesus.

    2 – Man making disciples of “Their Movement,”

    Evangelicals making disciples of Evangelicalism.
    Pentecostals making disciples of Pentecostalism.
    Fundamentalists making disciples of Fundamentalism.

    NOT making “Disciples of Christ.” Those who learn directly from Jesus.

    3 – And Man making disciples after “Themselves.”

    Acts 20:30
    Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things,
    to draw away *disciples after them.*

    In my experience…
    Jesus is the only one who can make a “Disciple of Christ.”

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall **hear MY voice;**
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    • Sam January 14, 2013 at 7:37 am #

      A. Amos:

      So, that whole “Go therefore and make disciples . . .” thing, Jesus didn’t really mean that?

    • Brett January 14, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

      A. Amos Love:
      Somehow in your thesis you fail to deal directly with the fact that Jesus Himself commanded His disciples to make disciples. Do you believe that was that only for the Twelve and died with them?

  5. A. Amos Love January 14, 2013 at 9:48 am #

    Sam

    You ask a reasonable question. I also had questions about “Go – Make Disciples.”

    If Jesus wants us to “Go – Make Disciples” why is it so difficult?
    How come, after 2000 years, NO one really knows how to do it?
    How do we recognize, from the Bible, if someone is now, “one of His Disciples?”

    After failing at “Go – Make Disciples.” And searching the scriptures…
    My conclusion is – Only Jesus can make a “Disciple of Christ.” ;-)

    For me – These next few verses alone convicts me that…
    I, Amos, can NOT make a “Disciple of Jesus.” :-)

    Matthew 16:24-25
    Then said Jesus unto **his disciples,** If any man will come after me,
    let him **deny himself,**
    and take up his cross, and follow me.

    Luke 14:33
    So likewise, whosoever he be of you *that forsaketh NOT ALL that he hath,**
    he can NOT be my disciple.

    These few verses alone convicts me that I can NOT make a “Disciple of Jesus.” :-)

    I never figured out…
    How do you get someone to “Deny Them self?” :-(
    How do you get someone to “Forsake All?” :-(

    “Disciple” is Strongs #3101- mathetes – and means – Learner, pupil.

    If “disciple” means learner and pupil? Then…
    Isn’t a “disciple” of Christ a “lerner and pupil” of Christ?
    Someone who learns directly from Jesus? NO middle man?
    Didn’t Jesus, 2000 yrs ago, teach “His disciples” directly?

    Isn’t – Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever? – Heb 13:8

    So, from what I can understand from the Bible – Wouldn’t a “Disciple of Jesus”
    Be able to – “learn” from Jesus directly? NO middle man? Like 2000 yrs ago? ;-)
    And – “Deny Themself?”
    And – “Forsake ALL?”

    Forsake ALL…
    Power – Profit – Prestige – Titles – Positions – Glory – Reputation – Recognition.

    Ever try teaching someone who has – Power – Profit – Prestige – Titles – Position…
    To “Forsake ALL?” And become one of His Disciples?

    Seems this – being one of “His Disciples” – will cost you. – A Lot.

    And this is only one of the reasons “Go – Make Disciples”
    Is just so hard to do – Nay – IMO – Impossible for “Mere Fallible Humans.” ;-)

    Today, many, who think they can “Go – Make Disciples” tend to
    “Ignore” or “Twist” much of what Jesus taught His Disciples.

    • Sam January 14, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

      Well, in all that, you still haven’t answered the most basic question we presented to you: If no man but Jesus can “make disciples” for Christ, then why did Jesus tell us to do it? Did He know He was giving us an impossibility, just for fun? Or might there be something more to it than you’re allowing?

      The idea that for 2000 years no one has made a disciple of Christ, in the way Jesus seems to have meant it, is absurd. Only heaven can count the number of disciples of Christ to have lived since that day.

      And your assertion that the only people who can be called disciples of Christ are those who are taught by Him directly is scripturally uninformed. In Acts 6, “the number of the disciples was multiplying” so much that they began to have benevolence distribution problems and arguments, out of which “the seven” were appointed. In Acts 9, Ananias is spoken of as one of the disciples in Damascus, who were, turn, among the disciples that Saul was persecuting across the Jewish lands. There were disciples in Antioch in Acts 11, and in Asia Minor in Acts 13. And in Acts 14, in Derbe, PAUL AND HIS COMPANIONS “evangelized that town and made many disciples”.

      The idea that disciples of Christ are only made by Christ himself, and not by the evangelistic and teaching work of believers, is NOT an idea that you find in the scriptures.

  6. Marty Buroughs January 14, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    This is great content! Thanks for your help!

  7. A. Amos Love January 14, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    Brett – Sam – Anyone

    When Jesus said “Go – Make Disciples” to “His Disciples,” the next verse says…

    Mat 28:20 NKJV
    **teaching them to “observe” all things that I have commanded you**

    Seems simple eough, read the Gospels, teach what Jesus taught “His Disciples.”
    Also, “Observe” and “Teach” what His Disciples “Observed and “Taught.”

    But – Why would a Pastor/Leader “Ignore” or “Twist” what Jesus commanded?
    I know I didn’t teach what Jesus commanded when I was in Leadership. :-(

    Seems Jesus, commanded His Disciples, NOT to be called “Leader.”
    For “ONE” is your Leader, that is, Christ. Mat 28:20 NASB.

    And – NOT one of His Disciples called them self – “Leader.”
    NOT one of His Disciples called another “Disciple” – “Leader.”

    Mat 23:10-12 NASB – New American Standard Bible
    Do NOT be called leaders; for “ONE” is your Leader, that is, Christ.
    But the greatest among you shall be your servant.
    Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled;
    and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

    In the Bible, NOT one of His Disciples called them self – “Leader.”
    NOT one of His Disciples called them self – “Servant/Leader.”
    NOt one of His Disciples called another “Disciple” – “Leader.”

    ALL of “His Disciples” called themselves “Servants.” ;-)

    Rom 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ,
    Php 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ,
    Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ,
    Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God,
    Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God
    2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant

    Why do so many today, (who say they are “Making Disciples,”)
    NOT Teach what Jesus commanded His Disciples?

    “Do NOT be called leaders; for “ONE” is your Leader, that is, Christ?”
    My Sheep – Hear My Voice – and – Follow Me. John 10:27.

    Jesus never taught His Disciples to follow “mere fallible humans.”
    Jesus always taught His Disciples to “Follow Him – Jesus.”
    Mt 4:19, Mt 19:21, Mr 6:1, Mr 10:21, Lk 5:27, Lk 18:22, etc…

    If someone calls them self “Leader?”
    Allows others to call them “Leader?’

    Are they one of “His Disciples?” ;-)

    Why is what Jesus taught “His Disciples” “Ignored” or “Twisted” today? :-)

    • Brett January 14, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

      Amos,

      Like Sam, I must say, you ignored my question.

      I appreciate your appeal to Scripture, and taking the time to seek to explain your position. I read over it carefully. I am far from persuaded. You seem to be neglecting (a) the plain reading of the text in Matthew 28 in which the only imperative in the Greek is “make disciples” and (b) several other Scriptures, which teach the idea of discipleship as well as leadership in the church (e.g., Hebrews 13.17, “Obey your leaders…”).

      Further, the only way I can make any sense out of your position is to arrive at the conclusion that you do not believe that the entire New Testament is the Words of Jesus just as much as the Gospels. Until we share a similar view of the inspiration of Scripture, then really there is no reason to have this discussion.

      I hope you change your mind. And, with that, I too am out of this discussion.

      Sincerely in Christ,
      Brett

  8. A. Amos Love January 14, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    Sam

    You ask another reasonable question…
    “If no man but Jesus can “make disciples” for Christ, then why did Jesus tell us to do it? Did He know He was giving us an impossibility, just for fun?”

    Well, that certainly is a possibility. NOT the “just for fun” part. But He knew…
    Look at all the other stuff we are asked to do – And can NOT. Oy Vey!!! :-(

    1 – We have the Ten Commandments.
    How well did the Isrealites do with obeying just 10?
    How are you doing with the 10?

    I don’t seem to be able to “obey these 10.” – How about you all?
    Only 10 – “Did He know He was giving us an impossibility.”

    2 – Then there’s The Greatest Commandment in the NT.

    How are you doing with loving God with all your heart, soul and mind?
    How are you doing with loving your neighbor?
    How are you doing with loving yourself?

    I don’t seem to be able to “ love God with all my heart, soul and mind.”
    And my neighbor as myself – How about you all?
    Only 3 – “Did He know He was giving us an impossibility.”

    3 – Jesus said “fear not ” and “worry not.”

    I don’t seem to be able to “fulfill those requirements.”
    How’s that been working for you?
    Only 2 – “Did He know He was giving us an impossibility.”

    4 – Trust in the lord with all your heart.
    lean not on your own understanding…
    be not wise in your own eyes…

    I don’t seem to be able to “fulfill those requirements.”
    How’s that been working for you?
    “Did He know He was giving us an impossibility.”

    5 – How about – Pray without ceasing? 1The 5:17

    Nope… not this one either…
    “Did He know He was giving us an impossibility.”

    6 – How about – Go… make disciples…
    How many “Disciples of Christ” have you made? Hmmm?
    Not converts, or confessions of faith, or repenters of sin,
    Not someone who joined “your church,” or became “your disciple.”
    BUT, a living, breathing, “Disciple of Christ.”

    One who can – Deny them self – Forsakes ALL – Learn directly from Jesus.
    And NOT call them self – “Leader.” Only refer to themselves as “Servant.”

  9. Sam January 14, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    Well, with that, I will refer back to the statements I’ve already made, which you have failed to address, and bow out of the discussion. Blessings to you. Sorry, Geoff, for going on so in your home.

  10. Geoff Surratt January 14, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    I will admit I never expected a discussion over whether making disciples was possible. Thanks A. Amos Love for a perspective I’ve never encountered before. While I’ll certainly admit that I am an imperfect example of making disciples, I think I will stick with the Great Commission as a cornerstone of my mission in life. I try to follow Paul’s method of inviting people to “follow me as I follow Christ” and to pass on what I’ve learned to reliable men who will pass it on to others.

    For others who believe we are called to make disciples, I’d love to hear if you use this little tool in your church or group and how it works. Thanks!

  11. Brett January 14, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    Geoff,

    I found this post very profitable and saved it on Evernote. We were having a discussion among the elders the other day about how to have a healthy approach to measuring how we are doing in fulfilling the mission. The sad truth is that, I fear, in most churches today as long as the budget and attendance is increasing, the church is declared successful. But this list you’ve provided helps get more to the heart of discipleship. Thanks for sharing it.

    - Brett

  12. Sam January 15, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    Geoff, I, too, appreciate this bit of writing. I’ll be presenting it to our elders, as we are even now in the middle of working out how to develop more complete disciples among our people. Thanks for the good tool.

  13. A. Amos Love January 15, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    Geoff – Brett – Sam

    I enjoyed the discussion – Thanks for remaining pleasant while dis-agreeing.
    These are important topics for the body of Christ.

    Mal 3:16
    Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another:
    and the LORD hearkened, and heard it,
    and a book of remembrance was written before him
    for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.

    Maybe you guys are correct and you have the ability to “Go – Make Disciples.”

    Brett, I do believe the whole NT, the whole Bible, is God’s Words for us today.
    And – You have to admit – There are many interpretations we can discuss.
    We now have thousands of denominations – They all disagree about something.

    But this conversation is about “Go – Make Disciples” and Jesus told us how.
    I find NOT one of His Disciples, in the epistles, telling us how. Hmmm?

    Brett, I can agree “the plain reading of the text in Matthew 28” Jesus does say…
    “Go – Make Disciples” – I also include the next verse which most today “Ignore.”

    Jesus also said, *teaching them to “observe” all things that I have commanded you*

    I would encourage you all to read just the RED in the Gospels.
    Make a list of what Jesus commanded His Disciples. Makes an interesting study.
    Make a list of what His Disciples “Observed” Jesus doing – And His Disciples did.

    Then teach wanna-be disciples what Jesus actually commanded His Disciples.

    And, I’ll leave you with a few examples I found that most today ignore or twist.
    I hope you’ll find them helpful.

    This next comment was already written…
    Jesus telling His Disciples NOT to be called teacher. “ONE” is your teacher…

    Maybe you guys can do a better job then I did…
    With what Jesus commanded His Disciples.

    Be blessed in your search for truth… Jesus…

  14. A. Amos Love January 15, 2013 at 8:47 am #

    Geoff – Brett – Sam – Anyone

    Why would a Pastor/Leader “Ignore” or “Twist” what Jesus commanded?
    I know I didn’t teach what Jesus commanded when I was in Leadership. :-(

    Mat 28:20 NKJV
    **teaching them to “observe” all things that I have commanded you**

    Seems Jesus, commanded His Disciples, NOT to be called “Rabbi/Teacher.”
    For “ONE” is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Mat 28:20 NASB.

    Jesus, taught – Your teacher is…
    1 – God. 2 – and the Father. 3 – and the Son. 4 – and the HOLY Spirit.

    1 – NOT to be called teacher for you have “ONE” teacher, Christ. Mt 23:8
    2 – NOT to be called leader for you have “ONE” leader, Christ, Mt 23:10
    3 – ALL shall be taught of God. Jn 6:45
    4 – ALL things, shall be taught you by the Holy Spirit, God. Jn 14:26
    5 – ALL truth, will come as the Spirit of truth guides and leads. Jn 16:13
    6 – Jesus, as man, does nothing of himself, and is taught of God. Jn 8:28
    7 – Peter, knowing Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God,
    received the revelation from Father God, and NOT from man. Mt 16:17
    Jesus, as man, gave “All” the glory, all the credit to God the Father.

    John the apostle, a “Disciple of Christ” taught what Jesus taught.

    1 – ALL know, discern, all things. From the anointing in you. 1 Jn 2:20
    2 – You need not any man teach you. Some will seduce you. 1 Jn 2:26-27
    3 – ALL things, are taught to you by the anointing. 1 Jn 2:27

    Paul the apostle, a “Disciple of Christ” taught what Jesus taught.

    1- The gospel, NOT taught to me by man, but by revelation. Ga 1:11-12
    2 – I conferred NOT with flesh and blood. Ga 1:16
    3 – You have heard Jesus, and have been taught by Jesus. Eph 4:21
    4 – You are taught by God to love one another. 1 Thes 4:9
    5 – When together, all can teach, all can get revelation. 1 Cor 14:26
    6 – Be led by the Spirit of God, and be a son of God. Rm 8:14

    IMO – Many today, attempting to “Go – Make Disciples,” ignore or twist
    what Jesus commanded His Disciples. – NOT to becalled Rabbi/Teacher…
    “ONE” is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Mat 23:8 NASB.

    NOT many Pastor/Leader/Teachers – Teach what His Disciples taught.
    You need NOT any man teach you. Some will seduce you. 1 Jn 2:26-27

    In my experience, most who want to be leaders “Ignore” “Twist” what Jesus taught.

    Jer 50:6
    “My people” hath been “lost sheep:”
    **their shepherds** have caused them to *go astray,*

    1 Pet 2:25
    For ye were as *sheep going astray;*
    BUT are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice – One Leader – One Teacher

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  15. A. Amos Love January 16, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    Jesus said, in Mat 28-29, “Go – Make Disciples.”
    **teaching them to “observe” all things that I have commanded you*

    Seems Jesus, by word and example, taught and commanded, His Disciples…
    How to – *Preach the Kingdom of God.* How to – *Pray for and Heal the sick.*

    Then Jesus commanded His Disciples to “Go into all the world”
    *Preach the Kingdom of God.* *Heal the sick,*
    And “His Disciples” did what Jesus commanded them.

    “And these signs (Miracles, Wonders.) shall follow those who believe”
    “And tell them *the Kingdom of God* is at hand.”
    “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them,
    and confirming the word with signs (Miracles, Wonders.) following. Amen.”

    Lu 8:1, Lu 4:43, – Jesus – Preaching the Kingdom of God –
    And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village,
    *preaching* and shewing the glad tidings of *the Kingdom of God:*
    and *the twelve were with him,*

    Mt 4:23, Mt 9:35. – Jesus – Preaching the Kingdom – And healing the sick.
    And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues,
    and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, and *healing*
    all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

    Then Jesus commanded His Disciples to “Go into all the world”
    *Preach the Kingdom of God.* *Heal the sick.*
    And His Disciples did what Jesus commanded them.

    Luke 9:2
    And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to *heal the sick.*

    Luke 10:9
    And *heal the sick* that are therein, and say unto them,
    The Kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

    ———–

    Seems, according to the Bible…
    Jesus, *Preached the Kingdom of God.* *Healed the sick,*

    And Jesus, Taught “His Disciples”
    How to – *Preach the kingdom of God.* How to – *Heal the sick,*

    Then Jesus commanded His Disciples to “Go into all the world”
    *Preach the Kingdom of God.* And *Heal the sick.*

    Seems preaching, healing, signs, miracles and wonders, go hand in hand.
    For one of “His Disciples.”

    And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them,
    and “confirming *the word* with signs following.”
    Mark 16:20 ESV

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