More And Better Disciples

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Hundreds of Jesus' disciple at a concert singing worship songs.

Every leader wants one of two things: more people and healthier disciples. But what if it’s possible to have both?

I became a follower of Jesus during the Jesus Movement in the first half of the 1970s.  Although I came to the Lord while hitchhiking around the nation, I ended up being trained by a ministry in Northern California. This ministry’s mission was turning hippies into real disciples.

I had a lot of love and loyalty for this ministry yet,

I began to notice that our emphasis on “quality disciples” caused most of the churches we were building to be smaller.

I often looked with envy at churches in the southern portion of the state that were growing by leaps and bounds with hundreds of baptisms and thousands of members. 

“the reason those churches were growing so fast was that they weren’t making true disciples” was what I told myself . We were like the Marines—the few, the proud. I would console myself like this, ‘If we watered down the gospel like they did, we would have big churches, too!”

Obviously, I was misunderstanding a key principle of the Kingdom.

In Scripture, most truth exists in tension. We have law and grace, mercy and judgment, faith and works. All of these seem opposed but are true in tension, like two sides of the same coin.

Win – Win Discipleship

One of these truths in tension is the truth of quality and quantity. Jesus desires both. On the one hand, He tells us that if any man wants to be His disciple, he must deny himself. He must eat his flesh and drink his blood. The narrow path is the way to salvation, and few find it.

On the other hand, He tells us that whosoever believes in Him will be saved. He died for all. He wills that none should perish but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth.

Jesus desires both quality and quantity. He wants more disciples and better disciples.

As leaders, we know firsthand the tension between those two important truths. The fewer disciples we work with, the more attention each one gets and the greater the quality of his or her development. Similarly, the more people we have, the less care each individual gets and the lesser the quality of discipleship.

Jesus’ Solution

Jesus was aware of this challenge, and He demonstrated a solution in His life and ministry. I call this solution concentricity. In order to raise up as many quality disciples as possible, Jesus ministered to people in concentric rings of influence and involvement. Three were closest to Him: Peter, James and John. The other nine were part of the 12 and formed a second ring. The third ring was an entourage of other disciples who traveled with Him, including many women (Luke 8). We also find Jesus training 70 others and sending this fourth ring to do ministry on His behalf. And when Jesus ascended into Heaven, more than 500 people saw Him.

Jesus built concentrically, and in so doing, He reconciled the tension between quality and quantity. The outer rings of involvement had greater quantity than quality. The inner rings increased in quality while quantity diminished. Concentricity a strategy that requires intentionality. Let’s take a closer look.

Philosophy of Ministry

As a leader, you need to clarify your philosophy of ministry—why you do things the way you do them. You have to answer these questions: Why do I build the way I build? What key Scriptures inform my process? What aspects of truth, values and priorities affect the way I lead?

Once you’ve clarified your philosophy of ministry, you’re ready to tackle the challenge of developing concentricity. Draw a small circle on a piece of paper and put your initials in the center. Then draw a series of concentric circles out from that point, forming a sort of bullseye. Each circle, or ring, represents a group.

Who is in the first circle around you? It should be three to five individuals who are your closest and most dependable leaders. You can call this circle C1.

Look at the second circle. There should be 10 to 15 people in this one, and you can call it C2. Just as it is with an archery target, each outer circle encompasses a little more territory than the circle inside it. Continue this process out to C7.

Roles and Responsibilities

You also need to define your expectations of the individuals in each of your concentric circles. Do so using the following five categories:

1. Qualifications: What knowledge, character and skill is needed at this leadership level?

2. Responsibility: What activities are they able and willing to effectively fulfill?

3. Authority: What level of leadership is appropriate to their level of responsibility?

4. Accountability: How receptive and responsive are they to correction and direction?

5. Privilege: What influence, input or remuneration is appropriate to their service?

Those in your inner circle should be higher in every category. Not as much will be expected from the next ring, less from the ring following it, and so on. That is the principle of concentricity, and it accomplishes several things simultaneously:

1. It gives you the ability to reconcile quality and quantity.

2. It gives you the ability to receive people at different levels of development without requiring more out of them.

3. It gives you the ability to define successive stages of growth.

Through this principle of concentricity, you can prepare your church for the coming harvest and lead a greater quality and quantity of believers. Have you been doing this already, or are there areas that need improvement? What are some ways you can implement concentricity today?


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