I believe that most Christian leaders want to make disciples. And I truly believe that most Christians want to follow God. But, how are all of us doing?

A joint Barna Group and Navigators research project1 revealed confusion among both leaders and followers regarding discipleship. Worse yet, the data indicates that most discipleship efforts are impotent, with only 25% of Christians saying they were in a discipleship relationship. The report concluded:

Churches are in need of new models for discipleship. Current programs capture only a minority of Christians, and most believers do not prioritize and investment in their spiritual growth. At the same time, church leaders desire a clear plan and lack systems to evaluate spiritual health.

The statistics might be shockingly worse than we would have guessed but I am sure this is not new to you. Leaders struggle to make disciples moving from program to program without ever decreasing time. Followers do not seem to engage. So often, it seems that we are only entertaining or educating.

If you talk to Christians, you know that most of them feel unprepared, insecure, and unskilled at knowing what to do when the rubber meets the road. They wonder if they are making the right decisions—if those decisions are the decisions that God would make. They long to follow. They long to know God but they have no idea what to do.

You might feel this way too when it comes to making disciples. How would you define discipleship? What is the target? What should we really be doing? How do we measure spiritual growth? Interestingly, our followers and we both need the same thing–a clear plan.

Here are a few tips to turn these terrible statistics around:

  • Model success. The quickest way to attract anyone to anything is to show them the value and success in your life. Are you thriving at Christianity?
  • Get prepared. Figure out why you thrive, consume the Bible, and figure out a plan to guide someone–to make a disciple. How many times have you read the Bible cover-to-cover?
  • Make yourself accessible. Pick three people and ask them if they would like to “do discipleship” with you. Do you have two hours a week to change the world?
  • Get assistance. You can shorten the learning curve and time to make disciples by finding a mentor yourself. Who do you know that regularly pumps out disciples?

We have to know what we are supposed to do before we can do it. What is your simple definition of discipleship? How do you do it?


  1. The State of Discipleship by Barna Group, © 2015 The Navigators