December 23, 2014

By Phil Maynard

The Challenge to Grow and Take Next Steps

(Part 4 in the Top 5 Things People Need From the Church to Grow as Disciples)

This may come as a surprise for some, but the Willow Creek survey indicates that a large percentage of those beginning and starting to grow as disciples really do sense that there is more than what they have experienced to that point.

They’ve been doing the routine of a daily devotional guide and reading through the Bible in a year. But then they meet someone like you and realize that your connection with Jesus is so strong, it’s like Jesus is speaking directly to you. And they want that too.

Those maturing disciples know what it takes to engage spiritual practices and grow in their relationship with Jesus. Those just starting the journey and those who are just beginning to discover the possibilities of the journey share the desire to be challenged to take the next steps and supported in actually taking those steps.


If you think of the local church as a GPS device, our routine would be too often to describe the destination in elaborate, picturesque detail with stories and poetry that makes the listener just drool to want to be there, all of this accompanied by an inspirational soundtrack and state-of-the-art visuals.

But . . . when that inspired listener looks to us for turn-by-turn directions on how to get to this life-changing destination, she’s stuck with more pictures of the destination (or maybe a voice that keeps repeating, “recalculating . . . recalculating.”

One way to give emerging disciples the direction they need is to be clear at the end of a sermon or the conclusion of a worship experience exactly what it is you are hoping they will do in response. All too often the scriptures have been exegeted well and great stories told and then the service ends with “this has been the Word of God for the People of God, have a great week” and out the door with a hymn.

We need to be clear about the invitation to take a step forward in discipleship. Describe for people what they are being invited to do to move their faith life forward.

Then, help them do it.

This ties directly into the need to have a well-developed path that believers can travel on the road of discipleship. If you know what that path is, then it is much easier to help people access it at the point that makes the most sense for them on their personal journey. One of the best ways to bring clarity to ‘next step’ conversations is to connect more recent disciples with more mature disciples by using:

  • Accountable discipleship groups
  • Spiritual friends
  • Discipleship coaches
  • Spiritual Directors

Different people prosper in different types of spiritual mentoring relationships. Having the widest possible points of intersection will result in the most comfortable (and fruitful) fit for any given individual. This is like moving from the GPS to a personal tour guide (a guide who knows the territory well and can provide invaluable insights for getting the most out of the journey).

How does your church do at giving specific direction and help to those who wish to deepen their discipleship journey? Use the comments section to share your thoughts.