Why Disciple Making is the Key to Movement

Ralph Moore, Bobby Harrington

This blog article is a collaboration between Ralph Moore, Exponential’s Multiplication Catalyst and founder of the Hope Chapel Movement, and Bobby Harrington, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Discipleship.org


Pastors and church planters have many tasks. We teach, preach, encourage, counsel, give pastoral advice and generally build up the church. It is easy to get overwhelmed.

Clarity & Focus

We need clarity and focus. Thankfully the Bible gives that to us.

Our core job is to make disciples.

The apostle Paul described this core job for church leaders in two key passages.

  • We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. (Col. 1:28, 29).
  • My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!  (Gal. 4:19, 20).

Presenting People to Christ

Notice how these passages are not just about leading people to Christ. They are about that, but much more–church leaders are to present people as perfect (or mature) in Christ, to form people into the image of Christ.

Think about the leaders who wrote every book in the New Testament? Everything they taught us was really just about discipleship. Why did John write his gospel (he tells us in John 20:30-31)? What is the purpose of Philippians (see 1:9-11) and even Revelation (see Revelations 1:1-3)? Check this out–every book was written to help people to be disciples of Jesus Christ.

In fact, the apostle Paul summed up the whole of ministry in the church as discipleship with these words:

  • We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Follow The Master

New Testament scholar Michael Wilkins puts it this way in his book Follow the Master: “Since all true Christians are disciples, the ministry of the church may be seen in its broadest sense as ‘discipleship.’ Various ministries within the church should be seen as specialization, aspects, or stages of discipleship training.” In the end, everything in the local church is about making disciples. And the core focus of everything pastors and church planters do needs to keep coming back to disciple making.

That is why Jesus gave the apostles his FINAL COMMAND…

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Disciple making as a Dimension of Multiplication

At Exponential, one of our core frameworks is the Three Dimensions of Multiplication. This framework provides the three critical elements for how to move to a Level 4 Reproduction and Level 5 Multiplication operating system. The first dimension of multiplication is disciple making. As I [Ralph] said in Exponential’s book Multipliers, “Disciple making is at the heart of Hope Chapel. I’d say that making disciples is 90 percent of this movement. It gives us a solid foundation for a new scorecard that prioritizes Level 5 multiplication over Level 3 addition growth.” To read more about the Three Dimensions of Multiplication, visit the Multipliers book page.

So, how’s it working?

Pastor, author and philosopher, Dallas Willard, is known for saying, “Since making disciples is the main task of every church, every church ought to be able to answer two questions. What is our plan for making disciples of Jesus? Is our plan working?”

What is your plan for making disciples of Jesus? Is your plan working?

Our recently released report, the National Study on Disciple Making in USA Churches in collaboration with Exponential and Discipleship.org, reveals findings that show that many of our plans are not quite working. A summary of some of the key findings are:

  1. Fewer than 5% of churches in the US have a reproducing, disciple making culture — the study found a disappointingly low percentage of churches with a culture of and strategy for reproducing disciples and disciple makers (Level 4 and 5 churches)
  2. An absence of churches reflecting viral-like disciple making movements (L5 churches)
  3. Lack of commonly understood definitions — there is not a clear, compelling and commonly understood set of basic definitions for terms such as discipleship, disciple, and disciple making
  4. Overestimating Impact — pastors are overly optimistic in their assessment of the disciple making cultures present in their churches

While we were hoping for more positive results, the current reality points us to critical steps and recommendations for church leaders across the nation to help us see true reproducing and multiplying cultures in US churches.

We are here to help. Join us for our online conversation, “Where Do We Go From Here? Implications from the Recent Release of the National Study on Disciple Making in USA Churches.” This is a FREE webinar on Thursday, March 26 with me (Bobby) and Todd Wilson, Founder and CEO of Exponential. We will unpack the findings of the study and field your questions. Reserve your spot here.