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The Send Network Church Planting Blog

How to Build a Disciple-Making Culture

July 3, 2014 by Todd Engstrom
Many people much smarter than me have wrestled with the question “what is culture?” At the heart of it, though, culture is composed of beliefs, values and practices shared by a group of people. Building a disciple-making culture in the local church is driven by foundational beliefs, shared values and common practices.

Beliefs

When it comes to core beliefs in a disciple-making culture, the fundamental belief that drives movements is the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  While there are many orthodox truths that all churches must believe, the foundation of the church is Christ’s person and work, and a disciple-making culture is built on the foundation that Christ’s death and resurrection prove his Lordship over all creation. If Christ is Lord, then Christ is worthy of worship and obedience! A culture of disciple-making makes this explicit and fundamental by every means possible.

Values

Beliefs express themselves in a culture's values. Values are manifestations of beliefs among a particular group of people. When it comes to a disciple-making culture, one of the key values is the priesthood of all believers—the idea that everyone has a part to play in making disciples. A disciple-making culture won’t be widespread until leaders in the church believe that everyone has a role to play in ministry and mission. The greatest barrier to disciple-making movements in America is that we cater to consumers in our churches rather than expecting everyday people to get off the bench and play in the game. Disciple-making isn’t for experts. It is for everyone who believes Christ is Lord!

Practices

In addition to shared beliefs and values, a disciple-making culture is committed to simple, reproducible and transferrable practices. A football team can believe they need to score touchdowns and they may value winning, but without a clear game plan and playbook, chances are good they won’t win a game! One of the challenges in establishing a disciple-making culture is providing a simple, understandable way to live out the vision. Leaders often make discipleship so complicated that it requires a Ph.D. to understand, but it’s pretty straightforward. Living under the Lordship of Christ means committing to reading His Word, repenting of sin and believing the gospel, demonstrating the kingdom and sharing the gospel with others. At the Austin Stone, we embed discipleship within a very simple, reproducible, transferrable tool we call a Life Transformation Group. These groups are meant to reinforce the basic disciplines of healthy disciples, do it in a reproducible way and make them easy to multiply with other people.

Conclusion

Finally, it’s important to remember that strong cultures are created over time. Being committed to the basics for a long period of time can seem tedious, especially for leaders in our day, but creating culture happens by doing simple things repeatedly over time.