Unit 1.6 Craig Kennet Miller: What is a discipleship system?

What is a discipleship system?

Miller describe faith as a journey where AGod calls us to move forward, that we are to invite others to join us, and that the journey is one that is not to be walked alone.@[1] People in the 21st century Acome to truth through a process of discovery rather than by adopting a set of beliefs.@[2] That process of discovery is the discipleship system.

Conversion, then, is a lifelong process.[3] The Apostle Paul encourages believers to Awork out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12b-13). John Wesley understood this as God working through sanctifying grace while we cooperate with God by practicing spiritual disciplines which help us to grow.  The discipleship system is the process by which God works through God=s people in prevenient grace to bring outsiders into the faith community and then through sanctifying grace to be mature disciples modeled after Jesus.

The significant difference between these giant churches and ours is not found in their worship or physical buildings.  They sing the same songs, praise the same God, and read the same Bible.  They are often innovative with regard to building in order to accommodate vast crowds of people, but innovations such as giant projection screens or Internet broadcasting of worship services more an adaptation to growth than a cause of growth.  The real difference is how their highly organized, finely tuned discipleship systems work with God in prevenient and sanctifying grace.  A discipleship system is always present in every faith community. In most churches it is misunderstood, ignored,  starved of resources and strangled by institutional bureaucracy. In many churches it consists of little more than conversations people have with each other before and after worship.

As Miller writes, Aone of the critical steps for turning around an existing congregation is to evaluate and improve its current discipleship system. The way to approach the development of a discipleship system in either case – a new church or an existing congregation – is to ask: >What does our faith community need to offer to help a person reach spiritual maturity in the first three years of being a part of the faith community?=@[4] Craig Miller=s understanding of discipleship systems in our churches can help us understand how our discipleship systems work, how they can be improved and how we can adapt aspects of the cell church discipleship system to work within ours.


[1]Craig Miller, NextChurch.Now, 5; see also 103-111.

[2]Craig Miller, NextChurch.Now, 66.

[3]Craig Miller, NextChurch.Now, 103.

[4]Craig Miller, NextChurch.Now, 108.

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