A Philosophy of Ministry for Discipleship


The purpose of the church is to make disciples. This is clearly articulated in the Great Commission:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20)

The process of discipleship begins at salvation and continues throughout a person’s life. We continue to learn the art of following Jesus as we invite others to follow with us (Mark 1:17; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Hebrews 13:7).

Training in Maturity

Paul provides us with his purpose statement for ministry in Colossians 1:28.

He [Jesus Christ] is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. (Colossians 1:28–29, NIV)

The word translated "mature" in this text comes from the Greek word "Telios." It means becoming mature in our faith so that we resemble Christ, to be no longer childish in how we live but fully-grown in loving God and loving others.

In church ministry, leaders in the church must be intentional in developing a pathway for discipleship. Pastors and ministry leaders are responsible to guide the people of God towards spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 4:12; see also Ephesians 5:25-26). At the micro level, one-on-one discipleship is organic and informal. At the macro level, like within a medium-to-large sized church, discipleship must have structure and intentionality.

Discipleship Pathway

This churchwide process of training Christians in discipleship is called a Discipleship Pathway. The best prescription for a discipleship pathway I’ve ever encountered comes from Daniel Im in his book No Silver Bullets. Im outlines three systems that can be adapted in any church setting to form a discipleship pathway.[1]

The first system is “Ongoing Steps.” These are ongoing practices that develop a Christian’s faith, turning them into self-feeders without an ending point. Examples include bible reading, corporate worship, groups, and serving opportunities.

➨To learn more about becoming a self-feeder in your faith, check out this article I wrote entitled Going Deeper in Your Faith.

The second system is “Next Steps.” These are short-term, temporary steps focused on stretching, enhancing, and refreshing Christians. Im provides three categories for next steps: Discover Steps (i.e. Alpha, Discover the Gospel, Membership Class), Deepen Steps (i.e. elective classes, seminars, bible studies), and Deploy Steps (i.e. missions trips, service projects, volunteer teams).

The third system is “First Steps.” These are geared towards newcomers. First steps aim to identify guests, welcome them into the life of the church, and help them connect with others.

➨I once offered a “first step” to unchurched or dechurched young adults. We met for five weeks at a local brewery and discussed Jesus, church, the Bible, and faith. As a result, all of the attenders grew in their willingness to engage Christianity. One young man in the coming months made the decision to follow Jesus and started coming to my church!

➨Another example that I recommend for every church is to have a process for new guests. The key steps include an excellent website, texting capabilities to plan a visit, a first-time welcome gift, follow up correspondence, and a clear next step for guests to take.


Every church will develop these systems differently based on the church’s location, personality, size, and other factors. The important thing is to make sure there is an intentional pathway that leads the church towards deeper discipleship.

[1] Daniel Im and Thom S. Rainer, No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts That Will Transform Your Ministry (B&H Books, 2017), 215–43.