Following are churches in the U.S. and Canada that in different, but effective ways, are truly focused on making disciples. Discipleship is part of a healthy church.
Walking in Relationship
With a mission statement that says, “We make disciples who make disciples,” it’s clear that multiplying disciples is a core value for Trinity Bible Church, a Wesleyan congregation in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
“Discipleship is fixed in the culture of our church,” Pastor Peter Salmon said. “Our people learn that walking in relationship with one another helps everyone walk with Jesus.” In small groups, where people can be known and build trust, they can be real about who they are and what they are going through. Deeper relationships combined with a focus on spiritual growth help bring genuine transformation in the lives of members.
In small groups, where people can be known and build trust, they can be real about who they are and what they are going through.
Partly because of the church’s long-time relationship with Navigators, which has a strong chapter at nearby University of Northern Iowa, relational discipleship has been a meaningful part of congregational life at Trinity for a long time. But in recent years, church leaders have become more intentional about multiplying leaders.
“Our small group leaders help people walk with Christ, and they also raise up co-leaders,” Pastor Peter said. There is a strong expectation that as the group grows, after a year or two it will branch into one, two, or even three new groups, when the leaders are there.
Our small group leaders raise up co-leaders.
James began attending church two years ago. He had been a believer, but had “coasted” for many years and had become distant from God. He joined a Trinity small group and experienced a revival of faith. Now he invites others to the group and has begun to minister to the people around him.
Trinity has found that people like James and others are experiencing spiritual traction and growth because of their involvement in the right kind of small groups. This has resulted in the church not being a revolving door where people come and go, but rather a place where people come and are transformed, find community, stay for the long haul, and become disciples who make disciples.
An Outpost for New Life
“When you always do what you’ve always done, you get less and less results.” That message grabbed the attention of Pastor Darrell Lamos at Fremont Wesleyan Church (North Michigan District). The leaders pondered how to be more open to people who had no church background.
The church had plateaued in the mid-400s in worship attendance. They were not reaching new people in the community in any significant way. The congregation viewed the film When God Left the Building. Its message challenged them to come to grips with their lack of growth.
“If you were to go to a church, what would you like to see?”
They first surveyed their community, asking questions like, “If you were to go to a church, what would you like to see?” They prayed. They did research about what successful ministries in the community were doing.
Since their church contained many mature disciples, how would they give back and make more disciples? They launched what they call “Outpost” in September 2016 and this has so far involved 150 workers.
On Sunday evening Outpost meets, including workers and unreached people from the community who have been invited to attend. A worship band plays, outreach pastor Tori Raquet shares a 15-minute message, and all enjoy a meal together as they gather at tables for discussion. Table leaders use discussion guides based on the message.
One young woman with a difficult home life came to Outpost, almost hugging the wall in her shyness. She has received Christ and her confidence is building. She brought her mother, who has also accepted Christ. Her sister, who had vowed never to come to church, is now attending Outpost.
Another Outpost ministry is called “Jobs for Life.” Using a faith-based curriculum, they work with people who are seeking to find a job or improve their employment. Such people are often looking at their spiritual lives in new ways, and this ministry is making an impact.
Fremont Wesleyan has been invigorated by reaching out and making disciples who are making disciples.
A Lifeline in the Community
“We are a lifeline in the community. What we are doing is a matter of life and death.” This statement reflects the passion of Greensburg Wesleyan Church (Indiana South District) to bring people to Christ and disciple them through Celebrate Recovery. The church began using Celebrate Recovery four years ago and a growing number of transformed families now make up over a fifth of the congregation, according to Senior Pastor Doug Preston.
Because of Celebrate Recovery, the church often receives referrals. People in the community know Greensburg Wesleyan will love hurting people. The Friday evening Celebrate Recovery service is a two-hour ministry featuring worship, teaching or testimony, food at their Solid Rock Café, and small-group sharing time.
People in the community know Greensburg Wesleyan will love hurting people.
The church also provides Celebration Place for children, 4-14, with age-appropriate recovery help, directed by Assistant Pastor Pam Loyd. Parents in Celebrate Recovery have testified that if it weren’t for the positive impact of Celebration Place on their children, they might not have stayed with it.
Pastor Pam has also developed a mentoring process for parenting. Over eight weeks, parents can learn how to have family devotions, prayer at meals, share Bible stories, and how to build healthy relationships with their children.
The church’s spiritual formation emphasis is led by Assistant Pastor Phil Bogear. Those who attend the Celebrate Recovery meetings, yet want to go deeper, may join “life groups” that meet in homes during the week. Life groups may involve all the people in their faith community. Along with a series of classes, they help equip believers to develop more fully in Christ.
Greensburg Wesleyan has also reached out within the Hispanic community and has become a certified Immigration Connection Center, ready to advise immigrants with legal and other needs. The church’s attendance is growing more multicultural, with people from Panama, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and India.
Speaking of their calling to help hurting people, the pastors said, “It can be messy, but it is ministry right in the middle of where Jesus would be.”
The church began using Celebrate Recovery four years ago and a growing number of transformed families now make up over a fifth of the congregation.
People Dying for Friendship
“People are dying for friendship here.” That statement could be made about many places, but discipleship pastor Josh Cooper of Grace Point Church, a Wesleyan congregation in Topeka, Kansas, affirmed it was certainly true there.
The church grew in attendance from 290 to 566 in four years. How do leaders grapple with the challenge of providing discipleship and friendship opportunities for 275 new people as well as encouraging established Christians to grow?
One strength of Grace Point is their small group ministry. Seventy percent of the adults are meeting in homes, including four Spanish-speaking groups.
Lead pastor Tim Hughes says discipleship is not just an accumulation of Bible knowledge, but involves growth in love for God and other people. He emphasizes intimacy with God, having community with “insiders,” and growing influence with “outsiders.” Their concern is for the 96,000 people in the state capital who are unchurched or de-churched.
Discipleship is not just an accumulation of Bible knowledge, but involves growth in love for God and other people.
Grace Point develops group leaders who are shepherds and facilitators more than teachers. Often, groups develop a tight fellowship, but growth requires more groups and leaders. Groups have apprentice leaders with the expectation that, after 18-24 months, an apprentice will be leading a new group.
Dozens of people are involved in a ministry called “life transformation.” The focus is on mentoring, discipleship, and accountability. Very small groups of 2-3 individuals form, but when the group numbers four, a new group is created.
One of the participants, Randy, was addicted to alcohol from high school into his mid-30s. When he came to Grace Point, he was broken, but his life was transformed through Christ. Today, Randy works at a halfway house. Quiet and tender-hearted, he has a great love for people. Through his own transformation, many have come to the Lord and to the church.
Disciples are making disciples through friendship and especially through small groups at Grace Point Church.
A Post-Christian Community
“When people come to Jesus, there’s a relational cost,” said Rev. Ben Last, senior pastor of Southgate Community Church, Kemptville, Ontario. “Many will be criticized by family or at work. This is a post-Christian culture and there is skepticism.”
Pastor Ben came to Southgate in 2010. He and his wife, Emily, saw needs that weren’t being met in their community of 15,000, about 35 miles south of Ottawa. There was no outdoor skating rink, so they built one. Then they founded “Soul Runners,” a running club, followed by “strollercize” for mothers with babies. They also founded a ministry that cuts and delivers firewood to families that cannot afford to heat their homes and a ministry that assists widows and single mothers by helping them around their homes. Gradually, skepticism has faded. In six years, the church has grown from an attendance of 158 to 510.
There was no outdoor skating rink, so they built one.
Seeking God’s direction, Pastor Ben had felt drawn to Ezekiel 47, which describes a river flowing from the temple, transforming the landscape and bringing life.
Every river has a source, a course, and a force. The source for Southgate is Jesus and his bride, so they want to unite people with Christ and his church. Its course is to make disciples who become involved in LifeGroups for all ages.
Each group promotes discipleship but also does projects, Last fall, the groups adopted ten schools, providing hot lunches for all employees.
Ezekiel 47 describes a river flowing from the temple, transforming the landscape, and bringing life.
They blessed and prayed for the teachers and staff. Similar projects have reached out to police, fire department, and government offices.
The river’s force is to inspire and equip the church to serve others. Southgate is expanding facilities to include a conference venue, including large indoor play structures. And they are partnering with the city and others to build a large year-round outdoor ice rink. Serving their community demonstrates the love of God and his church.
In the sanctuary, a sign saying UNITE appears on the back wall. It contains 70 light bulbs, each representing a new believer. As more people come to Christ, more lights appear and the congregation celebrates. People are being transformed as they unite with Jesus and become involved with the river of life at Southgate.
Top Discipleship Churches
Find inspiration from Wesleyan churches across North America that have been nominated by district superintendents as "role models" for disciples making disciples.Find Them Here