Ministry at the Cost of Discipleship

As I talk with various church leaders, I am discovering a common misunderstanding about the difference between ministry and disciple making.

Describing the difference between disciple making and ministry is kind of like describing the difference between a square and a rectangle. A square can be a rectangle, but a rectangle is not necessarily a square. They both have four right angles and four sides. Which is why they are often lumped into one another. However, only the square has four sides of equal length.

Applying this to ministry and discipleship, you can do ministry without making disciples, but you can’t make disciples without doing ministry, or at least not the way Jesus made disciples.

Ministry wasn’t enough for Jesus

Think about it like this: Jesus could have taught every parable, healed the sick, raised the dead, embarrassed the Pharisees, died for our sins, rose from the dead, and ascended back to the Father, all by himself. However, if it weren’t for the 12 disciples, we probably would have never heard anything about it!

The truth of that matter is this: Jesus wanted to build more than a dynamic ministry, he wanted to build a movement. In order to build a movement that outlives the founder, a transfer has to be made from the founder to the followers. In other words, you have to make disciples. Ministry is not enough.

Movements

Some churches have dynamic ministry going on, which is great! God will move when we obediently serve people. But without disciple making, it will never be become a movement. In fact, without disciple making the scope and impact of your ministry will be limited. After all, who is going to lead those ministries? Who is going to lead the people that those ministries reach? Without making disciples, you will not be able to develop leaders, and without leaders, ministry can only go so far.

Ministry or Disciple-Making?

So how do you know if you are making disciples instead of just doing ministry? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Who in your church is making disciples? What are their names? If you can’t name the people who are making disciples, it’s probably not happening.
  2. Do those you have named as disciple makers know that they are making disciples? If they don’t know they are making disciples, it’s probably not happening.
  3. What are the names of the people who are being discipled by those disciple makers? If the disciple makers can’t name the people they are discipling, then discipleship is probably not happening.
  4. Do the people who are being discipled by those disciple makers know they are being discipled by them? If not, then discipleship is probably not happening. The 12 disciples knew they were being discipled by Jesus.
  5. How do you know when the one who is making disciples has actually made a disciple? If you don’t know how to answer this question, then discipleship is likely not happening. Jesus said in John 17 that he had finished the work the Father had given him to do. He knew when his work with the 12 was completed.

If you don’t know how to answer these questions, then you are likely not making disciples the way that Jesus made disciples.

After all Jesus, was the best disciple maker…ever. It’s hard to improve on what he did.

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Tim Catchim
Tim is a disciple, planter, author, consultant and coach. He is the founder of Generate Coaching and Co-Author of The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church (with Alan Hirsch). He enjoys camping, hiking, reading and starting new ventures. Learn more about Tim on his blog. .
Tim Catchim

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