9 June, 2023

What’s the Missing Discipleship Ingredient?

by | 28 October, 2018 | 2 comments

By Michael C. Mack

“If you make disciples, you will always get the church. But if you try to build the church, you will rarely get disciples.”

This quote from Mike Breen jumped off the page as I read his article, “Why the Missional Movement Will Fail,” several years ago. Apparently many others also found it compelling; the last time I checked, the article has more than 20,000 shares online.

As a discipleship and small groups guy, I’ve read lots of articles and have been involved in many discussions about whether churches and groups should emphasize discipleship or being “missional” (or discipleship vs. evangelism)—as if they are somehow diametrically opposed. Rather, I believe a strong commitment to discipleship—our mission—will lead us to serving our communities better, reaching lost people with the gospel, developing more and better leaders, and multiplying our churches and groups.

Breen said,

If you’re good at making disciples, you’ll get more leaders than you’ll know what to do with. If you make disciples like Jesus made them, you’ll see people come to faith who didn’t know him. If you disciple people well, you will always get the missional thing.


I think all church leaders would agree with that, so why are so many churches struggling to make disciples? Why are so many not growing, not bearing fruit, not winning the lost, not multiplying?

As I read our November issue about missions featuring the story of J. Russell Morse and his family, I kept coming back to the word commitment. I believe commitment is the missing ingredient in many American churches and small groups.

Churches struggle to carry out the Great Commission for a number of reasons, but I’m starting to think lack of commitment to biblical endeavors—or a fear of asking others to make such a commitment—is a primary cause.

Do we sometimes become distracted or overwhelmed by other lesser priorities?

Are we often afraid people may walk away if we ask for too much commitment?

I wonder if we sometimes lack the all-in, totally surrendered, self-forgetting, wholehearted devotion to God and his will that the early church had. Jesus calls us as he did them, “Come, follow me.” Jesus beckons us to a high call and high commitment. We know how his first disciples left everything to follow him (Matthew 4:19, 20; 19:27). And we remember that when want-to-be disciples chose not to make that kind of commitment, Jesus loved them but let them walk away (Mark 10:17-22; John 6:66).

The words that describe the actions of Jesus’ earliest followers after his death, resurrection, and ascension are vital: “They devoted themselves . . .” (Acts 2:42).

These committed followers devoted themselves to the right things, and the result was, “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (v. 47).

What will it take in today’s church to restore that kind of costly commitment?

<a href="https://christianstandard.com/author/mmackchristianstandardmedia-com/" target="_self">Michael Mack</a>

Michael Mack

Michael C. Mack is editor of Christian Standard. He has served in churches in Ohio, Indiana, Idaho, and Kentucky. He has written more than 25 books and discussion guides as well as hundreds of magazine, newspaper, and web-based articles.


  1. Carl Douthit

    Commitment is vital to discipleship and mentoring. I’ve seen people try to disciple others when they themselves have not yet totally committed to Christ or when they are not totally committed to the process of discipleship.

    When discipleship is merely a calendar entry that can be overwritten or canceled at convenience, the aspect of total commitment seems to be lost from the process.

    How can someone teach total commitment to Christ when that person (myself at times in the past) doing the discipling does not demonstrate that total commitment in their own life?

    But relationship is also vital to discipleship. We must build a relationship with the person (or people) we are discipling. We must share openly, deeply, and without holding back. This is a process over time, not a TMI dump in the first meeting, of course. When we offer that deep look into ourselves, the person being discipled not only sees our example of being Christlike, but also sees that we are also struggling in some areas.

    I’ve seen this motivate the people being discipled to share where they are struggling, motivate them to offer support back regarding where I was struggling, motivate them to grow in Christ, and motivate them to look to discipling others.

    Discipling out of a deep relationship with Christ can lead to a meaningful love for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus said that his disciples should be known for their love for one another. I believe that discipling is one of the contexts in which that is shown and developed.

  2. Michael C. Mack

    Thanks Carl. I agree! I especially like how you put it: “Discipling out of a deep relationship with Christ . . .” Discipleship happens in the environment of a committed relationship—with Christ and one another.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Articles

Ministry Help Wanted

Smithville Christian Church near Bloomington, Ind., is seeking to hire a senior minister. Legacy Christian Church in Lakeland, Fla., wants to hire a family minister. Greensburg (PA) Church of Christ is seeking a part-time evangelist. Burnt Hickory Church of Christ near Atlanta is seeking a youth minister. Plus more.


By taking these symbols of Jesus’ body and blood, we announce we believe there really was a Jesus, and he really did die for us and carried all our sins down to a grave . . .

Documentary Highlights Christian Response to Pandemics

Southeast Christian Church’s “Purpose in Pandemics” is a documentary that follows the response of the church to pandemics throughout history. The “Purpose in Pandemics” website also includes a study guide for small groups and individuals.

Used of God

I soaked up Sam Stone’s wit and wisdom during our lunches together. Afterward, I’d take notes about our conversations. After hearing of his passing, inspired by his wordsmithing, I felt compelled to share just a small part of his story.

Sam E. Stone: ‘He Tried to Speak the Truth in Love’

In memory and appreciation of our former editor, Sam E. Stone, who died early this week, we share this 2011 column from Christian Standard’s archives in which Sam discussed four Scripture verses significant to his life.

Elliott Library ‘Cornerstone’ Laid

Three Bibles of historical significance to Cincinnati Christian University were the first books place on the shelves during relocation of the George Mark Elliott Library.

The Death of Evil

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saw in minority groups’ struggles for social equality in America a parallel with Israel’s bondage in Egypt. King envisioned God’s goodness would deliver the U.S. from the evil of segregation.

Mark Scott’s Greatest Kingdom Impact

Since I first enrolled at Ozark Christian College, Mark Scott has been my kingdom hero, and I’m not the only young preacher Mark has shaped. Over his 35 years at OCC, Mark has inspired generations of students.

‘Have We Plans for 1921?’

“All the Standard asks is the opportunity to serve, and it yearns to render in 1921 the greatest, finest, and best service of its history. . . .”

CCLF Concluding Strong First Year in Greater Cincinnati

In its first full year, the Christian Church Leadership Foundation has accomplished much to ensure Christian education and resources would continue to be available to people in the Greater Cincinnati area.

News Briefs for Dec. 9

Items from Timber Lake Christian Church (Moberly, Mo.), Choateville Christian Church (Frankfort, Ky.), Johnson University, and more.

My Counsel for Young Preachers

If I were counseling an aspiring young preacher fresh out of Bible college or seminary, champing at the bit to lead in the church, I would offer these three bits of advice.

My Memories of Marshall Leggett

By Ben Merold
As I think about Marshall Leggett, who passed away on March 2 at age 90, two personal experiences keep coming to my mind . . .

Powell Quintuplets Graduating from High School

When the Powell quintuplets were born in 2001, all of Kentucky celebrated, including Southeast Christian Church, where the Powells are longtime members. Now the quints are 18 and are all headed to the same university.

Reentry: It May Be Harder Than We Think

When the COVID-19 crisis eases, I anticipate that reentry is going to be harder than some people think. Churches, especially, need to prepare for this.