Meet two churches different in many ways: First Baptist Church of Tuba City, a little over a hundred in average attendance, mainly Native Americans ministering to Native Americans and Palm Valley Church (two campuses in Goodyear and Buckeye), about 4,000 in attendance, primarily younger and a somewhat racially diverse generation ministering to a primarily younger and diverse generation.
Despite their differences, these churches share a common passion for discipleship. When Mike Hudson, the new pastor of First Baptist Church, was asked how he sees discipleship, he views it as intentionally partnering with another believer to help that person grow in relationship with the Lord so that he or she can help others do the same. When Ryan Nunez, lead pastor of Palm Valley Church, was asked the same question, he responded that Christian discipleship is when a mature believer goes life on life with a less mature believer and helps that person grow towards becoming a reproducing disciple of Jesus Christ.
Do you see something in common here? Relationship and reproduction! No matter what the size of the church, these two elements form the backbone of the discipleship process. Paul conveys these ideas to Timothy when he says, “The things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses (that’s relationship) entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (that’s reproduction).” (2Tim 2:2)
Both pastors see discipleship as a growing process of counting the cost and following Jesus Christ. When asked what this process looked like in his church, Ryan says that at Palm Valley they first set forth a clear definition that a disciple is someone who trusts Jesus Christ for forgiveness, is being changed by Christ every day, and who is committed to the mission of Christ. Also, and very importantly, he or she reproduces by making more disciples. A mature disciple is a reproducing one. Therefore, at Palm Valley every mature follower of Jesus is trained to combine intentional shepherding in a relational environment using a reproducible process to make disciples who make disciples.
Mike, when asked the same question, pointed out that though he has been at this church for only a short time, he is already focusing on building relationships. He believes discipleship, which he too defines as disciples who are making disciples, must begin with relationship building. In order for this to happen, consistent time with other believers in the word and everyday life is essential.
Two different types of churches, different sizes, different target groups, but committed to same purpose: developing disciples through relationship and reproduction.
By Dwight Hunt, SWCC Church Health and Placement Consultant