Online Discipleship during COVID-19

Discipleship has always been a challenge for the church.  We have traditionally been excellent at gathering people together, at delivering anointed preaching, and producing amazing worship experiences.  We do prayer meetings and small groups and invest in Sunday School programs, all as organizational strategies to somehow produce disciples.  After all, making disciples was the “prime directive” that Jesus left for us (with humble apologies to my Trekkie friends!).  Jesus said He would build His church; our task was to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).

COVID-19 has severely disrupted our organizational strategies.  But even if they had been highly successful in producing mature disciples who understand the ways of the Lord, we will not be able to utilize them for the foreseeable future.

At Discipleship Dynamics we have developed a revolutionary discipleship tool that does not need large crowds, or expensive facilities to assist the body of Christ to fulfill the task of making disciples.  It makes it possible for an individual to do an online, personalized, self-assessment of five dimensions of discipleship.  It goes beyond just analyzing Spiritual Outcomes, it also probes their relationships with others, the status of their emotional health, and to what extent they have a clear sense of God’s calling in their lives.  It also bridges the traditional divide between Sunday and Monday by helping them to understand God’s expectations of them in their work and in their community.

The Discipleship Dynamics Assessment (DDA) is an online questionnaire that produces a 13 to 15 page personalized report for them to prayerfully consider as they analyze their successes on the road toward biblical discipleship,  and highlights the areas that need Holy Spirit empowered attention. This is the first time that such a tool has been made available to the Body of Christ.  It is holistic (focusing on Five Dimensions) and instead of defining discipleship in terms of things to know, it redefines discipleship in terms of 35 outcomes.  It begins to answer the question, “what specific changes in my life is the Holy Spirit busy working on?”  What are the outcomes (the fruit) that His empowerment is attempting to produce in my life?  How am I doing in the area of forgiveness?  How clear is my sense of calling from the Lord?  What about my sexuality, or my Christian responsibility to show hospitality?  To what extent does my faith carry over into my ethics in the workplace?

We often have regular physical check-ups with our doctors to monitor our physical health.  The DDA is the discipleship equivalent of a regular physical check-up.  After receiving my Report, I have the opportunity to attend to the issues that I have identified that need growth through the grace of God.  Then, after a period of time, I can return to the Assessment, and do a free second Assessment to monitor my growth and progress.

It is this test-retest capacity of the DDA that makes it such a revolutionary tool for online discipleship.  I can discuss my results online with a mentor, a spiritual leader, or a counselor as they walk through the issues with me.  After a period of spiritual growth, I can retest and monitor my progress.

But one of the most exciting aspects of the DDA is using it in group context.  A leader can register a group online and invite any number of people to “join their group”.  While they do not have access to the confidential, personal scores of their group members, they are provided a group Dashboard that records the average group scores for the whole group.  Online discussion can then focus on the lowest average scores of the group while individual members can compare their personal scores with the group averages.  This ensures that discipleship interventions by the group leader are targeted and dynamic as the group seeks God’s guidance together for their discipleship journey.

Discipleship has always been a challenge.  COVID-19 has made it even more difficult.  But the DDA has a revolutionary, online resource available for the Church so that we can fulfill the “prime objective” of the Kingdom of God: “Make disciples of all the nations!”.

The Future of Spiritual Formation: Transforming Discipleship and Mission

The church has never had more Christian discipleship resources for spiritual growth…and yet leaders everywhere are concerned about the real spiritual depth and breadth of their congregants. From ancient texts to modern authors, we are drowning in content and yet strangely superficial as crises rock of faith of many and failures of the institutional church cause some to question the Gospel itself.

Spiritual formation includes the great disciplines of biblical study, prayer, contemplation, solitude, congregational worship, generous giving and more. The problem is that many believers still have distinct categories for the dimensions of their lives, separating sacred and secular, spiritual and practical, and creating lists of priorities (God, family, church, work, etc.). Read more …

COVID Stole My Job

I was driving to my office on Monday morning when the phone rings. One of our church members tells me a family member tested positive for COVID, so they’re quarantined for 14 days. They call me back 45 minutes later and said they were let go from their job. A staff member walks into my office and says another one of our members is completely out of work because their company is shut down because of COVID. I get a call from an entrepreneur who says the market has virtually dried up – they’ve got zero work coming in.

It’s a terrible Monday morning. It may be true that COVID stole their jobs.  But for a disciple, COVID can’t steal their vocation for their occupation. Read more …

COVID-19, Discipleship, and Death

I have experienced quite a bit of loss through death in my life; parents, grandparents, close friends, and then six years ago, completely unexpectedly, my wife of 44 years! At my age, when you hear of someone who has died, you unconsciously take note of how old they were (and then secretly calculate the difference between your age and theirs!).  I have lost a friend to COVID-19 and several more friends who are terminally ill from various other diseases, and they know they are dying. Death is much closer to me than it ever was, and it tends to pose some interesting discipleship challenges.

There’s a lot written about how to live a life of discipleship, but very little is written on the death process of a disciple of Christ.  I had a father-in-law who was a great man of God, who loved to minister to people, and lived his life focused on the less fortunate. When he was diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer, his progress towards the end of his life was an amazing example of godly dying. Read more …

A Time of and for Change: A Word for Leaders, Part 2

As we endure through and emerge from this pandemic, there are some practical steps leaders can implement so that their people are ready for a world that has changed forever. Pastors and spiritual leaders (elders, deacons, staff, volunteer leaders and so many others): Thank you for your love, sacrificial service, and tireless concern for your congregations and communities. These thoughts are intended to relieve burdens, not add to them! Here are four first steps in forging a new future.

Take care of yourselves. Self-care is not selfish; it is a vital starting point for having capacity to care for others. Nourishing intimacy with God, receiving healing in our hearts, physical exercise and rest, and relational wholeness are all part of being prepared for service. Jesus’ great invitation of Matthew 11:27-30 is an offer of pacing and rest we can embrace.

Read more …

A Time of and for Change: A Word for Leaders, Part I

The current pandemic is bringing untold suffering – and an unprecedented opportunity for re-calibrating discipleship and mission. In this two-part series, I want to offer some insights how we can refine and even transform how we see the equipping of God’s people.

No one knows the future of our global and local economies. “V-shaped” (fairly rapid); “U-Shaped” (slower) and “check-shaped” (quick descent, slow ascent) visuals are all presented, but only time will tell the full effects of the pandemic.

The case for integrating faith, work, and economic wisdom for human flourishing, church vitality, and community thriving is now stronger than ever, and few are arguing for any sacred/secular divides. This said, the need for wisdom is paramount as spiritual leaders empower their congregants for a new economic world.

Read more …

Digital Discipleship Tool

Discipleship has always been a challenge for the church. How do you effectively define discipleship? What does a healthy disciple look like? How can you measure progress? But today in a COVID-19 world, the existing approaches to discipleship have come under even greater pressure. The traditional ways that we used to evaluate discipleship are no longer available! We used to look at church attendance, volunteer involvement, small group participation, Sunday school size, or possibly even financial support levels to the ministry.

I want to introduce you to the Discipleship Dynamics Assessments (DDA™). This confidential online discipleship tool presents the disciple with a model of discipleship that challenges growth in 5 different Dimensions. It is not a curriculum but lends itself to developing a unique discipleship intervention for each disciple. The Assessment takes about 40 minutes to complete. The Assessment has excellent reliability and validity support (Cronbach alpha exceeds .700 on almost all the Outcomes). The results are immediately calculated and provide a personalized, 13-page report to each disciple on 35 Biblically based discipleship outcomes.

Read more …

For Such a Time as This

This moment of coronavirus crisis is a great opportunity to re-calibrate our discipleship efforts, thinking more about outcomes than programs, and more about resourcing one another than having meetings.

There is much discussion on the best ways to make disciples and see true maturity, stability, and vitality in believers. All leaders are emphasizing both relationships and sound doctrine, practical disciplines and inner transformation.

What is missing is a clear vision of flourishing, of health in all dimensions of life. The Discipleship Dynamics Assessment offers this vision and the ability to measure progress. As the Lord is leading your community in making disciples, consider offering clarity about what health looks like! Read more …

The Assessment: History and Hope

When we were creating the Discipleship Dynamics Assessment (DDA), we listened to the insights of hundreds of leaders in all fields of work who were committed to discipleship. We found that everyone was on board for assessing spiritual, emotional, and relational dimensions.

What makes the DDA revolutionary in the INTEGRATION of Vocational Clarity (calling and purpose beyond today’s daily work) and Economics and Work (ALL daily tasks and the fact we are part of various economies) with the spiritual life!

There is no “secular” employment for the people of God – only God’s work in us and through us in everything we do! It is TODAY’s discipline that is tomorrow’s destiny. Yes, there is much injustice and toil in our work – but it is the place where God’s purposes are lived out. Read more …

The Leader’s Quick Reference:

First Steps in Using the Discipleship Dynamics Assessment™ in your Congregation

Dear leader,

Thank you for your commitment to the Great Commission and Great Commandment of Jesus to “make disciples” (Mt. 28:18-20) that love God and their neighbor with grace and wisdom (Mt. 22:37-40; John 13). Thank you as well for leading your group through the Discipleship Dynamics Assessment ™ process and discovering the strengths and weaknesses of your group.

The members of your group each have detailed reports and you have the overall scores detailing the trends in your community. This is biblically grounded and empirically verified information found in no other resource. You can now target your discipleship goals and process to cultivate the strengths and improve and mature the areas that need growth. Read more …