Leadership Based Discipleship vs. Curriculum Based Discipleship

Eric Russ

When people think of practically implementing discipleship they think about theological training given through some kind of a curriculum. The structure usually is something like….You get together with two or three people and go through (insert curriculum or book) and then after a year each of you take two others through the same structure.  Hoping the end result will be people who can now say that they have been discipled and are now making disciples. 

If the above description is familiar then don’t be surprised because that method has become discipleship orthodoxy in American Evangelical churches. Although the norm, I see this method as painfully flawed on many levels. Here is why, usually when it is just a program the person is hardly ever trained in how to minister to others. Secondly, there is a heighten chance that if you are told that the goal of discipleship is to go through a curriculum and not pour out your life, you probably will go through the curriculum and not pour out your life. 

When curriculum based discipleship is the focus, usually the discipler finds the excuse to not get their hands dirty. This is because it did not seem to be the “expectation” of the ministry or the discipler is simply unaware and sincerely did not know that it would take this much commitment to a person. Even upon realization of the magnitude that discipleship requires, it is easy to find one patronizing the person they are discipling by praying but not offering any practical help where it requires more of them. There are two main reasons for such a sad reality. The person is given inept discipleship expectations like the ones mentioned above and/or they are simply never trained to disciple holistically. The result is contrary to what we aspire to produce, we multiply weak believers who at their core haven’t learned to really care for others because they have not had it modeled to them.  

Therefore, at Mack Ave whenever we talk discipleship implementation we always talk about leadership based discipleship not curriculum based discipleship. The distinction is that we are not asking people to go through a curriculum but to pour out their lives to another individual and point them to Christ. Please don’t misunderstand me, curriculums are a great tool and are instrumental in helping us renew our mind in truth. If you click on our resource page you will be able to download the binder we use in our local body. However, most of discipleship is going to be taking the truth of God learned through the scriptures and whatever curriculum is used and applying it in real life situations. 

The life of a disciple happens away from the curriculum and as a discipler you will be making choices on what is best for the person’s growth in Christ. Issues such as infidelity, emotional stability, relationships, finances, sexuality, spousal abuse, illiteracy, eating disorders, idol worship (cars and stuff), moving from a life of consumption, passivity, arrogance, cheating on taxes, stealing from your job etc. Notice I didn’t even mention other formation essentials like evangelism, service, spiritual multiplication and missions. My point is there is a lot that happens in the realm of discipleship if we desire to be holistic and a curriculum alone or hands that don’t want to get dirty simply won’t cut it!