A discipleship process is a strategic plan that moves people toward spiritual maturity. Paul outlined a process in Colossians 2:6-7, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Col. 2:6-7 NIV). This is a beautiful picture of process. First, we “receive Christ Jesus as Lord.” We are attracted to Christ and brought into a relationship with him. We accept and surrender to Christ Jesus, the one who is the Lord. The strong impression from the text is that we are to actually embrace him, not simply the message. Then, we are “rooted and built up in him . . . strengthened in the faith.” Here the next two steps in the process are described through the use of two metaphors. The one agriculture metaphor, “rooted,” pictures us sinking the roots of faith into the soil of Christian truth. The other construction metaphor, “built up,” pictures one building up on the foundation of faith. To be fully rooted and fully built up requires teaching. A teacher is someone with more experience or greater expertise that comes alongside the believer to equip or to train them so they will move to deeper maturity and effective ministry. This results in the next phase of the process, “overflowing with thankfulness.” Paul frequently employed thankfulness as one of the litmus test of Christian health. But, the idea goes beyond just being happy and grateful, thankfulness is to overflow. In other words, the maturing believer cannot contain their thankfulness over their relationship and their experience with Christ. They have to tell others so that they came receive Christ and begin the process in their life.
While the Bible emphasizes a process, many churches are program or event orientated. A casual observer may not see the difference. But a huge distinction exists. In program-orientated churches, programs and events are often an end in themselves. Programs and events exist in process-orientated churches to move people from one stage of maturity and discipleship to another. Process-orientated churches have programs, but the programs are submissive to the process. Programs are tools to facilitate the development of spiritual growth in believers. Programs work for the process, not the other way around. Programs are in partnership with the greater vision of the church.
Movement is important in process-orientated churches. The goal is to move people to greater obedience and more fruitful ministry. This is accomplished through an intentional, well-thought out, logical, and structured plan. Not confusing, the process is easy to grasp. People understand it. It makes sense. More programs are not added to the process, just to add another program. (More options may be added to existing services, ministries, and programs, but not necessarily more programs.) As a consequence, people are more passionate about the church as a whole than their particular program. The process is designed for execution, to impact people for Christ and his kingdom. Changed lives are the end result. Christ becoming real to people and people in turn seeking to make Christ real to others.