by Charlie Self and Johan Mostert
Pastors face a daunting task on a good day. In these rapidly changing times (and in light of a pandemic and social upheavals), making healthy disciples that will enable the local church to have a positive impact in the community requires courage, strength and wisdom. In this moment is an opportunity for reimaging Christian discipleship. What is needed is a new vision that conveys Christian discipleship in light of clear and direct outcomes. Put simply, a clear vision of what healthy disciples look like will transform our evangelism and discipleship, equipping for mission and outreach, both local and global.
Challenge and Opportunity
Although many preachers and sermons try to explain a biblical approach to discipleship, they often fail at delivering measurable outcomes. Answering what it means to be a disciple at work or in the home is difficult because those aren’t things that are easily measured. At least until now. Pastors desire effectiveness, and, by God’s grace, they are serving their congregants with sincerity and truth. A fresh picture of whole-life discipleship and assessment resources will help stimulate a culture of responsible action among congregants.
For example, there are many great resources that touch on some aspects of discipleship and should be part of every leader and member’s kingdom treasure chest. The challenge is coordinating them into a cohesive whole and helping believers walk in a hopeful realism. In one sense, we already have a feast-table of resources for Christian growth. The challenge is offering a framework and innovative systems that will bring the feat to the hungry believers and seekers.
A First Step: The Discipleship Dynamics Assessment
Developed by a team led by AGTS Professors and ministry practitioners Drs. Johan Mostert and Charlie Self, the Discipleship Dynamics Assessment is a one-of-a-kind tool that helps people understand their discipleship journey by breaking down measurable aspects of discipleship. The test breaks down discipleship into five dimensions and 35 outcomes. The online test (www.discipleshipdynamics.com) has excellent psychometric properties (reliability and validity support) and provides Christians a real and measurable understanding of their faith in real time. The tool serves as a whole-life “diagnosis” that identifies areas that require attention for discipleship growth to take place.
The result is that pastors, leaders, churches, and church members can see exactly how they’re living and growing, and they can also see areas in which they need to grow.
A particularly powerful tool in this process is the Pastoral Dashboard. When a pastor or leader purchases a number of assessments, he or she can set up a group. Individual results always remain confidential, but the leader can see an aggregate score of the group on each outcome. This is very helpful is seeing the strengths and weaknesses of the community. Equipping resources and strategies can be targeted toward the areas needing work and potential leaders that are strong can be recruited as mentors.
The Assessment has been used across the country and across a variety of Christian traditions. It is also designed and tested to be used across cultures, so it has the potential to be translated and used anywhere. It is rooted in biblical, consensual theology (Lausanne, Nicene Creed, etc.)
The Five Dimensions of Discipleship
Rooted in Scripture and affirmed by history and testimony, a believer’s life is not a check list, but dimensional, with all aspects of our person and activity mattering to God. And here is a bonus: these dimensions help create spiritual conversations with pre-believers, for they offer a picture of wholeness that is attractive to the thoughtful. Here are the Five Dimensions:
- Spiritual Formation – loving God with all our being and participating in the Mission of God and the life of the local church.
- Personal Wholeness – healthy self-respect and being liberated from our history and growing in hope.
- Healthy Relationships – loving others deeply and wisely, discovering healthy boundaries and strengthening families.
- Vocational Clarity – knowing our personal purpose and the gifts and resources we possess. We are always more than our current job.
- Economics and Work – serving God with our whole hearts and skillful hands, understanding that our daily work is a divine assignment.
A Childrens Pastor summarized these dimensions for elementary kids under their care: “I am close to Jesus, feel good about myself, get along with my family and friends, know what I am good at, and I do my chores and schoolwork for Jesus.”
A Revolutionary Vision
Generous grant funding, years of research and experimentation, and listening to hundreds of Spirit-filled leaders has yielded as resource immediately useful for spiritual leaders:
- No more “sacred” and “secular” part of life – all of life is under the reign of Christ (Romans 12:1-2; Colossians 3:17).
- No more “spiritual” and “practical” divides – all of life is spiritual and will yield fruitful practices (John 15).
- Clergy and laity are now united on mission, with all vocations and occupations honored as service to God. Praise God for our spiritual leaders. And praise God for every member of the Body being mature and effective (Ephesians 4:1-16).
- A picture of true biblical maturity declares that spiritual maturity is inseparable from emotional and relational maturity (Ephesians 4:17-5:1 and I John 2).
- The goodness of rest and work, participation in church and social change, care for the marginalized and our planet are integrated under the Great Commission to make disciples whose lives are shaped by the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40; 28:18-20).
- Every member of the church or organization becomes a resource to all the other as they mature (Ephesians 2:10; 3:10).
Let’s Get Started!
Dr. Charlie Self
Dr. Charlie Self has been a pastor, professor, public intellectual, and leader in faith-work integration for over four decades. He is currently Director of Learning Communities for Made to Flourish and Visiting Professor of Church History at AGTS. He is married to Kathy and they have three adult children and three grandchildren.
Dr. Johan Mostert
Dr. Johan Mostert has nearly five decades of ministry as a pastor, welfare system leader, compassion ministry pioneer, and professor. He is currently Director of CompaCare for COMPACT/AG Family services and Visiting Professor for Community Psychology at EU/AGTS.