The Science of Discipleship

A moment ago, I took a writing break under the canopy of our hundred-year-old trees. I am working on a new book about measuring our success in disciple-making (it’s a fun book.) But, as I stood there thanking God for my journey, I got distracted. Now, back in my office listening to Maverick City worship, overwhelmed in worship, I am still distracted by that new thought. So, let me get it off my chest so I can get back to the book. Here it is –

There is a science to making disciples.

We trust science every day. There is science behind our cars and their safety systems. There is science behind the medicines and doctors we trust. There is science behind the financial decisions we make. There is science behind baking cakes. Even simple appliances, like your toaster, are based on scientific discovery.

For me, science is the discovery of God’s creation and how things work. Science is a gift that God gave to us. Dogs, trees, whales, and giraffes do not do science. Humans do science. We have the advantages of conceptual thought and choice. Both allow us to understand and discover how this world works. Science is all around us. We watch science shows. We trust the results of science. But, few disciple-makers have ever stopped to look at the science of people.

We have left the science of people to educators, psychologists, economists, and experienced salespeople. We don’t study what they have discovered about people – we study God. Our training is Biblical. Our trade is running churches and public speaking. The discipleship books we read and the resources we use are written by pastors and Bible study experts. Authors share their experience and the keys to their success, but, more often than not, we cannot replicate their experience. We succeed and fail at making disciples but never study the “why” of either. We struggle to define our own success at following God. Why did we get it? Why does someone else not get it?

Do you know the difference between a witch doctor and today’s medicine? Witch doctors know that a particular cure works, but they don’t know why it works. How many people died trying the latest “remedy” until the “doctor” found the one that worked? This is where science comes in. The modern study of medicine knows so much more about how the body works and why specific cures work. Most of us are like witch-doctor disciple-makers. We know that this “medicine” made someone better, but we don’t know why. And, like the witch doctor, we have had more failures than successes along the way.

Disciple makers come in all shapes and sizes, but few have ever stopped to ask, “How do humans work?”

What would happen if we applied all the discoveries about humans to the art of making disciples? Would our methods change if we understood more about how God created humans to work? Would our approach to making disciples change if we could see inside their brains to know why they make choices?

I am not suggesting that you leave ministry to become an educator, psychologist, economist, or salesperson. You don’t have the time or calling to do so. But, these scholars have spent eons discovering and understanding how humans work. Whether they know it or not, they are discovering the beauty and mechanics of God’s creation and design. I am suggesting that we steal their discoveries about how humans work and apply them to disciple-making.

The problem for many of us is that we don’t know what we don’t know. For example, did you know,

  • There is an entire discipline, Decision Science, dedicated to understanding why people make the decisions they make.
  • Perceived value is the single driving factor in a person choosing to do anything (including applying God’s truths to their lives.)
  • Typical discipleship practices lead disciples to make three of the worst known mistakes in decision making.

We need to know how people work, how they learn, why they choose, and why they buy-in. Even with all their variety, there are some standards, some science behind how people work. Applying that science will exponentially accelerate your disciple-making success. It will help you make self-sustaining disciples that stand the test of time. Learning how people to work will make disciple-making simple, repeatable, and much easier. It will also reduce the witch-doctor casualties.

I love talking about discipleship. Do you know how people work? Do you know how you succeeded at making a disciple? If you are interested in learning more about the science of discipleship, reach out.

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Challenging words to help make prepared, confident, and skilled followers of God.

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