When I was a junior in college, a professor invited me to join him and a few of my classmates in meeting together weekly. As we met he shared what he had learned about following Jesus. He brought us along when he traveled to nearby cities to teach. He poured his life and learning into us.
After summer break I returned to school and went to his office excited to begin meeting again. He informed me he was forming a group with new students, and I was not invited. I thought I had offended him until he told me to go select a few incoming freshmen and begin a group of my own. He opened his door to me all year providing much needed wisdom and coaching.
Great Commandment, Great Commission
Those years shaped and inspired me to make disciples. Disciple making happens when a follower of Christ intentionally gathers others to model the Christian life before them, to teach them how to love God and others, and to train them to do the same. Disciple makers commit themselves to the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:34-40) and the Great Commission (28:18-20).
In the three decades since that formative experience, I continue to practice what I learned back then, both as a follower of Jesus and as a church leader. Today, I want to continue to make disciples, but I also want to help lead and organize the church in a way that inspires and equips people to do the same. With this goal in mind, I search for and soak up resources that can help me better understand the processes, strategies, and tools for making disciples. Here are a few great resources that offer quality content without breaking the bank.
Practicing the Way
The website www.practicingtheway.org was developed through the ministry of Bridgetown Church in Portland, Oregon. The leaders of the church found inspiration in the language of the Great Commission, “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (28:20). They acknowledged they had provided great information through their Bible teaching, but were not teaching the church to obey. They shifted their focus to coupling quality Bible teaching with practical steps toward practicing the way of Jesus.
The church offers the material free of charge in hopes of equipping all apprentices of Jesus (their term for disciples) to “be with Jesus, become like Jesus, and do what Jesus did.” Their dream is that as people practice the way of Jesus they will discover it is not only good for them, but for everyone around them. When groups of people practice the way of Jesus together, their communities and cities are transformed.
The website offers high-quality Bible teaching through 30 to 45-minute sermon audio or video, and simple small group leader guides for each topic. Each topic emphasizes a spiritual discipline the group can practice together. They offer an introductory track with 12 sessions explaining why practicing the way of Jesus is important and how spiritual practices can change lives. Other tracks include topics like hospitality, Sabbath, forgiveness, fasting, prayer, healing from a painful past, and more.
Another outstanding free resource can be found at www.zumeproject.com. Zume describes itself as “an on-line and in-life learning experience designed for small groups who follow Jesus to learn how to obey His Great Commission and make disciples who multiply.”
Zume, the ancient Greek word for yeast, takes its inspiration from Jesus’ parable of the woman who took a little yeast and mixed it into a large bowl of flour until it was all leavened (Matthew 13:33). Zume believes that just like a bit of yeast, ordinary people using simple tools can make an extraordinary impact.
The Zume Project set a goal to “equip and empower ordinary believers to reach every neighborhood.” They believe their online training can equip people to make disciples and start simple churches in all of the roughly 75,000 census tracts in America. Their plans also include a global emphasis translating their material into 36 different languages.
Zume consists of a 10-week course, teaching key Jesus-centered principles for making and multiplying disciples. Each teaching includes simple, easy-to-use tools that can lead to exponential influence. With training videos and downloadable resources, a small group or family has all they need to grow together.
Zume provides all of its resources free for churches, organizations, families, and individual disciple makers. All the user needs is an internet connection to show the videos, the downloadable Zume Guidebook, and at least three to four people with whom to learn and grow.
Each two-hour session consists of video or audio teaching, group discussion, simple exercises, and challenges to keep a group active from week to week. The sessions cover topics like listening and hearing from God, getting and giving the greatest blessing, baptism, the Lord’s supper, training, multiplication, and more. Participants will learn simple ways to read the Bible, develop accountability, pray for their friends and neighbors, tell their own story, and tell the gospel story. They will also develop their own three-month plan for making disciples.
Lee Wood, described as a former drug-addict and ordinary man, received training in the Zume material at a disciple-making conference in 2013. Lee returned to his home in Florida and immediately launched multiple groups. The groups he trained quickly multiplied. In just six months, 63 simple churches were launched and active.
By 2015, more than 300 simple churches existed and leaders were equipped and launched to other countries like Mozambique, China, Cambodia, Thailand, Australia, and more. Today more than a thousand groups are active and making disciples. Lee’s story exemplifies the power of Zume’s approach; simple biblical tools faithfully applied by ordinary people can make an extraordinary impact.
For those wanting more hands-on training in disciple making, the missions organization Team Expansion offers Jonathan Trainings. These five-day experiences inspire everyday people by engaging with biblical principles of disciple making and equipping them with tools to make and multiply disciples.
Using the same tools included in the Zume Project and more, Jonathan Trainings are led by world-class disciple makers, people who have launched disciple-making movements around the world. Team Expansion currently offers these trainings once or twice a year for $200 or less. Module one trains people to make and multiply disciples. Module two teaches people how to coach others and cultivate a movement. Go to www.teamexpansion.org to find out how to attend.
A few years ago, I attended a shortened Jonathan Training at a pre-conference session for the International Conference on Missions. I employ many of the tools I learned on a weekly basis. One of my favorites is a simple group Bible study format that allows for mutual learning for everyone regardless of their prior knowledge of the Bible and instant personal application.
Whether a veteran disciple maker, an inspired rookie, or a church leader who wants to help their members make disciples where they live, work, and play, these resources can deepen their dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit, saturate them in Jesus-centered principles, and equip them to equip others.
Russ Howard lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. He leads at Owensville Church of Christ, cultivates partnerships for BLOC Ministries, and cohosts a podcast on the spiritual good life, The MoreCast.