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You Can’t Make Disciples until You Make This Shift

Photo of Neil ReynoldsNeil Reynolds | Bio

Neil Reynolds

Neil is the Senior Minister at the University Church of Christ in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and the Pathways Director for Kairos Church Planting. His life was changed through a campus ministry at Arkansas Tech University. As a result, Neil’s passionate about reaching college students, training leaders to reach college students, and starting new ministries in university contexts. Neil is married to Katie and they have two daughters. He’s also an avid sports fan.

It’s fascinating to me that two people can experience the same thing in opposite ways. For instance, one person might hear a sermon and say, “That was the best message I’ve ever heard,” while someone else will say, “I didn’t get anything out of it.”

We hear this in churches all the time. Things like…

“I wouldn’t be who I am without this church and I want other people to experience it.”


“I don’t care for this church anymore. I don’t get as much out of it as I used to.”

For the longest time I didn’t know what to do with these comments. Sometimes I would vilify the people who didn’t like where things were going. Other times I’d try to please everyone. Both ended in frustration.

The eBook Becoming a Disciple Maker: The Pursuit of Level 5 Disciple Making by Bobby Harrington and Greg Wiens is a great resource that helps put these types of comments in context. It’s a simple, thorough, straightforward approach to making followers of Jesus.

Harrington and Wiens describe the 5 levels of disciple making…

  • Level 1 — the spiritual infant | subtracting from disciple making-efforts
  • Level 2 — the spiritual child | plateaued, neither helping nor hindering disciple making
  • Level 3 — the spiritual young adult | adding, supporting disciple making
  • Level 4 — the spiritual parent | reproducing, personally making disciples
  • Level 5 — the spiritual grandparent | multiplying, personally making disciple makers

There’s an important shift that takes place as a person progresses as a disciple maker. A spiritual child is self-centered. As they mature, they begin to develop an others-centered approach.

Every growing disciple will eventually make the shift from being selfish to selfless.

The spiritual child typically says…

“The preacher’s sermons aren’t feeding me.”

The spiritual young adult typically says…

“I’m so happy to lead my group and make disciples. We’re going to baptize a new member of our group tonight!”

Every disciple has to make the shift from focusing on themselves to focusing on others or they’ll be perpetually frustrated. Every experience eventually disappoints no matter how great it is.

The same is true for churches. No matter how great the preaching or worship is, eventually, we all come up short. Those who are perpetually frustrated in churches ask: “What are you going to do for me?” And, eventually, you can’t do enough to keep them happy. Eventually, the luster wears off.

Those who find contentment in churches ask: “What can I do to help?” Regardless of a church’s shortcomings, these people find a way to make an impact on others.

They’ve made the shift to thinking about making disciples.

Making disciples is every church’s mission. It’s the only marching orders we’ve received from Jesus (Mt. 28:19-20).

A church can’t function properly unless every member is making disciples.

So, find a place, plug in, and ask, “What can I do to bless someone? How can I help to make disciples?”

(From Neil Reynold’s e-book 5 Discipleship Principles I Live By (Hint: Anyone Can Do These). Used with permission.)