5 Steps to Building a Disciplemaking Culture

Marshall was a worship leader in his church, yet he knew he was missing something. He was new to Navigator staff, and he wanted to know how to help his congregation build a disciplemaking culture. Where should he start? What are the keys to seeing disciplemaking flourish throughout a congregation and spill out into the community?

I had just led his training for new NCM staff, so he called me. He excitedly told me how a tool he had bumped into during the training had addressed his questions. 

This tool is a church assessment we call the Train Illustration. It unpacks vital areas to consider. This 15-minute assessment gives new insights that lead to wise next steps. It quickly answers, “How do we build disciples who build disciples here in our church?”

The assessment is built around the five P’s of building a disciplemaking culture—five key steps to consider and evaluate, five steps that give every congregation something to work on. Each step in the illustration has helpful questions that explain and suggest ways to strengthen that particular P. Here are the steps:

  • Purposeful Leaders: Pastors, church leaders, and the congregation have set disciplemaking as their vision. They see everyday people equipped to be active builders of God’s great plan. (See Ephesians 4:11-14.)
  • Picture of a Disciple: The church has a clear and compelling description of a disciple. Everyone from the average pew sitter all the way up to the pastor can explain and incorporate it. (See Matthew 28:16-20 and Matthew 4:19-20.)
  • Pathway for Disciplemaking: The church has a step-by-step process that helps anyone who walks in the door begin moving toward greater maturity in faith. The clutter of programs and meetings are simplified and aligned to make disciples. (See Colossians 2:6-7 and Luke 6:40.)
  • Practitioners: The Kingdom needs women and men who can make a disciple wherever they find themselves. They have a vision for disciplemaking and a clear idea of what it means to follow Jesus. They see new life, new growth, and new disciplemakers spring from their ministry. (See Matthew 9:36-38.)
  • Progress Markers: Celebration is a natural outcome of God’s good work in the life of a congregation. Progress in disciplemaking develops from small steps to larger steps. Recognizing progress in each of these steps is a reason to thank God. (See Acts 6:7.) 

As we talked, Marshall’s excitement grew, and he wanted to know even more about getting his church started in disciplemaking. Earlier that day he had met for coffee with Pastor Brian. As the conversation developed, Marshall thought the Train Illustration he had just received from us would help his pastor. He didn’t know everything about the assessment, but he took a leap and showed it to him.

It was the right tool. The five steps in disciplemaking energized their conversation. As they talked and processed together, two steps seemed to jump off the page.  

The first was the Picture of a Disciple. It is the “what” of disciplemaking. What does a disciple look like? What qualities and characteristics does a disciple have? How does he or she follow Jesus, living out His lifestyle?

For most churches the picture is fuzzy. Any way of living out the faith counts as discipleship. When we are not specific we gravitate to lesser, not greater forms of commitment to Christ. Thus, we need a clear picture of how Jesus has asked us to live and be. 

Brian saw that his congregation needed to clean up their picture. They needed further thought and definition.

The second P that came to the forefront was Progress Markers. This portion of the assessment encouraged the pastor because it resonated with how he leads. He celebrates God’s movement. Yet this P stimulated further thinking about how to cheer on his church’s progress in building a culture of disciplemaking. 

I’m so encouraged that Marshall and Brian now have steps they can take. They can begin strengthening their “disciplemaking DNA.” They can continue on the path of building strengths in each of the areas in the Train Illustration. 

You too can benefit from this assessment. To get started, simply download it. You may have an experience similar to Marshall and Brian’s as you determine your strengths and opportunities. 

We have seen hundreds of churches benefit from this assessment. We’ve found it to be useful in churches of all sizes and denominations. It helps churches get unstuck and prepares them to lay a disciplemaking foundation. If you would like to talk it through with one of our Navigator Church Ministries staff, email us at NCM@navigators.org

About the Author
Related Posts


  • Best Practices in Disciplemaking
  • Fresh Disciplemaking Articles
  • Top Culture Building Tools

Delivered to your inbox monthly