Train Everyone to Make Disciples

By Joel Comiskey, Making Disciples in the 21st Century Church, 2022

Not long ago, I had to explain to my daughters what a typewriter looked like. They had never seen one. My children were born in the computer age, in which we talk about living a web lifestyle. According to experts, even the computer age in which we live will soon be obsolete. For companies or institutions to survive, they must learn to live in the future and accurately perceive the next step. For this reason, successful organizations invest heavily in the future.

The same pattern holds with world-class cell churches. These churches know that their long-term success depends upon living in the future. They realize that tomorrow’s leaders are today’s children, adolescents, and teenagers. They invest heavily in developing and training new leadership.

Many churches, on the other hand, fail in this area. After all, there are so many present pressures. It seems absurd to think beyond the now. Cell churches are not immune to this type of thinking. It’s even possible for a church to initiate a cell ministry and produce hundreds of cell groups immediately. Further probing, however, often reveals that the initial growth changed the guard.

Established leaders who once maintained the cherished programs began to lead cell groups. But without an established equipping system to produce new leadership, the leadership pool dries up, bringing the cell ministry to a screeching halt.

Strong cell churches, in contrast, develop training systems that carry the new Christian from the initial discipleship stage to becoming a part of a leadership team. Church leadership realizes that training new leaders is their chief task, so they prioritize leadership development.

In the last few weeks, I’ve re-edited my book Leadership Explosion, both in English and Spanish. In that book, I highlight the equipping tracks in cell churches today, including my own equipping.

Jesus told the church to make disciples, not to gather multitudes. If the church is going to reap the harvest today, it must make disciples who are willing to lead others and willing to influence others for the sake of Christ. They must take the risk to lead those who seek Christ.

So often, we see the multitudes but don’t contemplate their awful state. Jesus did more than analyze the condition of the lost. He had compassion for them because “. . . they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). This compassion stirred Christ to exhort his followers to, “. . . Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:36-38). We can’t reap the harvest alone. We need help.

Small groups are not the answer. In fact, there is danger in thinking that small groups are the answer. Small groups come and go; they rise and fall over time. Little long-term fruit remains unless small group members are converted into small group leaders.

Churches do not reap the harvest because they have small groups. They reap the harvest because they have harvest workers. Churches with no plan to develop leaders have, by default, planned to lose the harvest. We need to develop everyone to make disciples.