When Paul wrote about his ministry for the church in Colossians 1:24-29 his focus was not on church programs or church services. Rather his focus was “to make the word of God fully known” (Col. 1:25 ESV), “that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28 ESV).

When we focus on buildings and program events our ministry can become more about performance of a few with a rather passive majority. It is possible that being a Christian is equated with attending a church service. Programs aren’t bad, they are essential. But programs without discipleship (making the word of God fully known and pursuing maturity in Christ) will not build the church.

Paul saw his ministry for the church as a stewardship from God to make the Word fully known. He proclaimed Christ “warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Col. 1:28 ESV). Paul did not see this as his role exclusively. When exhorting the Colossians to put on the new self in Christ in chapter 3 he again writes about the word of God and teaching wisely: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…” (Col. 3:16 ESV). The Colossians are to do the same thing Paul described in Col. 1:28. The Word should be at home in all believers as the source of growth and influencing others. The church should be a discipleship community, everyone growing in the Word and sharing that with others.

Essential elements in the discipleship process are understanding the Bible and living it. In the book Global Church Planting, Craig Ott and Gene Wilson define “discipling as helping new Christ-followers become established, grounded, stable, and secure in him and in their practice of obedience to him.” (p. 231).  Global Church Planting includes a lot of resources for discipleship church planting. There are also good resources on the SEND U wiki at https://senduwiki.org/disciplemaking.

Programs without discipleship is like cultivating a garden and not putting in the seed. The church cannot be planted or grow without discipleship. The church planter needs to disciple believers to disciple others. When there are a growing number of disciples maturing, church services can be developed that are not dependent on the church planter to maintain.