Three Vital Mindsets in Birthing a Disciple-Making Movement

There are dynamic disciple-making movements that have happened in history.  There are dynamic disciple-making movements happening today.

Maybe you are deeply experienced at disciple-making.  Maybe you’re a novice.  Regardless, God stands ready to bless the efforts of those who are willing to step into disciple-making intentionality.

Your approach to discipleship may be in the lens of Four Fields Training.  You may be trained in the Wesleyan paradigm of scripture study and accountability.  You may be one who utilizes Discovery Bible Studies, or you may disciple others through Missional Communities.  Regardless, many who make attempts at intentional discipleship become frustrated and give up.  Some attempts are characterized by fits and starts.  I am convinced many of these problems are rooted in having the wrong mindset in stepping into intentionality. 

Whether you are a pastor, a small group leader, a disciple maker in your neighborhood, or someone who is interested in getting started, the proper mindset in disciple making lays healthy ground work for potentially birthing a much needed movement.  Here are three mindsets for consideration:


Small beginnings are the seeds that sow potential for exponential disciple making.  Jesus modeled this with the twelve disciples, taught this¹, and wanted us to embrace the type of faithfulness that comes through small beginnings.

Many years ago, in the church where I serve, we launched new waves of discipleship intentionality both inside and outside the church walls.  Early in the journey there was little movement.  Our disciple makers also thought it a failure when their groups were small.  They, like many of us, had been conditioned by a culture that says “bigger is better” and success means larger.  We had to disciple our disciple makers into the understanding that smaller is better.  We reinforced that groups numbering as few as three and no more than twelve is our aim.  We also reinforced the understanding that if a few would be faithful in making disciples, many of those new disciples would go on to make more disciples.  While we have not arrived, our church family continues to see disciples made for Jesus Christ both locally and globally

There has NEVER been a disciple-making movement in world history that did not start small.  From John Wesley to the Chinese house church movement to the pockets of discipleship resurgence happening in the West today, they all started small. 

Let us not despise small beginnings.


Learn to rejoice in who God gives you.

In the churches where I have served, I’ve watched church members with great leadership gifts, entrepreneurial savvy and gregarious natures never make a disciple. 

On the other hand, I have also watched church members with a sixth grade education make disciples.  I have seen humble business leaders, educators and introverts make disciples.  Through the years I have forsaken placing my trust in whom I think should step up, and have chosen to trust God for who God leads to step up.

Those who you often think will make disciples won’t; and those you often think won’t make disciples will. 

Learn to trust God with who God gives you.  It is His movement, not ours.


Many ministry leaders are disappointed at the critical mass of persons in American churches completely indifferent to intentional disciple making (Even though this is something Jesus commanded of every believer²).  As ministry leaders, our ideals of what ought to be can set us up for cynicism regarding what’s essential. 

While the majority of those attending church in western contexts will not step into intentional disciple making; we need to pay attention and equip those who will.  Love everybody, including those who are indifferent, but move with those who want to move with God.  Equip them.  Encourage them.  Empower them.

Our nation needs disciples and disciple makers like never before.  The nations are crying out as 3 billion people still have no access to the gospel.  If you are committed to stepping up in making disciples for Jesus Christ, let these three mindsets posture your heart for a long obedience in the same direction.³

Do not despise small beginnings.

Those who you think will make disciples often won’t; and those you think won’t make disciples often will.

Love everybody, and move with those who want to move with God.

Paul Lawler is the Lead-Pastor of Christ Church UMC, and founder of The Immersion School, a discipleship training center in Birmingham, Alabama.  He and his wife, MJ, have four children and one daughter-in-law.  In addition to serving as a pastor, Paul and his brother, Dallas area businessman, Patrick Lawler, founded the Patricia B. Hammonds Girl’s Home for 60 orphans at high risk for human trafficking in Thailand. The home is operated through the international ministry of the Compassionate Hope Foundation.  They are currently laboring to build a second home in Thailand for 50 orphans vulnerable to being trafficked. Paul also serves on the North Alabama Conference Discipleship Team. He often tweets Kingdom thoughts at @plawler111

¹ Matthew 13:31-32
² Matthew 28:19-20
³ A phrase first coined by Eugene Peterson based on his observation of the type of mindset that needs to be called forth in the American Church.