Opening Doors To Discipleship is a series of four courses in the Presbyterian/Reformed tradition to help teachers and leaders equip themselves to be faithful teachers and leaders.

The world is changing. The people whom God is calling into relationship with Jesus and with local congregations through the work of the Holy Spirit look very different. They love Jesus; they are often less interested in the church. They are spiritual; they don’t necessarily consider themselves religious. They are eager for personal growth and transformation; they don’t primarily look to local congregations to find it.

Many congregations are trying to respond to this new reality. They know they are called to partner with our Triune God to make a difference in the lives of people and their communities. Congregations all over North America are in prayerful discernment and careful planning. They desire to provide pathways for all the people God entrusts to them to begin a life with Jesus and then to experience deep change through their lives in Christ over time.

One of the hoped for outcomes is that these growing disciples will make a contribution as leaders, teachers, and people of influence within their congregations. Even more, as these disciples are apprenticed to Jesus and are transformed by the Holy Spirit, their congregations will thrive; and the communities in which God has called them to serve will flourish.

Below are six primary questions that a congregation can engage as they discern and implement a discipleship pathway.


“Who is God calling us to engage and receive, as we love like Jesus and join in God’s transforming work?”

The process in this key step is to dwell in scripture, engage the local community, walk the neighborhood, and prayerfully discern the assets that God has entrusted to the congregation, in order to more clearly see current reality and understand the needs of the people God is sending this congregation to engage and whom God is entrusting to their care.


“Why does this transformational work matter to God and to us?”

The process again includes dwelling in scripture, gaining clarity about God’s mission in the world and the specific role God is calling this congregation to play in that mission, in order to clarify the motivation for taking on this transformational work.


“What pathways are we being called by God to create that will help cultivate transformation in Christ among the people God entrusts to us and as we live and work with our neighbors?”

At this step a congregation will come to greater clarity about what, in their understanding, a transforming follower of Jesus looks like. They will also assess what they have done in the past that may no longer be effective, and what they are currently doing that helps people be transformed as followers of Jesus.


“How will we go about this in our context?”

During this step the congregation will develop various pathways to deeper discipleship that include experiential learning, mission trips, local service efforts, small groups or triads, instruction concerning spiritual practices, and more. At the same time, they will wonder together about how to design their practices and pathways in a natural and organic way so they can be engaged in the midst of life—and not be added on.


“When will these transformational experiences be offered?”

When might these different experiences best fit into the life of the congregation and the flow of a church year? When can they be done so they are more fully incorporated into the lives of the disciples that God is forming?


“Where will these things occur?”

Different pathways better occur in different settings. Some are best done in the church building. Others are more effective in the home. Many are away from the church in church-led efforts such as service projects, mission trips or retreats. Still others are designed to be incorporated into the places people live their Monday through Saturday lives—in neighborhoods, at work, as part of community service, during times of play and in “third places.”

A congregation prayerfully discerning their answers to these six questions, thoughtfully shaping appropriate discipleship pathways for the people that God is entrusting to them, and faithfully implementing these pathways will make a rich contribution to the lives of the people they serve and to the mission of their congregation in God’s world.

Contact a Presbyterian Reformed Educational Partner (PREP) representative, listed under CONTACT US, for more information about this topic or other articles in the e-newsletter archives.

Article by Ken Eriks, Director of Transformational Engagement, Reformed Church in America.