Identifying the Elements of a Discipleship Ecosystem

In our final blog post in this month’s series exploring a discipleship pathway and ecosystem, let’s be sure to have a clear starting point for defining spiritual health. What does a healthy disciple look like? In what areas should any disciple be growing? These essential areas make up the vital elements of your ecosystem. (If the language of “pathway” and “ecosystem” isn’t familiar yet, be sure to check out this previous post.)

Last week, we focused on the importance of Christian community—especially through intentional small groups. We’ve also touched on the importance of growing in our understanding and application of theological truth. So, relationships are essential and so is theology; what else serves as a baseline for biblical disciple-making?

Rooted Network has grown out of the Rooted experience, a 10-week discipleship journey that leads people into community and lays a foundation of spiritual practices that we call “rhythms” (many churches use Rooted as the step in their pathway that launches new groups three times a year). Whether or not your church uses Rooted, we believe these rhythms point to essential parts of the Christian life and therefore a church’s discipleship ecosystem.

Grounded in God’s Word, the 7 Rhythms are the foundation of the Rooted experience. Each of these Rhythms was practiced by the early church in Acts 2. When we commit to practicing the 7 Rhythms in community like the early church, we see growth and transformation in both our personal lives and in our communities. 

 

Daily Devotion (Acts 2:42, 46)

Scripture is the very Word of God. Through it, He equips us with all we need to learn about Him and live a life pleasing to Him. A daily rhythm of reading, meditating on and applying God’s Word to our lives is key.

 

Prayer (Acts 2:42)

One of the most important elements in any relationship is communication. Prayer is just that: engaging God in a conversation, sharing our hearts with Him, and spending time listening to His voice, both individually and in community.

 

Repentance (Acts 2:37-39)

Jesus saves those who believe and call upon His name. Saving grace is once and for all (justification) and also a continual invitation to repent for our wrongdoings. With the help of the Spirit we take inventory of our lives, humbly and honestly confess our sin, and turn away from our sin toward God in surrender. Through Jesus’ offer of forgiveness, we receive true freedom.  

 

Sacrificial Generosity (Acts 2:44-45)

Giving demonstrates our dependence on God. We acknowledge that all we own has been given to us by Him. In His generosity toward us, God desires that we, too, are generous and will use our resources as a tangible way to partner with Him in His work in the world and in the lives of those around us. We are blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 12:2).

 

Serve the Community (Acts 2:44-45)

We are called and equipped by the Holy Spirit to share God’s love by participating in the ministry of Jesus. He has given us agency with Him to fearlessly influence our society and the world. When we serve in the world and in His Church, we impact those around us and reveal God’s glory. 

 

Share Your Story (Acts 2:14-36)

The greatest gift we can ever give someone who doesn’t yet know Jesus is an introduction to Him. Sharing our life stories is the most powerful way to show the transforming power and salvation offered through Jesus Christ. When we tell our stories of transformation, we tell the story of God. 

 

Worship (Acts 2:26-28, 46-47)

As children of God, it is important to consistently set aside time to remember what God has done, to thank Him for it, and to put Him on display as we give Him the glory. In all circumstances, we are called to practice God-centered worship.

 

Your Church

We believe these rhythms provide healthy roots individually and in community for growing up in spiritual maturity. While this list is helpful, it’s not exhaustive. For example, we believe that a biblical view on work and family are vital to holistic disciple-making and a flourishing church. (Stay tuned for news related to resources focused on those areas!)

Once you’ve identified the elements of a healthy disciple, you have the framework for a ministry plan to strategically meet needs and encourage growth in those areas. So, if prayer is essential to spiritual flourishing, what are you doing to help your church practice a rhythm of prayer? If community is important, what are you doing to invite people into committed relationships with other church members? If serving is vital, what opportunities are provided to step out of personal comfort zones for the sake of blessing others? Your church may have specific dynamics unique to your context, such as a cross-cultural or multi-ethnic emphasis, for example. Whatever you identify as essential, should be reinforced with intentional opportunities.

What else would you add to a list of key elements in your own discipleship ecosystem?

We’d love to hear your thoughts and discuss the idea of a discipleship ecosystem further. Join us for an online event in November. Click here for more details on upcoming events, including the discipleship ecosystem learning community.

Be sure to sign up below for the newsletter and access to a free monthly resource—October’s downloadable tool is Your Discipleship Pathway & Ecosystem, worksheets to map out a disciple-making strategy specific to your local context.

To preview Rooted and the 7 Rhythms, click here.