Organic Disciplemaking Study Guide

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Group Study Guide

Use this study guide to discuss Organic Disciplemaking with a small group or your personal study partner. First read the chapter, either before meeting or together. Then ask the questions, beginning with the ones you think are most interesting. When the meeting has lasted long enough, you’re done! Don’t feel like you have to get to all the questions.


1. McCallum and Lowery refer to a shift in the western church toward a more organic approach to church life. Do you see this shift in your own or other churches you know of? What changes have you seen?

2. McCallum and Lowery refer to how disciple making has changed in their group from a practice carried out by individuals (in the early days) to one carried out in the context of community in the body of Christ. What advantages could you imagine could result from making disciples in community versus by yourself?

3. Do you feel your church is becoming more, or less interested in discovering more organic approaches to ministry? What indications do you see?

Chapter 1 Understanding: What is Discipleship?

1. McCallum and Lowery cite Barna’s claim that few churches in America practice personal discipleship. Do you agree that not many American Christians practice disciple making? If so, why do you think this has happened? Is it unimportant or a serious problem? Why?

2. Considering that we live in a different culture today, do you agree with McCallum and Lowery that the early church should still be viewed as a model for us to follow? In what respects? How would you respond to someone who argues that the early church may have been no better than today’s church, and that we have no reason to imitate their practice, only their doctrine?

3. The authors talk about the concept of church planting movements and self-replicating cell groups or house churches. They claim that personal discipleship is tied a group’s ability to multiply. Do you agree with this? Why or why not?

4. McCallum and Lowery refer to a recent study showing that the church today is becoming more interested in making disciples than ever before. Have you seen any sign of this interest?

5. McCallum and Lowery claim that churches in the developing world rely on disciple making to develop their leadership far more than we do in the west. Can you see any reasons why this practice might work there, but not in the west?

6. In a footnote, the authors discuss the contemporary view that personal disciple making was obsolete after the time of Jesus. In the New Testament, some argue, all Christians are disciples of Christ, and the practice of personally discipling people was only practiced before Pentecost. McCallum and Lowery take the opposing view that the early church continued to rely on personal disciple making to develop leadership. What do you think about this debate?

Chapter 2 Discipleship Overview

1. The authors cite various authorities claiming that most growth in western churches is the result of Christian transfers from other churches. What do you think about this claim? Is it true, and if so, how should we view it?

2. McCallum and Lowery say, “No two disciples are alike. And no two disciple makers are alike. Therefore, any attempt to describe the ‘right’ way to make disciples is pointless.” Later they say, “Although disciple making is a creative process, some principles are universal.” What aspects of disciple making might be universal, and what parts might be up to your own creativity?

3. Appendix 1 contains nine areas where we should look for growth in successful disciples. Can you discover any points in that discussion that are really not that necessary?

4. Have you seen group leaders raised up who didn’t last long? What are some of the common reasons people lose interest or ability to carry on as leaders?

5. What do you see as a more serious need in your community: more leaders for home groups or more people willing to attend home groups?

6. Do you have an opinion about the debate the authors mention between views of corporate versus individual disciple making?

Chapter 3 Getting Started

1. McCallum and Lowery try to make the case that virtually any walking Christian is qualified to disciple others. What do you think of this position?

2. Some people are uncomfortable with the idea of selecting some people for special treatment in disciple making. How would you answer this sense that such partiality is wrong?

3. McCallum and Lowery argue that having a spiritually hungry heart and being a “doer” are the best things to look for in a prospective disciple. Do you agree with this, or would you look for other things either in addition to, or instead of these?

4. What might be some signs that a person has a spiritually hungry heart?

5. The authors name several features they think are misleading or unimportant when choosing a disciple. Would you remove any of these features from the list? Or would you add anything?

6. McCallum and Lowery point out that even the most careful and sacrificial disciple maker may fail, even after years of investment in a relationship. Considering this possibility, is personal disciple making worth the risk? Why or why not?

7. Assess the authors discussion about developing a vision for your disciple. Did this seem realistic? Would you add anything to what they said?

Chapter 4 Friendship Building

1. What do you think about the authors’ claim that Christian friendships need not just happen, but could be deliberately initiated and fostered? Do you think this might be unnatural?

2. McCallum and Lowery think initiating is a key area of sacrifice for loving Christians. They seem to imply that if we expect others to initiate with us, we are falling short. Do you think their discussion was fair? Or should we expect that others would take their turn initiating?

3. In their section on investing, the authors distinguish between weaknesses and points of resistance. Do you think this distinction is important? Why or why not?

4. The authors say, “Patience and grace are very important when dealing with a disciple’s weaknesses.” What are some thoughts or reflections that would help you be more patient and gracious with a weak disciple?

5. This chapter puts emphasis on thinking and praying about your friends when you aren’t with them. How important has this been in your experience, and how important should it be?

6. If you were advising a friend who has trouble building friendships, what would you say? Without trying to map everything out, throw out some thoughts that might be helpful.

Chapter 5 Modeling

1. Think of someone you have considered a model. What features made you feel he or she was credible and worthy of being imitated?

2. Many Christians, and maybe most, would say that Jesus is number one in their lives. Yet, sometimes we find ourselves doubting whether this is really true. While we have to be cautious about reading another’s heart, what are some things that raise these kind of questions?

3. The authors think being honest is good for credibility as a model, while dishonesty is deadly. How honest do you think a disciple maker should be? If you have a fairly serious area of besetting sin, how much do you think you should say to your disciple?

4. McCallum and Lowery say that things like encouragement, empathy, and careful listening can best be transmitted through modeling. Describe some situations where someone might be able to observe and imitate these relational skills. Can you think of a time when you gained insight or inspiration while watching a mature Christian using one of these skills?

5. The authors suggest that forgiveness is important in learning to love others. What do you think is important in learning how to forgive from the heart?

6. Victorious suffering is an ability people might gain through a combination of modeling and instruction, according to McCallum and Lowery. If you had a friend who was suffering, what are some points you might make to help them gain victory?

7. When discussing whether people are qualified to be models, the authors say, “your value as a model is relative” (p. 104). What do you think they meant by this? Is this suggestion right? Is it helpful? In what sense is your value relative?

Chapter 6 The Bible

1. In the context of meeting with a disciple, McCallum and Lowery ask, “Is studying the Bible essential?” What do you think? Would it be always, usually, sometimes, or not really necessary? What kind of situations might call for different approaches?

2. Some people feel uncomfortable making the transition from just being friends, to sitting down to study together. What are some suggestions for ways to make this transition?

3. In Appendix 2 (available on the website – the authors provide an outline teaching that the Bible is inspired right down to the words and even non-theological material, like historical events. How important do you think this is? Would it be okay if only the main ideas are inspired? Must we argue this position? Justify your answer.

4. Christians in America debate today whether we should develop theological outlines that reflect “the Bible’s teaching on an issue” or just read individual stories or passages without trying to harmonize them with other statements in different books. What do you think?

5. Name some areas of biblical competence you would like to see in your disciple by the time you finish.

6. McCallum and Lowery suggest that learning a truth or a passage is one thing, but being able to explain it to others requires a higher level of understanding. Why do they say this? What is different between knowing something for yourself and explaining it to others?

7. How long do you think it would take for a new Christian to gain basic competence in the Bible?

Chapter 7 Prayer I: Getting Started

1. Can you remember when you, or a newly Christian friend became comfortable praying in a group? What were some things that helped?

2. McCallum and Lowery quote Jesus as saying, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” They go on to suggest that praying in his name roughly means praying according to his will. Do you agree with this view? If you do agree, what are some important things we know are his will?

3. This chapter discusses helping disciples develop “the habit of a daily appointment with God.” How important do you think this is? Do you think most Christians practice this?

4. The authors discuss the story of the ten lepers, arguing that the nine ungrateful lepers is too often a picture of us. What are some of the main reasons we are so often ungrateful?

5. Do you agree that giving thanks to God has a noticeable effect on your spiritual life? What are some of these effects?

Chapter 8 Prayer II: Ministry and Prayer

1. McCallum and Lowery point out that Paul’s prayers are usually for others. Even when he asks for prayer for himself, it’s usually that he will be effective in serving others. They think we all should increasingly notice this pattern in our own lives. “When viewing ourselves in Christ, our concerns for self decline, while our concern for others takes center stage.” (p. 132) Do you agree, or is this pattern mainly tied to Paul’s calling as an apostle?

2. What is the role of prayer in ministry? What kind of things can we do through prayer, and are there any limits?

3. What would probably be the marks of a relatively prayerless ministry?

4. In their discussion of “exploratory prayer” the authors suggest that we should listen for God to speak. But some Christians find it difficult to determine if God is speaking to them. What would be your advice for distinguishing between my own feelings and what God is saying?

5. McCallum and Lowery picture spiritual warfare as mainly a struggle between believing Satan’s lies and God’s truth. Do you think this picture is adequate, or should more be added?

Chapter 9 Counseling

[We suggest you visit the Organic Disciplemaking website and look through the supplemental material for the chapter on counseling. Those articles will help you lead a better discussion on these issues.]

1. What have you noticed about the interplay between psychology and Christianity? Should any aspects of contemporary psychology be questioned by Christians?

2. The authors quote Larry Crabb as saying:

"We have produced a generation of therapists, an army of counselors trained to do battle with problems they poorly understand because they have spent more time in classrooms becoming experts than in God’s presence becoming elders. We have lost interest in developing mentors, wise men and women who know how to get to the real core of things and who have the power to bring supernatural resources to bear on what’s wrong."

How would you react to this comment?

3. Interpersonal conflict can devastate relationships and whole churches. What are some of the most important things for Christians to do when they find themselves or their friends in conflict?

4. In their section on self-absorption, McCallum and Lowery seem to think that sitting around thinking about yourself might be harmful if we do it too much. What might be the signs that we are becoming self-absorbed?

5. On high-expectation relating: Is it wrong to expect your friends or family to do their part in a relationship? What does the Bible say about this?

6. Biblical sexual ethics and our culture’s beliefs about sex diverge widely. As Christian communicators, how should we handle this widening gap?

7. Is a disciple maker really in a position to help a married couple in their communication? What kind of things could you ask, say, or do to help another’s marriage?

8. McCallum and Lowery say, “In our opinion, materialistic greed is the greatest enemy of spirituality in the American church.” What do you think about this statement?

9. If someone sets out on a plan to become wealthy, do you think it would be a sin? Does the Bible speak to this? [Visit the Organic Disciplemaking website for ideas]

10.  When discussing helping Christians with morally bad habits, McCallum and Lowery say, “First, we will probably never reach a point where our disciple has no sin habits. We are forced to work for relative freedom, not perfection.” Why do you think they make this point?

11.  The authors think honesty is key in overcoming bad habits. What do you think? Do you believe your Christian community is honest about their sin problems?

Chapter 10 Encountering Lack of Progress:
Discerning What to Do

1. McCallum says, “Too many disciple makers are squeamish about pulling the trigger when it comes to making an unambiguous, direct call for action.” Have you seen this? Or should disciple makers assume God will move people to act in his own time?

2. Do you agree that, “soft disciplers consistently see very poor results in discipleship?” Or are bossy disciplemakers even worse? What might be signs that a disciplemaker is being too soft or too bossy?

3. The authors distinguish between points of resistance and “dissonance.” Dissonance is when young believers begin to second-guess their decision to come to Christ. What some good things to do when a new Christian experiences dissonance?

4. McCallum and Lowery mention one option when facing a disciple with a point of resistance: “looking the other way.” Wouldn’t deliberately ignoring such a sin problem be compromise with sin? Or can you see a basis for such a course?

5. Many people are uncomfortable with Jesus’ whipping people in the temple. Can such an action be justified? What does this incident say about Jesus and God?

6. What are some differences between the concept of discipline for children versus adults?

7. The authors suggest that some sins are more serious than others. Does the Bible back this suggestion, and if so, what makes some sins more serious than others?

Chapter 11 Encountering Lack of Progress:
Practicing Discipline in Love

1. Some Christian communities don’t believe in practicing reproofs, rebukes, or other disciplinary actions. What would be some arguments for, or against the practice of discipline?

2. McCallum and Lowery describe imaginary problem categories: “significant, but not serious” “serious, but not spiritually life threatening” and “spiritually life threatening, or menacing to others.” Can you describe problems that would fit each category?

3. What do you think would happen if a local church allows members to fornicate?

4. Have you ever been involved in disciplining a fellow Christian? Without disclosing confidential material, describe what happened, and how you feel about it today.

5. The authors suggest we need to raise a sense of tension in our relationship with a believer who is resistant to God. Wouldn’t it be better to just show nurture and love, and let God work on the person’s heart in his own time? What biblical evidence can be marshaled for each option?

Chapter 12 Coaching: Early Ministry Development

1. Do you agree that ministry is just as much a means of growth as prayer?

2. What happens when in the lives of Christians who fail to develop ministry? What about a group where people don’t see this need?

3. What are some of the keys you’ve seen to stimulating others to try evangelism?

4. Do people in your home group have a burden for ministry? What could you do to increase people’s burden to serve?

5. McCallum and Lowery say, “Without consistent effort at evangelism, disciple making becomes a turning inward that will not result in authentic growth.” Is this over-stated? Or do you agree? Why?

6. Have you ever tried to share your faith, only to have the person react with hostility? What would you say a new Christian who is startled by such hostility?

7. How much difference do you think it makes when people regularly pray for opportunities to witness or build up other believers? Can you think of cases where this has mattered to you?

Chapter 13 Coaching: Moving Toward Independence

1. Talk about possessiveness in ministry. What causes people to be possessive? What is the best antidote?

2. Succeeding in developing multi-level discipleship (where your disciples have their own disciples) is the ultimate goal in discipleship. If you reached this goal, what steps could you take to keep it going and advancing?

3. McCallum and Lowery suggest that we should prioritize seeking change in some sin areas more than in others. What do you think about that idea? Is it valid? If it were, how would someone choose which sin areas to prioritize?

4. The authors think we should teach disciples to be “proactive” rather than “reactive” in ministry. What would be some examples of proactive vs. reactive ministry? What might be the effect on your ministry if you are reactive or proactive.

5. Have you ever tried to work with a person who didn’t progress like you hoped? What kind of things are most helpful in dealing with cases like these?

6. Do you see any possible problems with the idea of setting goals in ministry? What might be some benefits? Is pursuing goals biblical?

7. McCallum and Lowery say that persuasion is a key skill for good coaches. What kind of things do you think makes someone persuasive?

Chapter 14 Coaching Group Leadership

1. McCallum and Lowery discuss learning how to assemble and nurture a team of co-workers in Christian groups. What skills and practices have you seen as helpful in bringing together unified, motivated teams?

2. Some people are reluctant to delegate. Others are too eager. What do you think are the causes and perils of each extreme?

3. McCallum and Lowery think almost anyone can lead a discussion if they are trained. What do you think are some key skills leaders of discussion need to develop?

4. The last section of this chapter is on encouragement. How purposeful and planned-out do you think people should be when it comes to encouraging others?

5. Are group leaders pretty much on their own, or do you think coaching from outside the group would really make a difference? What should coaches try to do for group leaders?

Chapter 15 Releasing: Preparation

1. McCallum and Lowery think that before we can safely release disciples, they need to believe in a deep way in God’s part in ministry. What difference do you think this would make in different areas of ministry like prayer, witnessing, teaching or leading discussion, counseling, admonishing, or discipleship?

2. McCallum and Lowery spend quite a bit of time in this chapter discussing the theology of failure. do you think we need to fail, or is it just something we should learn to withstand. If you have ever failed, what effect did it have on you?

3. Have you ever experienced an unstable leader, or one lacking integrity? What has been the effect on their ministry? How can we enhance stability and integrity in our upcoming leaders?

4. McCallum and Lowery think compromise is often a good quality in leaders. But other authors talk about the need to avoid compromise. In what sense might compromise be good, and in what sense bad?

Chapter 16 Releasing: The Transition

1. Can you imagine possible problems that could come up in connection with releasing a disciple? What would these be, and how could you respond?

2. Have you ever seen someone who remained well-motivated until a certain leader was no longer around? What might cause people to lose motivation just because a certain motivator is no longer available?

3. McCallum and Lowery say, “This period after releasing a disciple is when we find out how well we did as disciple makers.” What kind of things would you look at to make this determination?

Chapter 17 Leading Disciple Makers

1. Would you be interested in participating in a gathering of disciple makers? Why, or why not?

2. McCallum suggests beginning a disciple-maker’s group even if you have as few as three or four. What would you do if you were leading such a gathering?

3. McCallum describes a situation in their church where hundreds of people work at making disciples. Do you think his is a special situation, or could this happen in any church?

4. How do you feel about the idea of reporting on ministry results in groups? Isn’t this focusing on the wrong thing? Or is there biblical warrant for it?

5. McCallum discusses “developing a sense of team” among the disciple makers in your church. What kind of things might make you feel this sense?

6. Do you see any possible dangers in publicly recognizing disciple makers? Or does this seem like a good idea?