Squishy Discipleship

Cheap grace is grace without discipleship.

I collect quotes about discipleship. The one above is from Richard Foster in his book Celebration of Discipline.

I went to a conference this year attended by over 1,500 people, with everyone talking about discipleship. There is a huge focus on discipleship in publishing, blogs, and podcasts throughout Christianity today.  

However, research indicates that despite this emphasis, discipling to spiritual maturity is still a struggle.

To my collection of quotes and comments about discipleship, I recently added the following note from a friend (a very successful writer). It was a compliment to me and what we are doing at Discipling Another

I was reminded yesterday of why I appreciate your quest to make discipleship more than a good intention. 

Not so long ago, I had a meeting with an editor who wanted my help with a project. I asked for more details and was dismayed to hear that, while it was reassuring to readers, it was far from biblically accurate. 

It championed Jesus’ love, which is fine. It called people to get to know Jesus. Also, a good thing. It spoke of how he’s coming back for us to gather us into an eternity with him. 

And then it … stopped. 

No need for obedience was mentioned. No shouldering a cross and no narrow path.

This wasn’t a product about Jesus. It was a product about squishy Jesus. A Jesus with no spine, no claim on the lives of his followers, a cuddly nightlight version of Jesus. 

When I asked what happened to discipleship, I was met with a blank stare. It was there, I was told. No, it isn’t, I said. And then I heard what convinced me to walk away fast: 

“Times are hard. This is what people need to hear these days.” 

No, it isn’t. Because it isn’t true. It certainly isn’t complete. Jesus is coming back as a judge, riding a warhorse, and with legions of angels behind him. 


We’ll all hit the deck not just because we respect the idea of Jesus but because that’s what you do when a tornado roars directly at you. Even if you’re confident you’re safe, you cringe before the sheer power and majesty of something or someone whose power is so immense. 

You’re preparing people to be safe at Discipling Another … now and forever … to live lives of purpose and power … now and forever.

No squishiness in the discipleship that you preach, Grant. 

Thanks. You’re needed. 

I was greatly encouraged by my writer friend. He has worked with me often and helped edit (often co-writing) FirstSteps Conversations with me.  

Recently in Interruption # 799, I asked readers to write their most important prayer request and then place this request in their Bible. 

I wrote a request, too, and placed it in my Bible.

My request was for Discipling Another, churches, and other ministries to understand how to practice and implement discipleship. I believe in a latter-day revival, and workers in this harvest will be needed.

A final quote about discipleship …

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20). 

The Great Commission isn’t squishy. It’s costly but also filled with joy.

Supply And Demand With Discipleship

Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Supply and demand – a basic tenet of modern business. Supply outpacing demand is a problem along with the opposite problem of demand outpacing supply.

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples!”

What happens in revival with many needing to be discipled and few disciplers? And the opposite – as a local church trains disciplers but lacks new followers to disciple?

Not good.

Let’s consider Fritos©. I love Fritos. 

In the past few months, going to the grocery and not finding Fritos, I purchased Club Crackers© instead. Then, one day, I do find Fritos on the shelf, but have transitioned to Club Crackers. In my case, lack of supply, decreased demand for Fritos and increased demand for Club Crackers.

All local churches go through periods of growth.  

What’s the result when new followers of Jesus have no disciplers? Do they stay faithful? After experiencing moments of discouragement or moments of temptation, and with no one discipling them – do they falter?

Eighty percent of those who accept Jesus in the American church walk away from faithfulness in the first three months.

I have spent years holding conference after conference in churches explaining one-on-one discipleship. We use the phrase, You can do this!, in our conferences and a significant percentage of those attending, believe after the conference, that they have the tools and the understanding to disciple a new follower.

But if there are no new followers in their church to disciple, their enthusiasm wains. 

Disciples needing discipled and disciplers ready to disciple – the numbers must match! This is the Law of Supply and Demand.

When Jesus said, “Go and make disciples,” both evangelism and one-on-one discipleship are implied. All of us are commanded to share the gospel and be prepared to disciple.

The Law of Supply and Demand in the church can be overcome through obedience. 

If we are willing “to go,” then Jesus will provide opportunities to preach the gospel. If we understand “how to disciple,” we can disciple those who accept Jesus through our testimony.

The Great Commission in Matthew 28 solves the issue of supply and demand as those who begin their journey are immediately discipled!

I pray for revival, but I pray more fervently that workers will be sent into the harvest.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to my grocery store and Club Crackers were no longer available. Now, I have transitioned from both Fritos and Club Crackers and am taking suggestions as to my next snack food.

I hope those becoming new believers in your church don’t have to look for a new church, a new religion or just return to the world.

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples!”

Spiritual Maturity In The USA

That you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10, NASB1995).

Following Jesus should keep us on a path of deepening spirituality. There are ups and downs in our walk, but we should be maturing in Christ.

I asked a friend for a definition of “spiritual maturity”…

Maturing in Christ means that a Christ-follower is developing into someone who can do the works for which they’ve been set apart (Ephesians 2:10). It means that they are being equipped for ministering to others within the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 3:14-16) and living and speaking the good news of God’s Kingdom outside that Body (Matthew 28:18-20).

It’s a great definition that should describe all of us who claim Jesus as Lord.

Recently, a Pew Research article hit the headlines of Christian blogs and news sources saying that by 2070, Christianity would be a minority religion in the U.S.A.

My thought was, “How can this happen if believers are maturing in Christ?” Then I thought, “Are Christians really maturing in Christ?”

Let’s imagine a revival in your church next Sunday. Your pastor preaches a sermon that on Heaven’s scorecard of Christendom’s great sermons, comes in second just below the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus.

One hundred people accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. What happens to those 100?

  • 80 percent walk away from faithfulness within three months
  • Of the 20 percent left, five years later only 20 percent of them are growing or maturing in Christ.

Another friend of mine (I hang out with smart people) said, “According to my math, 20 percent of 100 is 20 and 20 percent of 20 is 4.”

That means that the 100-person revival at your church in the Fall of 2022 yields only 4 (the exact number is 4.3) people after five years.


The other 96 people are disgruntled, disillusioned, or outright denying their previous faith. If these statistics are accurate, no wonder the church in the U.S.A. is fast becoming a minority religion.

What should we do? We might say, “Pray for revival!” 

But Jesus doesn’t tell us to pray for revival. He gives us another prayer (Luke 10:2) and also a command for our obedience in discipleship (Matthew 28)…

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2).

We are to pray for workers! The harvest is plentiful but there are few disciplers. If a revival came, 80 percent would walk away.  

The reason for the “walk-away” rate of new believers and the “walk-away” rate of believers, as Christianity trends toward a minority religion, is a lack of spiritual maturity and vitality.

The Bible’s solution is workers who are disciplers. Yet few believers have been discipled, know how to disciple, or have ever discipled someone.

The failure of Christianity in the U.S.A. is a failure of discipleship. 

The command of Jesus is to…

Go and make disciples!

Learning To Swim And Follow Jesus

Eighty percent of those who decide to follow Jesus walk away from the faith, mostly within three months after their decision.

 Years back, I wrote a book on discipleship entitled Swimming Lessons.

My point of the book is that it’s best if someone teaches you to swim.

I taught children to swim at inner-city elementary schools when I was a teenager. I figured out a way to teach a kid how to swim in about 15 minutes of pool-time instruction.

Obviously, they weren’t going to win the Olympics, but that wasn’t my purpose. I wanted a young kid who fell into water and sank to be able to get to the surface, float, and get to the side of pool.

Fifteen minutes was all it took with most kids, if they would just trust what I said.

In those days of swimming instruction, I encountered an interesting comment more than once. Someone would ask what I did over the summer and I would tell them that I taught kids to swim.  

Then they would say…

No one taught me to swim when I was little, my dad just took me to the deep end and threw me in.

HHHHMMMHHM… my thought, “Well, that’s one approach, but I wonder how many drowned?”

I hear something similar when discussing abiding in or maturity in Christ. 

One-on-one discipleship is the best method of laying a foundation for the faith of a new believer. Foundational discipleship isn’t rocket science – it’s the four foundational disciplines (prayer, Bible, fellowship, and evangelism/discipleship), how to overcome temptations, learning to find joy during trials, and walking in the promises of God – all of which can taught by a discipler with a new follower in three months.

Same with teaching a person to swim. Teach them the basics, show them by example, and give encouraging testimony – building their confidence that they won’t sink when they let go of the side of the pool.

Swimming is best taught one-on-one.

As I’ve talked to many Christians about foundational discipleship, I’ve heard a similar comments to the one I heard while teaching swimming…

“I’ve never been discipled,” “I don’t see the importance,” and “I did just fine.”

HHHHMMMHHM… my thought, “But what about the 80 percent who drowned?”

Sometimes, I hear additional comments like…

“I go to church once a week,” “We have a great worship team,” and, “I enjoy the sermons.”

“We don’t need one-on-one discipleship because we have small groups.”

I enjoy churches with preaching, worship, and small groups. But it takes a new follower of Jesus a year to integrate into the larger body of believers and it takes five to six months to join a small group (in the best circumstances). But new believers walk away within three months. 

HHHHMMMHHM! It’s best if churches have one-on-one discipleship.

Discipleship Through QR Codes

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, NIV).

Mimic my behavior as I mimic the behavior of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, OGV).

Let’s imagine that you are confronted with a complex task. How you complete this task will bring blessings or frustrations into your life.

Let’s consider that all of you are already doing this task, some very well and some of you dismally. But you can improve by following an example.

What is this task? Walking on the narrow path!

For the gate is small and the path is narrow that leads to life (Matthew 7:14, OGV).

On this path, wander to the left or the right and you could be entangled in thorns or fall off a cliff. To stay safe, you need a guide or an example! The Greek word for “example” can also be translated as “mimic.”  

On a narrow path, with danger inches off the path, I want more than a guide shouting instructions or an expert saying, “Watch me.” I want to hear the words, “This is a dangerous part of the path, mimic my exact footsteps.”

When decisions impact my life, I want specifics, not suggestions. I want an exact translation with no room for error in the translation. Life’s decisions, the most important ones, are instant, exacting, and need action. 

Opinions and discussions may not be helpful and may probably be dangerous.

God provides very specific guidance in scripture, and the Spirit comes with in-the-second instructions. Galatians 5:25 says, “We live by the Spirit, by walking right behind the Spirit” (OGV).

Yesterday, I led a conference on First Steps Conversations (discipleship for new and renewed believers). At the beginning, a QR code was distributed, and attendees could scan the code to receive teaching notes on their mobile devices.

I taught for an hour and several people asked after the first session, “I can’t get the QR code to work.”  

I said, “Go to the tech guy and he will work it out for you.” I then listened to the tech guy’s very specific instructions, “Scan with your camera, hover, you don’t need to take a photo.” And, “See that little box? Tap it.” And, “No, it won’t work on a flip phone from 1998.”

Answers about the “narrow path” of a QR code were quickly solved by following specific advice. God tells us throughout the Bible that He wants to give advice, showing you the exact steps to take in decisions.

This is discipleship – a discipler, having learned to be led by the Spirit, teaching the fundamentals, and leading a disciple in hearing more specific instructions.

The disciple grows by mimicking.

Why spend hours staring at the screen of a mobile device, trying to figure out a QR code, when someone could instruct you in seconds? Why walk the narrow path alone? Save yourself cuts, scrapes, and broken bones – by just mimicking your guide.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God (Romans 8:14, NIV).

Below is the QR code for the recent conference.  

Using it, you can download an outline for foundational discipleship instruction. If you want to come to a conference to hear me speak about the outline, hit “reply” and let us know and you will be sent another “QR” code for registration.

If using Android, make sure you have a QR program downloaded. No need with an iPhone. Turn on camera and hover. Tap the box that comes up. If you still can’t get it to work – pray and fast.

The Spirit And Discipleship

But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.  1 John 2:27 ESV

Jesus left and the Holy Spirit came.  

You can’t have satisfactory discipleship without the anointing of the Spirit. Discipleship is following Jesus by having a relationship with the Holy Spirit. When you hear and obey God’s Spirit, you are a disciple of Jesus.

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples!” Most Christians have never been discipled and most Christians have never discipled. Leaders talk incessantly about discipleship, but few have actually discipled a new believer – or know how to disciple a new believer.

The church lost discipleship because the church lost its connection with the Spirit.

Most Christians don’t clearly discern the Spirit’s voice and leading. Leaders have lost adequate understanding of what the Spirit can and won’t do, resulting in the proverbial those not understanding leading those who do not know.

Okay, I will stop the rant.

When you read the Old Testament, you wonder why Israel soon departed from the Law – in spite of the Law being given on a mountain through fire (Exodus 19:18). The church also soon departed from the Spirit, despite the Spirit’s initial release by fire (Acts 2).

Sorry, I’m still ranting.

Following the Spirit, with power and revelation, Christians should have been honed to be a powerful church after 2000 years. Historically, it can be said that the Spirit was lost and then re-discovered with Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles in 1905.  

Even in the last 100 years, following the Spirit has been marred by quenching, grieving, false prophecies, wrong doctrines, and all sorts of mayhem. Entire denominations say it begins with speaking in tongues while other denominations teach that tongues stopped in the first century. 

Same with the power of the Spirit – some believing “on” while others declaring “off.”  

When will I stop this ranting?

Meanwhile, no true discipleship happens because following Jesus is thoroughly influenced by the Spirit. Paul prays that the church through the ages would:

Be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:16-19

I rant because the church today does not disciple, doesn’t know how to disciple, and hasn’t developed a relationship with the Spirit. Yes, the Spirit who was sent by Jesus to lead discipleship.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus, but send the Spirit again first.

Are You Really A Disciple of Jesus?

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.  Matthew 28:19 NASB95

Since “go and make disciples” is the last and greatest command of Jesus, we should ask two questions:

  1. What is discipleship or how do you know if you are a disciple?
  2. How do you disciple? If we are given the command to go and disciple, exactly how do you disciple?

What is discipleship?

Some consider discipleship as becoming mature in the faith. Again, the same problem – what does maturity mean? When Jesus told all of us to go and make disciples, He did not define it or tell us exactly what to do.

After 49 years of studying discipleship, let me give you my definition: following Jesus

But how?

Jesus teaches how to follow when he says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:28). Paul echoes the “hearing and following” when he writes that we are “to keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

The word “disciple” used often in the Gospels is not used by Paul, Peter, James, or John in their letters. Discipleship is still valuable and useful.  

Discipleship changed after the ascension of Jesus from the disciples following Jesus to the church following the Spirit. Jesus said that it was better for Him to go so that the Spirit could come, teach, and convict the church.

Let me expand my definition of discipleship as following Jesus by having a relationship with the Holy Spirit.

As the Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 1:17, “May Jesus give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation.” Paul adds, “For all who are being led by the Spirit, these are sons and daughters of God” (Romans 8:14).

Jesus did not have to tell us how to go and make disciples because He left the Spirit to guide us!

How do you disciple?

If discipleship means following the Spirit, and a sizable percentage of church denominations deny the relational and miracle-working presence of God’s Spirit, discipleship is quenched.

In 2015, George Barna conducted the most comprehensive study on discipleship. In his executive review, he said, “Only one percent of church leaders say today’s churches are doing well at discipling new and young believers.”

Wow. Pause. Uh, oh.

The command of Jesus is to go and make disciples and only one percent of leaders in America say we are doing a good job. I realize the survey is from 2015, but does anyone believe we are doing a better job in 2021?

Following Jesus or following the Spirit is easy. Keep in step. A step or two behind is best so that you can see which direction He leads. There are two opposite but equal errors in following the Spirit – running ahead or lagging behind.

Discipleship is following Jesus by having a relationship with the Holy Spirit. When you hear and obey God’s Spirit, you are a disciple of Jesus.

Okay, Pastor Grant’s very ambitious claim: a solid foundation of the Spirit is the basis for discipleship. Most churches don’t, many denominations don’t, most Christians don’t, and many Christian leaders don’t.

Which explains the lack of discipleship.