Building a Passion for Discipleship in Your People

2016 RightNow Conference

 Though well-intentioned, many churches often spend more time building and maintaining complicated structures in the name of discipleship than they spend making disciples. How do we clear the excess and return to the simplicity of following Christ and obeying His command to disciple others to follow Him? In this 60-minute session from the 2016 RightNow Conference, Jennie Allen challenges pastors to ignite a passion for discipleship in their people by keeping things simple.

Jennie Allen is an author, speaker, Bible teacher, and Founder of the IF:Gathering, a uniquely practical Christian conference which gathers, equips, and unleashes women to live out their purpose. Jennie completed her B.S. in Communications at Carson Newman College and earned an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. She has authored several books and Bible studies, including Stuck: The Places We Get Stuck and the God Who Sets Us Free, Chase: Chasing After the Heart of God, Anything: The Prayer that Unlocked my God and my Soul, and Restless: Because You Were Made for More. Jennie and her husband, Zac, have four children. 

As you watch this session, take notes and write down thoughts about how this session can impact your ministry. 

Jennie used an analogy about a vine and a trellis, comparing the vine to discipleship, and the trellis to the structures and programs that are put into place in our churches to support it. Healthy vines do need structures upon which to grow. However, sometimes we overcomplicate our structures and forget to nourish the vine. How do we return to simple discipleship? Let’s look to Jesus’s instructions to His followers.  

Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV)

The Great Commission

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 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,20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Jesus keeps His instruction simple and straightforward before He ascends to heaven. What are the simple one or two-word instructions given to us? What would it look like in your church to trim the excess, and simply obey Jesus's instructions?
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Have you made discipleship more of a burden than Jesus makes it? In what ways might you be overcomplicating discipleship, focusing on the trellis more than the vine?
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Jennie referenced the effective strategy of pyramid companies like Mary Kay or Rodan + Fields—how one person finds a few others to work beneath them, then those few others each find a few others to work beneath them, and so on. Does this sound familiar? Why or why not? This is very similar to Jesus’s method of discipleship. We invest in others who invest in others.  

Discipleship is simply pouring into a few others and reproducing our lives in them. Then those few turn around and pour into a few more, and the process continues. Does looking at discipleship in this way change your outlook? How? Does it make discipleship seem more attainable? Less formal?
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How have you made discipleship more about a program than life-on-life experiences? How could you begin to switch your mindset?
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One aspect of discipleship Jennie discussed was “pushing people off cliffs.” We must step out of our comfort zone, risk, and obey the voice of God.   

In what ways have you been pushed off a proverbial cliff by someone else? How did that experience grow your faith? Have you taken bigger risks since then?
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What are some ways you can begin to lovingly push others off the cliff of safety and comfort? How can you champion radical obedience to the Lord, despite discomfort?
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Jennie told the story of two women who took a risk and invited their non-believing friends over for dinner. With four conversation starters and a recipe, they turned their table into a rich opportunity for discipleship. The women spent several hours talking about God over dinner, which resulted in new followers of Christ!   

What is a unique way you could replicate this idea in your own life? How could you invite others in to a natural rhythm of your life and begin to disciple them? Do you have fears or hesitations about this approach?
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Who are two or three individuals you can begin to intentionally disciple? Who can you invite into your life and begin to teach and invest in?
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Jennie talked about the idea of being open-handed in ministry and handing over the work of discipleship to the people of your church.   

One way to hand the work of discipleship to your church is to help them see their sphere of influence and ministry. What are some practical ways you can begin to help others see where God has them on mission? How can you show them the soccer field, or the classroom, or the office, is ripe for discipleship?
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How might giving ownership of discipleship empower your people toward greater disciple-making?
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For more information about the RightNow Conference or to find out how to attend next year’s event, visit

For more from Jennie Allen, see her study for teenage girls, Dream Big, or her website,