In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul said, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” He’s calling Timothy to pass on to others the Good News, who will then pass it on to others.
That’s just what Disciples Made, a Kansas-based organization, does. It’s a non-profit that equips churches with an intentional disciple-making environment to fulfill this multi–generational call: disciples who make disciples who make disciples who make disciples.
In 2019, Church Development laid the groundwork for this new initiative. Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development, said, “One discovery Church Development made was that few churches had an intentional disciple-making process.” Even fewer churches had a process that resulted in disciples making disciples. Many churches that attempted to create their own process ended up with something that was heavy on content but light on behavior change. “In many cases, they proved to be complex and short-lived,” Ed said.
Church Development searched across the U.S. for a multi-generational disciple-making process that works in a post-modern, post-Christian culture. They wanted it to be simple to use and easily replicable for any sized church. They found Followers Made, a discipleship pathway created by Disciples Made.
Church Development then recruited pastors to be a part of the Followers Made pilot project that launched in Fall 2020. Mark Ellcessor, Senior Pastor of Fishers UMC and a long–time participant in Church Development measures like Fruitful Congregations, was one of those pastors.
As the group of pastors looked to launch Followers Made in INUMC churches, Mark began a new appointment in Fishers in July 2020. Unsure if he was going to be able to participate, Mark broached the subject at a Council meeting. “The church graciously said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it. Go for it.’ So even though I was new, we jumped on it.”
Followers Made is a “6 month small group journey that inspires and empowers followers of Jesus to significantly develop character and calling in their lives,” says Founder Brian Phipps. Participants take part in daily Bible reading and weekly book reading. They also form three-member accountability groups.
Weekly, 8-12 participants gather together for 1.5 hours to talk about who God is calling them to be and what God is calling them to do. The groups are highly relational and provide natural accountability for listening and responding to how God might be stirring them.
“The outcome of this,” said Mark, “is that people would be everyday missionaries where they live, learn, work, and play.” The two groups that Fishers launched in 2020 will multiply to six in the coming months.
The highly–relational context for the pathway was juxtaposed with the timing of the launch—it was the height of COVID-19 lockdowns, and people were social distancing. Although Followers Made is not designed for online, Fishers UMC resorted to using Zoom.
Even with the pandemic limitations, Followers Made impacted relationships amongst members and as they grew in their sense of everyday mission. One participant felt called to intentionally get to know his co-workers during his lunch hour instead of scrolling on his phone. Another began to foster friendships within her neighborhood. Other participants felt called to serve at-risk youth, so they connected with the Indiana United Methodist Youth Home in Lebanon.
The Fishers UMC congregation is excited to be modern Timothys, heeding Paul’s exhortation to share the Good News they’ve received with others. In this they participate in the good work God is doing as disciples make disciples who make disciples.
Are you interested in exploring Followers Made as a next phase for discipleship at your church? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.