Beyond the Book with Dr. Lawless: “Disciple”

The Great Commission is Jesus’s final marching orders for the Church. Central to this commission is the command to make disciples. What does that look like? How can we create a vibrant discipling community in our local churches — a community that is characterized by a culture of sacrificial discipleship? Answering these questions, “Disciple: How to Create a Community that Develops Passionate and Healthy Followers of Jesus,” provides counsel to church leaders as they work to develop a durable culture of discipleship.

Readers of “Disciple” will enjoy a wealth of insight and personal experience from author, Chuck Lawless, Senior Professor of Evangelism and Missions, Dean of Doctoral Studies, Vice President for Spiritual Formation and Ministry Centers, and Richard and Gina Headrick Chair of World Missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In the following Q&A, Lawless takes the time to answer a few questions about his new book: 

What is the book about?

This book is primarily about knowing what we are aiming for as we seek to make disciples. Many churches do a decent job of identifying the people in their community they need to reach, but they give too little thought to what kinds of disciples they want to produce. Thus, they aim for little and are disappointed with the results.  

Who is the target audience?

I wrote this book for pastoral staff and lay leaders.  

What motivated you to write the book?

I wanted to encourage church leaders to consider these questions about disciplemaking, but I also wanted to provide a resource that is easily readable. Pastors are very busy, so I wanted to offer something to help them, not burden them.  

What biblical teachings concerning discipleship are most often neglected or misunderstood by the Church today?

We know we need to make disciples and equip the saints (Matt 28, Eph 4), but too many believers have a story similar to mine: Our churches did not always intentionally help us grow. We have often had to figure out Christian growth on our own.  

What challenges often inhibit a culture of discipleship in the local church, and what practical steps can church leaders take to move toward healthy discipleship practices?


  1. Many leaders themselves have never been discipled.  
  2. Discipleship means accountability to the Body of Christ, and many believers have never known that requirement.  
  3. Churches have simply assumed that if their members attend faithfully, they will somehow develop into strong believers — and that is not often the case. The image I use is this: We have the puzzle pieces of discipleship lying around, but we have not put the puzzle together well.  

Steps to take: 

  1. As leaders, make sure we have others who are still mentoring/discipling us — regardless of how old we are or how long we have been believers.  
  2. Determine what we believe a disciple of Christ should be, and begin to work in that direction with others.  
  3. Be okay with discipling just a few to get started. Churches change when individual members change.  

What is distinctive about this guide to creating a biblical discipleship model and process in the local church?

This book does not necessarily lay out a full strategy — but that is not the goal. The goal is to help churches start somewhere in producing the next generation of disciples and disciplemakers. Even one step in the right direction is a starting point.  

What are a few takeaways you hope readers will understand that will enable them to more faithfully serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission?

  1. Unless we truly work at disciplemaking, our churches will only be baby believers leading other baby believers.  
  2. Doing the Great Commission demands intentionality, both in prayer and strategy. We cannot assume our churches are producing strong followers of Jesus.  
  3. Each one of us who is a Christ-follower can — and must — play a role in making disciples.  

How has studying discipleship and creating this resource for church leaders shaped you spiritually?

I have been reminded of my own responsibility to be investing in others. I have mentored believers for years, but I sometimes get so busy I do not give this task the attention I should. 



Disciple: How to Create a Community That Develops Passionate and Healthy Followers of Jesus

Can you identify the key qualities of a committed, passionate, and healthy disciple of Jesus? Chuck Lawless, a respected professor, pastor, and church consultant, discovered that many pastors haven’t thought deeply about that question. He wrote this book to provide answers and transform churches for the better.

Many church leaders know their communities well and who they are aiming to make disciples of Christ. But too often they haven’t thoroughly articulated their goals and painted a vision for what a disciple looks like within their specific communities. In this book, Chuck Lawless provides a model for church leaders to build committed disciples of Christ.

November 8, 2022

Hardcover, 112 pages

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