Jesus didn’t arrange his followers in little rows and ask them to complete fill-in-the-blank worksheets. He knew that discipleship was much more than an academic exercise.

After modeling how to actually make disciples, Jesus left us with the challenge to “make disciples of all nations.” So how is his church doing with that endeavor, after 2,000 years? Well, not too great, according to today’s church leaders. A Barna Research Group study reported that “only 1 percent say today’s churches are doing very well at discipling new and young believers.”

Maybe our old well-intentioned methodology has something to do with it. Trying to create disciples with a 6-week classroom lecture series isn’t working. Neither is a month of sermons.

Rick Lawrence, author of The Jesus-Centered Life, says the problem begins with how we define discipleship. “How much you know is how we (typically) define discipleship,” he says in today’s Holy Soup podcast. Rick contrasts that with how Jesus went about making disciples. He says Jesus was trying to capture their hearts more than their heads. 

Rick points to John 15:15 as a significant turning point. Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants…I have called you friends.” Being a true disciple is different than being in a master-servant arrangement. Jesus is looking for a close, intimate relationship–a deep friendship with us.

So if that’s what Jesus wants, how can we encourage that? We do that by engaging in a process that looks more like friendship-building. Rick asked, “What if we mapped it to a growing, intimate relationship rather than a growing body of knowledge?” Rick, along with a creative team, followed that concept in the creation of a new resource for churches called Friends of God: A Discipleship Experience, just released.

Hear more from Rick as he describes the kind of friendship with Jesus that his first disciples found, that meant they couldn’t imagine being apart from him. Listen here: