EP 183 – OVERCOMING DISCIPLESHIP BARRIERS
The Bootcamp Bros are joined by none other than, Walker Armstrong, Associational Mission Strategist, stopped by the bootcamp during the Replant Practitioner Training and joined us for chat about Discipleship. Walker and the guys spent time talking about some of the barriers commonly experienced in the effort to make disciples in the local church. Here are some of the barriers:
- Human Ego
- Spiritual Consumerism
- Organizational Complexity
- Theistic Pragmatism
- Programmatic Ossification
- Truncated Vision
Check out the rest of the podcast for the details and while you are at it, drop us a line and let us know your thoughts, challenges. Remember to rate the bootcamp on your favorite podcast platform.
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JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] All right, here we are back at the bootcamp. Bob, I hope you’re ready for the next episode. AMS edition, as we get to do each year here at the Omni Hotel. And we gather with, youth camp, summer camp of am S’S like we get to do every year.
Bob Bickford: I
know the doms, director of missions for those of our boot campers who are not quite sure what a d OM or an AMS is.
Associational missional, strateg. , these are individuals who work at the local city level to, help churches fulfill their mission.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
Bob Bickford: general. So, so we’ve been doing this event for six years and we started it at, the headquarters in Alpharetta. Uh, cuz Jimbo, you and I do work for the North
JimBo Stewart: American
We do, we work for the North Amer, north
American Mission Board Time gig.
Bob Bickford: Uh, this podcast was a hobby
JimBo Stewart: we don’t make, we lose money on this
Bob Bickford: we do man. Like I. I think I looked at my Venmo receipts from paying for it, uh, some of the technology the other day at this. But, yeah, we we’re losing money. So send money. Send money. Help
[00:01:00] us out.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
And we’ve got one of our favorite AM SS Walker Armstrong, the man who hails from the land
Bob Bickford: and tobacco
JimBo Stewart: product. Tobacco
Walker Armstrong: products.
Yes. And smokeless ones
JimBo Stewart: Texas P
Walker Armstrong: sauce. That’s right. Garner
JimBo Stewart: There All right. So we got Walker here with US Walker. Welcome
Walker Armstrong: It’s
great to be,
JimBo Stewart: Hey, you recently retired, so you’re, now, you’re not even, you’re an
Walker Armstrong: Yeah. Almost retired. Uh, almost retired. Yeah. My search team is hot on the trail. Well some folks and, and they gave me the heads up that probably end
they had End
Somebody to present. Yeah.
Okay. Well, Congratulations.
some things that you’ve been writing, uh, on your way out.
You’re going out big and I mean, you went out changing the name
your association, you went [00:02:00] out writing some
Bob Bickford: stuff about
Walker Armstrong: discipleship and we want to talk to you about that. On the bootcamp, one of the things we talk about often is just the, how central discipleship is to church replanting
and revitalization, because ultimately it’s a spiritual
work and it matters far more the spiritual health of the people than the systematic health
Mm-hmm. , but one of the things you sent us is you talk about some of.
challenges for leading a disciple making movement, and I think most of our listeners would want a disciple making movement in their church. Well, you know, when [00:03:00] you think about, uh, not just merely discipleship, but a disciple making movement, you’re obviously, postulating this idea that you even moved beyond your church. that you wanna see something not only, vitalize or revitalize your church, and, and get it in alignment with God’s mission, but you also wanna see something go beyond your church. And in order to do that, pastors have to get outta the way, and one of the ways they have to get outta the way is to say, it’s not all about me.
Uh, I’ve gotta train leaders that train leaders, that train leaders, that disciple people, and that ultimately, , I would hope. It’s our expectation that we think of every member being a disciple and making disciples. but for that to happen, a pastor’s gotta look beyond themselves, bring in more gifted leaders than themselves in some ways.
And that’s hard to do, especially for the average size Southern Baptist Church, which, uh, right now I think it’s around 80 on a Sunday morning. typically those pastors, [00:04:00] have a number of roles, because. size of their church. But it’s very important to think beyond yourself, to even, get the ball moving.
Bob Bickford: Walker, one of the things that a disciple has to do is actually follow Jesus, right? If we’re talking about Christian
discipleship, and, seems to me there’s a verse Luke 9 23 that says, we gotta do something if we’re gonna follow Jesus.
And that’s died itself. And you, you mentioned that’s a hard thing for us
JimBo Stewart: right?
Yeah. So the second challenge you mentioned is
Walker Armstrong: Mm-hmm. .
Yeah. I mean, so spiritual consumerism. Is that the church Is there. To scratch an itch for attendees and members. The church is there, to make people comfortable. The church is there, to answer all their questions about all the issues in their lives.
And while the Bible is imminently practical, It’s in, in a sense, it challenges our very core beliefs about who we are and who we believe God is [00:05:00] and who we believe other people are. And spiritual consumerism is really about trying to market or trying to pinpoint, and in some cases even manipulate people so that if you meet a need, they give you loyalty.
JimBo Stewart: what
do you think motivates the leadership of the church?
For my observations, the idea of consumerism is almost like this seductive magnetic pool for the leadership. Like
easier to appeal to the istic mentality than it is
Walker Armstrong: Well, I mean, you know, Bob just mentioned it. discipleship is about transformation, about ongoing transformation. and transformation requires that you take a hard look at.
and that means that you have to die to things that you formally or maybe currently, consider to be essential, essential to your life.
And so, it’s not a big deal to attend, a church service twice a month. but it’s [00:06:00] a bigger deal to be on mission with God and to surrender your life to God daily, so that you can be in sync with his will. And so,
spiritual consumerism, easy
believism, things like that.
Prosperity Gospel is all about, getting people to, appreciate what you
at a very superficial level,
so that you can obtain funding, support, et
Bob Bickford: Walker you
the material you sent us, that sometimes the way
Our church, the way we do church together, the stuff that we’re doing leads to a level of a, a lot of activity. And I think you used the word organizational complexity, right? So does that mean
doing stuff that is really not producing disciples all the time, or we’re doing too mu too many things or we’re not doing the right things?
Like how would you unpack
Walker Armstrong: that’s a, that’s a great question, Bob. I think the [00:07:00] simplest, and in a way, clearest definition I heard of a disciple is someone who’s growing
And so there are many things
to do that. not picking on one particular program or one or one particular organizational structure, but what happens is, we add ministries on top of other ministries over
and then years later we don’t even remember
JimBo Stewart: they.
Walker Armstrong: there.
Hmm. man, all of us in the room know that when it comes to replant or revitalization, you gotta kill some sacred
JimBo Stewart: And,
Walker Armstrong: the people that defend that don’t even know why that was started
JimBo Stewart: first
Walker Armstrong: place.
so I think that complexity is all about, you know, adding layers of organizational struggle without even really understanding the purpose behind it.
And the big alignment question is how does this help us make disciples? Mm-hmm.
JimBo Stewart: When
I think about programs like that, one of the things I think about is, at our church that God
part of replanting.
on Sunday [00:08:00] nights they continued to do,
and there was like one kid coming for a whole RA and GA program.
change something and so we, we adjusted the way that we handle children’s. But
also recognize that there are some things we lost with that, missions education
praying for missionaries
do we evaluate,
how do we, how does the re planter look at all the programs going and evaluate where are we in organizational complexity and where do we need to change some things in order to make sure we’re actually helping people become more like
Walker Armstrong: I just thought about when you had that question. Jimbo is, I was an interim in a church in a, in a rural area of North Carolina. And a friend of mine who worked association put me in the midst of these people, and I, I didn’t know why I was what I was doing there. And so I met with a search team in the Deacons at a Wendy’s
get a frost? Man, I got fries, I got chili, and I got a cheeseburger if I remember correctly. And, uh, so I, if that was my last meeting with them, they were paying. So,
That’s just how I roll. I can’t help it, you know, if you’re gonna pay for my
yeah, no, I’m piling
on. It’s a go box you know. Wow. Yeah. Walker spent $24
How did he do it? Well, that’s
JimBo Stewart: yeah. so,
Bob Bickford: not
JimBo Stewart: man. You
Walker Armstrong: spin,
JimBo Stewart: Look, when I when
I was in
that my wife
iron on handmade
a poor college student, I would walk to the Wendy’s by our college
junior bacon cheeseburger
dollar and it just would
day that I
for a dollar.
Walker Armstrong: Exactly. So these, these people were meeting and I said, uh, do you have a living will for the church?
They said, what are you talking about? I said, well, do you have a living will for. And they said, yeah, so what do you have a living will [00:10:00] for the church? What it means? So, so if this church goes under, what are you gonna do with the property? And that just startled them.
because they were heading fast towards that.
And I said, if you call me as your interim or transition pastor, here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna strip everything away except
that’s what I need to
And so we’re not gonna do, Wu and, Babon Mission and Bab men because everybody in that small church was on like 16 different committees.
Yeah. and 16 committees. Yeah. Yeah. And so you say, okay, let’s do Sunday school. Let’s do worship. I’ll do a discipleship training thing on Sunday night and Wednesday we’re just gonna eat
That’s all we’re we’re gonna shut down all
And I said, if
And so they did it. And the church began to slowly thaw
and, reengage. and so
I think with organizational complexity and programmatic ossification, things like that, you have to say, if we really asked ourselves [00:11:00] and we’re serious, How does this directly impact making disciples?
If it really doesn’t, you know, do we have, should
Bob Bickford: That’s so good. I mean, we can hang on to things and keep, and I’m, I’m fearful that I’m doing this in my house walker. There’s junk in my house. I need to get rid.
hanging onto it,
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
Walker Armstrong: For
JimBo Stewart: $5,000,
Bob Bickford: Bob, I
That’s a lot.
I don’t have that
jump, man. Come on
Walker Armstrong: Anna Wendy’s. Yeah. Yeah.
Bob Bickford: At
So you mentioned something that, is,
interesting to me
when you said
barrier. , for discipleship. And you even said the, the word sticky wicked, which I like that word.
phrase. I don’t
hear that often.
one of the,
a church pursuing a discipling culture is theistic pragmatism. can
Walker Armstrong: Well, I mean, a lot of people, a lot, some people have written about this already, [00:12:00] you know, as comparison to the true gospel, right? That Theistic pragmatism in his essence is about, that God
to make your
So here are the seven steps to have a better marriage. Here are the 13
steps to be a
And, and so that’s a gradual drift
instead of, Jesus Christ came, he lived a perfect life. He died on the cross, for your behalf. He rose again. He sits in the right hand of the Father.
He’s come again, and this is all about
it changes you and how then you get to participate in something
that’s bigger than
Theistic pragmatism really fits into spiritual consumerism too, in that, that they’re kind of hand in glove. That one of the ways you feed, spiritual consumerism is by a theistic pragmatic model of how you preach
and how you
And it’s all about helping people get
fixed in the short
[00:13:00] counsel on, you know how God can touch every single area of your life. Right. But it’s, it’s not at the core of our faith. The gospel’s
at the core
And so when it comes to disciple making, what happens is, we begin to develop this idea that disciples are people that are good at this and good at that, instead of God’s
And so if you’re a disciple, you’re a safe sinner and you’re in progress. Yeah. And if your discipleship strategy doesn’t fit that in there, then it’s, you know, men’s ministry, I love men’s ministries, but they, they become kind of theistic pragmatism, you know, how can you love your wife better?
Well, that’s very important,
Bob Bickford: Right. Well,
a MEC centered,
Walker Armstrong: Jesus
Bob Bickford: discipleship.
Walker Armstrong: That’s right.
JimBo Stewart: Well,
power of the gospel.
somebody say one
Walker Armstrong: Yeah.
Great way to put it. I never thought, but that’s a great way, you know, and some, some of our guys do 45 minute Ted talks, at least they could take a hint that they, that most Ted talks are 18 minutes, but our guys do 45 minute Ted talks and
JimBo Stewart: hear?
you’re gonna talk for 45
Walker Armstrong: in, man. I
JimBo Stewart: I would
Walker Armstrong: would hope
JimBo Stewart: hope so.
Walker Armstrong: so.
JimBo Stewart: One of
Bob Bickford: that
JimBo Stewart: Well,
a business consultant.
Yeah, so this is this, this feels
Walker Armstrong: Well, well, you know,
I’m getting older, right. And, uh, I have ossification happening all
and I’m sad to say, and what it [00:15:00] means is I’m stiffer and you know, I move slower.
I think slower. And it’s because my body is aging. And so with churches, what happens oftentimes, at least in my experience, is that they see this in a church down the
And it’s like they see this church doing experience in God.
experience in God
and there’s no semblance of a moving strategy a, a cogent
like grab bag.
Yep. You know? Yep. And so with prog, uh, programmatic ossification, what happens
that these programs. Or these ministries become an
Um, but then people aren’t fired up about anymore. You know, you just have a handful of people that are doing it.
you know, a very, uh, old
Bob Bickford: a
Walker Armstrong: contract
Bob Bickford: right
Walker Armstrong: for doing stuff like
this. we don’t
Yeah. No, but here’s what I’ll say is that anything,
You know? And
are, are we willing, you know, to, to hold things loosely and saying,
need to move
The people that don’t wanna move on are clinging to something that’s stale and rust. .
does it have
Bob Bickford: man.
JimBo Stewart: lock in
Walker Armstrong: year life.
he absolutely did. I know, I used to think about, you know, I was at a huge church and I, and I did one with 88, junior high students one time and we took ’em to like, to the Y M C A and
ate junk food.
And I brought this friend, mark. Uh, uh, along with me and, and he said, I, I’m kind of interested in youth minister. Said, well, come on, jump into [00:17:00] this mark. And at the end of the, when Roland when morning rolled around, he is like, I
JimBo Stewart: don’t know, Walker.
It’s not for me.
not for me.
Hey, I lied.
There was a, there was a six obstacle that you list to us. Uh, it says A six obstacle difficulty in leading a disciple making movement is
because disciple making is a person
Enterprise. Many leaders. Feel that it will be too small or move too slowly to make a significant difference.
Talk to us about how a, what is a truncated vision and
Walker Armstrong: movement?
Well, I think all these things, and, and you probably can see they’re all interrelated. Yeah. They’re connected, by truncated vision is
the Bible says don’t despise
the day of small things,
Mm-hmm. , so,
the greatest movement ever known a man was a
Jesus has initiated. And when the spirit came
wasn’t 6,000. There were, there was 120 people. And the spirit fell
[00:18:00] individuals, and they were empowered to speak languages.
They had not learned
the gospel. And then Peter Batted cleanup and just said, let me explain to
so, so I, I think that truncated vision
case is, , uh, in regards to disciple making
Yeah. And it’s, since
anything big, I’m
with having them make the commitment that each of them
so that’s slow growth, right? That’s, that’s not
But you know, the power, of exponential, exponential multiplication is man, you know, by the time
truncated vision is case, is that we reduce discipleship to a [00:19:00] program, we reduce it, you know, to, to something only big churches
with big staffs
Bob Bickford: Yeah.
Right. I mean, most relation,
all about relationship. Amen.
in con yeah, in the context
Walker Armstrong: life.
Bob Bickford: doing
life together, talking about what’s going on in your life and, and just meeting to talk over God’s
in my life
I can think of one discipleship setting where we used a resource that was the springboard for great conversation and study, and that was experiencing God Yeah.
Right. And, and I met with older guys and, and
we do that,
I, I think of a lot of dec youth discipleship things where we got together and we filled in
know, went, ran around, did stupid stuff afterwards. Right. So that
That was like
Walker Armstrong: buy time
get a pizza.
But you know, when I got saved, I got saved. 18, I was raised in church. I
[00:20:00] understand the
personal implications of
and I went to this bible study that this pharmacist in town in Ashburn, North Carolina, named Stan Haywood, who’s in heaven now. Uh, he led this milk to meat.
Of navigators and we’re just opening up the Bible, talking and hanging out. And so I got saved along with two of my best friends.
then we, Friday night we weren’t partying, partying
and we’d sit there for like an hour. He had waited on customers and we said, what
JimBo Stewart: about
Walker Armstrong: And
had opened up
And for that whole summer, after three of us got saved, that’s what we did almost every Friday night
JimBo Stewart: Uh,
Bob Bickford: life.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I was talking with a pastor recently
rural church, six to 10 people attending on
morning. He’s working 50 hours a week
secular job, and his worship leader just got an argument with the leader
missions ministry and, and, and [00:21:00] the worship leader is, is gone
Walker Armstrong: And
And they can’t find
Bob Bickford: dead or gone. like
Walker Armstrong: find his body.
JimBo Stewart: he’s
left It wa it wasn’t
because of this lady . And
the pastor, I said, uh, so we doing about
Did I get
announced since I’m you
the, small group,
disciple anybody. And I said, well, hold on. I said, you know, let’s talk about this. I said, here’s what
actually the job, right?
Is, is so let’s find some other people to do announcements. Appointed
and just said, look, let’s, let’s
as possible. And is there one guy
to the. [00:22:00]
sit down with
Uh, and he said, yeah.
he goes, well,
I said, okay. So his AMS was there with me and I
AMS and I said,
been discipled? Because I, I, before I had agreed to get him to disciple him, I need to make
and he said, yes.
I said, okay. Would you agree
member or two.
quicker than you leading worship, doing announcements, leading bible study
Bob Bickford: and
JimBo Stewart: trust
Bob Bickford: man who won’t trust
man. Right. So
that, and there’s
why did [00:23:00] we lose a
of disciple makers?
Right. Tracy back
answer it right.
so bootcampers like,
us, leave us a comment.
Drop us an email. Let
if you know
JimBo Stewart: a
Oh, well, it’s, here’s the last thing I would say you is,
here’s here’s the good news.
So much of ministry
pastoral ministry, you end
I mean, you’re negotiating copier leases and
dealing with angry members, and, uh, if you’ll commit to 30 minutes
an hour of every week to sit down with the Bible open and disciple
everything else in
of just sitting in
word with another believer
Walker Armstrong: Yeah, yeah.
you know, keep
on the prize.
transf? ,that’s the
prize. And in addition to that
so then you become more relational in your, in your evangelism approach. Uh, you definitely become more relational in your, in your view of disciple making. It’s not just
Um, and then, you know, you, it is gotta be, uh, replicable. It’s, it’s got to, uh, be something that Joe, who’s a.
street, uh, can
done it for
mean, you think about,
know, we don’t even
know, we don’t even think about
in the early
used it. [00:25:00]
Bob Bickford: We’re,
JimBo Stewart: we’re,
Walker Armstrong: of
more resources. Yeah. And it, the problem we have is not
practical commitment and the wholehearted commitment of saying, I’m
to do the
JimBo Stewart: Walker,
again. Sure. We