Basic Training… for Effective Disciple-Making!

In two weeks, our youngest will return home from Basic Training. Back in the Spring, she enlisted in the Army Reserves, and her Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri began in late Summer. After three and a half months away, she will return home a different person. She will return home a soldier. We’re proud parents. Her training has been intense. She’s learned new skills. Her character has been tested. New ways of thinking and behaving are being drilled into her. They even spent a day in the classroom with a financial planner learning the basics about being wise with money.

As I think of the intensity and the intentionality of her Basic Training experience, I’m reminded of just how critical it is that we prioritize equipping in our ministries. The sad truth, though, is that most ministries don’t prioritize equipping. We think preaching equals equipping, and because of this, we have ministries filled with ill-equipped leaders and students. 

In Sonlife’s 4 Chair Discipling training, we look at the process of becoming a disciple who makes disciples. What is our focus as we minister to the people in each of these chairs?

Chair 1 WIN the Lost

Chair 2 BUILD the Believer

Chair 3 EQUIP the Worker

Chair 4 MULTIPLY the Disciple-Maker

We’d like to believe we do well with Chair 1. We put a great deal of focus on Chair 2. We think Chair 3 is happening, but it’s probably not. As a result, usually the only people we have in Chair 4 are the ones we inherit, not the ones we develop. Maybe someone was a part of a dynamic ministry in another church, or they were trained up under a college ministry like CRU, and as a result they come to us with “boot camp” experiences that have equipped them as a disciple-maker. Years ago, Sonlife did a study and found that 87% of the ministries surveyed had targeted 100% of their programs toward Chair 2. We call it the 87% problem!

How do we avoid the 87% problem? It’s going to require both intentionality and intensity.


We must ruthlessly evaluate everything we do through the lens of the Four Chairs, asking, “What is the primary purpose of this program? Who is our primary target audience? Is it the Lost, Believer, Worker, or Disciple-Maker?”


We must courageously implement changes to bring disciple-making balance to our programming. Sometimes, this only requires minor tweaks. Often though, it will require the courage to sacrifice some sacred cows for the sake of disciple-making. My guess is that after careful examination, you’ll find that your most glaring weakness comes in the area of equipping. If this is the case, then…


We must make sure that we properly understand equipping. In the Army’s Basic Training regimen, there is classroom time, but there’s also PT (physical training), skill training and job training. When it comes to developing disciples, we too need to understand that some learning can take place in the classroom, but real equipping leaves the classroom for practical experience. I think back to Rich, who discipled me in high school. He didn’t teach me how to share my faith by doing a Bible study on evangelism. He took me to the mall, modeled initiating and engaging others in gospel conversations, and then had me step out in faith and practice sharing myself. It’s why we incorporate disciple-making experiences in our ReVerb and ReMix training for students, and why XJ will send students out on the streets of Chicago next Summer to practice sharing their faith.

Using the balance of training that the Army applies during Basic Training, we could look at PT as training in the spiritual disciplines of Bible study and prayer; skill training as the tools and techniques in evangelism, apologetics and new believer follow-up; job training as the identification and development of spiritual gifts. We need to think through how to intentionally incorporate all of this, which is why…


We must carefully and prayerfully develop our MAP, a Ministry Action Plan, that strategically incorporates equipping into the flow and fabric of our ministry. Do you have a “Ministry Team?” When and how will you train your Ministry Team? When and how will you use your Ministry Team? In the past, youth pastors have required any student who goes on a mission trip with them to first be equipped through an event like XJ. Maybe that’s a place to start. Many strategic thinking youth pastors use a late Summer or early Fall retreat for their Ministry Team as a time for training and planning to prepare for the upcoming year. Are there big events in your ministry calendar? Think through how you can intentionally incorporate equipping events that lead up to and prepare your ministry for the big event.


Now might not be the time of year to insert one more thing, an equipping event, into your calendar. But now is the time to look ahead to the next year and think through when and how you will intentionally bring intensity to your equipping efforts. Put it on your calendar now! Contact one of our Sonlife Team about coming in this Winter or Spring to train your leaders and students in 4 Chair Discipling or Foundations. Speak with our team about bringing the Strategy Seminar to your church or denominational network. Make plans now to attend the Disciple-making Summit in January, or to bring students to XJ next Summer.

Whatever you do, don’t be a part of the 87% problem! Prioritize equipping. When you do, you’ll find that your efforts to Win the Lost and Build the Believer will be met with increasing effectiveness because you have an army of equipped disciple-makers joining you in your mission-critical efforts.