Benefactor or Discipler? How are you leading?

Last week we made a frank assessment of the western church, particularly in regards to consumerism and how this has seeped into our perception of church. You can the read post here if you haven’t already.

We left you with 3 questions at the end of the blog and in this post we want to look a little more closely at 1 of those challenges.

#Are you re-producing disciples or producing church consumers?

In order to move away from consumer church, we need to reflect on how we are choosing to live (as disciples) and lead (as disciplers). Jesus’ commission to us is ‘Go and make disciples.’ This is our starting point if we want to be disciples who make disciples, rather than leaders who produce church consumers.

One of the key revelations that pastors often have at a 3dm Learning Community is the realisation that they’ve been functioning as benefactors to their congregations. In this environment there is mutual expectation from both pastor and congregation that the pastor’s role is to provide what the people need spiritually, and pastorally. The congregation can quickly become dependent upon the pastor to provide all they need. Often these leaders have reflected that this wasn’t an intentional choice or the result of one particular decision; rather a gradual, unseen process that they were unconsciously reinforcing.

If we’re to move away from the provider/client model we need to think about how Jesus related to his disciples. Rather than acting as a “classroom teacher” towards them, he modelled a lifestyle and apprenticed them in it. Rather than acting as “benefactor” towards them, he created a culture of both support and challenge. This essentially means that he invited his disciples into relationship with Him, whilst also challenging behaviour and beliefs which weren’t in line with the Kingdom.

As we move away from the “benefactor” role and engage with this challenge to lead as Jesus did, we need to create the space to live and lead differently. Many of us will need to remove unnecessary management of our churches or, at the very least, restructure our diaries and relationships. Rather than investing a very small amount in a lot, we choose to invest a lot in a few. We therefore need to be prayerfully strategic in our choice of disciples. We allow these “few” disciples to see our whole life; how we relate to God, how we relate to our spouse, our family, our friends, and how we respond to what life throws at us. We disciple people through the way we live out our life, rather than just what we teach or say.

 This can be costly and challenging.

But as we begin to see those whom we choose to disciple begin to disciple others we really begin to see God at work as this discipleship culture permeates throughout the church.  We may feel less “in control” of what is happening in our churches as we release others to do more. This is a good thing! We can release control whilst still maintaining accountability through relationship and by using simple “huddle” structures (we’ll explain this structure in a future post).

In his latest post for our sister blog, the 3dm US blog, Paul Maconochie outlined 3 targets for leaders moving towards a discipleship culture:

  • Rather than providing pastoral care, we should be building a culture and supporting structures so that our people care for each other.
  • Rather than providing spiritual food, we should be equipping our people to access God’s Word and receive food from Jesus directly.
  • Rather than making people into clients for what we provide, we should be making disciples who can in turn go and make disciples.

We do our job of making disciples and let Jesus do His job of building the church.


We have to embrace this challenge to change the way we live and lead.  Creating a culture where disciples are reproduced, rather than one of church consumers will not just ‘happen’. Shifting from a provider/client mentality prevalent in the consumer church to a discipleship culture may not be easy but if we want to re-create a culture that reflects the early church it is our only option.

A few questions for you –

Is your life worth imitating?

Is anyone close enough to see it firsthand?

Do you know who you are investing in?

In the next post we will introduce you to a tool that we’ve found helpful to create a discipleship culture with a healthy balance of Invitation & Challenge


We recognise that this is a huge mindset shift for both church leaders and congregation; most church infrastructures are set up for the provider/client model.

 This is why, as we support churches through transition, the minimum period is 2 years and the whole transition process usually takes between 3-5 years.  For more information about this transition process click here


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