The urgency of discipleship and a review of “Real Life Discipleship”

One of the main reasons I read Jim Putman’s Real Life Discipleship is that it had been given to me as part of a promotional package from the publisher. However, I’d been on the hunt for discipleship materials for study and implementation by our church as we prepped for a summer series called “Building a Discipleship Culture.” I stumbled across the book on Amazon and was really interested when I learned of Avery Willis’ influence in Putman’s ministry and church. Willis is the author of the Masterlife series of discipleship books that were hugely popular in the 1970s as a tool for leading people to spiritual maturity. Willis passed away in July 2010, and he left a legacy of devotion to discipleship in the church.

I sensed I’d found the book I needed to digest. I wasn’t disappointed.

Before I proceed, let me just a few things about the church and discipleship.

  1. Churches should be proactive, intentional and focused on discipleship.
  2. Discipleship is not arbitrary one-on-one or small group meetings that discuss spiritual principles or read books together.
  3. Discipleship should be thought of as the deliberate process of leading individuals and churches to spiritual maturity. We use Colossians 1.28 as a key verse:
    “…that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”
  4. If you as a spiritual leader are hung up on finding the perfect tool to use in discipleship, you will be forever spinning your wheels.
  5. The urgency of beginning far exceeds the implentation of a perfect tool. So pick a tool and begin. Write your own stuff later.

Putman’s material helpfully provides a way of assessing where people are in their spiritual growth process. He uses the following “stages” of development:

  • Spiritually dead
  • Spiritual infant
  • Child
  • Young Adult
  • Parent

RLD uses four key terms to describe the strategy used with people at different levels to lead them to further growth.

  • SHARE: Spiritually Dead & Infant
  • CONNECT: Child
  • MINISTER: Young Adult
  • DISCIPLE: Parent

We reproduced the main image the book uses for our folks to better understand how we are to respond and engage people in each stage of spiritual growth.

After digesting the book and much of the accompanying workbook, I recommend it as a fantastic tool for individual and corporate use.

Our churches are full of spiritual infants and children. In many cases, what appear as young adults zealously serving are actually less mature people who are only serving as a result of being asked to help or “fill a slot.” The American church suffers from a maturity deficiency, and yet, that is the very thing that its pastors and leaders have been called to lead people to.

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children…” (Ephesians 4.11-14)

So let’s get intentionally busy and focused about sharing the depth of the Father’s love with His children.

Other discipleship resources to consider

I’ve had personal experience and used the following materials with success. Again, it’s not finding a perfect tool. It’s just using one that’s important. I suspect that you or your church will gravitate toward one that fits your collective personality and culture.

In addition, Jason Dukes, author of Live Sent, has a great entry about books being used by actual disciple makers.

Leave a comment about what materials or process are you using in your personal life or ministry that you’ve seen bear fruit.

On this day...


  1. whimzie says:
    We moved from South Carolina to Louisiana the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school. For several months before that move, I was discipled by a college girl from my church (or maybe she had just graduated). My student pastor had put us together. We read Chuck Swindoll’s _Improving Your Serve_ together and met at least weekly to talk about what we’d read. We memorized scripture together and she took me to lunch and to swim in her pool, etc. She became like a big sister to me.

    Those few months with Tammy were hugely influential in my walk. I was a church kid who knew all the right answers. But to have more mature Christian sister get in the trenches with me and invest in me? It was huge and I honestly believe I’m still reaping the dividends.

    We didn’t have super formal structured program, but that experience showed me the importance of discipleship and investing in the lives of other believers.

  2. Jeff says:
    That’s so awesome that you had someone like that. That’s essentially what we’ve been doing in our church and will continue doing – pairing up folks in one-on-one or 2s and 3s for mentoring relationships. We are also wanting, though, to communicate corporately that it’s not ok not to grow.

    We’re still developing our processes, but we want them to be relational and intentional, biblical and gracious. We’d appreciate your prayers as we continue to grow forward!

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