Review: Real-Life Discipleship

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I first started hearing about Real Life Ministries back in 2007 when Avery Willis came by the Lifetogether office to talk about his latest project.  The fast growing church in Post Falls, Idaho was and is an amazing story.  When Avery mentioned that they had about the same number of people in groups as they had at their weekend service he had my attention.  When he began telling me a few of their core discipleship expectations I was more than a little intrigued.

Senior Pastor Jim Putman’s first book, Church Is a Team Sport, told the story of how Real Life Ministries began and describes their transition from a ministry near burnout from the personal load on the staff to one of watching God work through the congregation.  His most recent book, Real-Life Discipleship: building churches that make disciples was written to “show how Real Life Ministries makes and trains disciples.”

Written in three parts (Setting the Stage for Discipleship, Mastering the Discipleship Process, and Letting Disciples Emerge as Leaders), Real-Life Discipleship thoroughly describes the intentional, relational and strategic pattern of making disciples at Real Life Ministries.  The pattern is taken straight out of the Gospels and described in detail as share, connect, minister, and disciple (SCMD).

In describing the stages of a disciple’s growth, Putman introduces the pattern of spiritually dead, spiritual infant, spiritual child, spiritual young adult and spiritual parents and illustrates the concept with a diagram he calls the spiritual growth wheel.  It’s a helpful reference that he comes back to a number of times.

Part Two, Mastering the Discipleship Process, teases out the practices that introduce the element of intentionality.  The five chapters provide detail to the concepts and strategies behind:

  • moving the spiritually dead toward life (share)
  • nurturing spiritual infants (share)
  • guiding spiritual infants (connect)
  • training young adults (minister)
  • releasing spiritual parents (disciple)

What you have to appreciate about Real-Life Discipleship is the book’s thorough description of the practices that will move people through the stages of spiritual life.  For example, the chapter on nurturing spiritual infants provides rich detail on recognizing spiritual infants, meeting the needs of a spiritual infant, and many of the specific steps a discipleship process will need to address in helping an infant begin to move toward maturity.  The appendix provides a rich additional resource with a summary and profile of each spiritual stage.

Part Three, Letting Disciples Emerge as Leaders, is no afterthought.  For many of us, this may be prove to be one of the most important aspects of the book.  One of the great challenges in most systems is how to develop leaders of leaders.  The final two chapters of Real-Life Discipleship give and excellent overview of the kind of person that makes a leader of leaders and how to create a leadership development factory.

If you’re looking for a resource that will provide depth to your discipleship process, Real-Life Discipleship should definitely be on your radar.  This is a book that will be both challenging and instructional as it provides an under the hood look at the philosophies and practices of one the most effective churches in America.

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  1. Paul Schlieker on September 10, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    Thanks so much for providing such a practical resource. It is invaluable to have books that clearly describe the discipleship process. God bless your ministry

  2. Mark Howell on September 11, 2010 at 7:01 am

    Thanks Paul! Glad you find it helpful!


  3. Reg Overstreet on May 31, 2012 at 7:53 am

    A few of our church staff went to Immersion 1 at Real Life Ministries a couple weeks ago. It was incredible; just what we needed to fill the missing gaps in our discipleship structure. Mark, if you haven’t been, since you’re such a key source for the best resources, I would encourage you to. And would love to read your assessments of it. 

  4. Anonymous on May 31, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Thanks Reg! I’ve heard great things about Real Life’s Immersion experience. Haven’t been, but would love to at some point.


  5. Jeremy Smith on May 31, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    I am in the process of reading it now and I have definitely enjoyed the read. It is opening my eyes to how I can be more intentional about my discipleship model.

  6. Anonymous on May 31, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Thanks for jumping in here Jeremy!  Intentional is a great word for the Real Life model.  Glad you’re enjoying the read!