- What a disciple-making culture really is—and what it’s not
- Jesus’ timeless growth model
- Our call to imitate Jesus in sharing the gospel
- The scriptural truths behind disciple-making culture
- How you can equip disciple-makers
- What cultivating “connectedness” looks like today
- The background behind Brandon Guindon’s book Disciple-Making Culture
An interview with Brandon Guindon
Chad Harrington: Today, we have a special episode in our mini-series about disciple-making culture featuring Brandon Guindon. This episode is the first of five episodes that we’re doing in this series, and it’s all about cultivating a disciple-making culture in your church or ministry. So Discipleship.org partnered together with Him Publications to release Brandon Guindon’s new book about cultivating thriving disciple-makers throughout your whole church. And it’s called, you guessed it, Disciple-Making Culture. You know, many people talk about making disciples on an individual basis, which is good, but this book takes a step back and maybe even goes further, and it looks at disciple-making from the level of church-wide culture—where making disciples is not just what you do, but it’s who you are. You can download a free visual introduction to this book, kind of a cool piece of media, when you go to himpublications.com, it’s called the Disciple-Making Culture, Visual Introduction, download it at himpublications.com. Now for today’s special episode with Brandon Guindon, we’re going to introduce this topic. Brandon’s going to define disciple-making culture: what it is, what it is not, why it is so important, and what it takes to get there as a church. Brandon Guindon: My name is Brandon. I’m the senior pastor at Real Life Ministries, Texas, and we are located in the Northwest part of Houston in a town called Tomball, Texas.
Disciple-Making CultureChad: Okay. And Brandon, we talk a lot about discipleship, disciple-making, and then there’s disciple-making culture. And that’s really what we’re talking about today. So I know you’ve got a book that’s out called Disciple-Making Culture, and so we wanted to press into that. What exactly are we talking about when we say disciple-making culture? Brandon: That’s a great question. I think that’s a question that a lot of pastors, leaders, people in the church, probably when a lot of people listening to our podcast, kind of circle around that question about what is a disciple-making culture. How do we live this out within the context of our church? And I was passionate, and passionate about culture, because I believe that Jesus created a culture in which disciple-making happened, and to simplify it, what I’ve learned is to simply say:
Culture, it’s who you are; it’s the values that you believe, but also the actions that you live out.
I mean, culture really is the way that you live things out. It’s something that goes beyond, you know, what we write in a bulletin or what we paint on the wall, the lobby of a church. Culture is the way you do things. Jesus created a culture that the Twelve and the others around him experienced. And so I’m passionate about that, that we understand that to intentionally make disciples, we have to be able to create a culture in which it can happen. And as I said, it’s, it’s who you are. It’s what you live out in the day-to-day, natural life of the church. Chad: Yeah. Brandon. And I think that that emphasis, and the simplicity of what you’re saying, is really true. And it hits home for a lot of people because I think in the church world, a lot of people are thinking, Okay, you know, what’s the next curriculum, or what’s our next sermon series? And what you’re saying in your book and what you’re saying as you teach other leaders, other church planners, other small group leaders, other discipleship ministers, whatever, whoever you’re talking about culture with, what you’re really saying is, “Hey, let’s take a step back even further and look at: Is this just something we do?” I like how you say that. Is it something we do? Or is it simply who we are? And that’s when you move from strategy or program to culture. I wanted to ask you though, just to help us frame this up, what is disciple-making culture not? Tell me about that.
Culture Is Who We AreBrandon: Well, that’s a great point that you’re making, that churches find themselves often kind of chasing the next shiny object. What is the next program, or the next curriculum that’s out there? And not that their curriculums in and of themselves are wrong or bad, or that a program is necessarily wrong, but that culture is not those programs.
Culture is not the curriculum that you teach.
Culture, again, is who you are and what you’re living out. So, as a leader, as the senior pastor of our church, wherever I go, there I am. And I influence and help create a certain culture. The curriculum that I may hand to a small group leader is not the culture. That’s, that’s simply a tool that’s used within. And so what it is not, in your question, is these programs that we do. I see so often we put so much time and effort and energy into a specific program or a specific, even a specific ministry that we might do. It might be very passionate about them and those things and that, as I said, in and of themselves, they’re not necessarily wrong, but culture is kind of around that, or it’s bigger than that, and it’s directly created by who you are and what you live out. Chad: Brandon, I want to go into kind of the motive of why this is so important, not just for you and your church, but for our listeners. So let me just ask it like this. Why is cultivating a culture of disciple-making so important? And this is as opposed to just simply making disciples as a leader in your church, right? So it’s like, okay, now that we have the vision for disciple-making and I think, you know, maybe the lead pastor, the elders, maybe the staff are starting to catch on. Maybe they’re further down the road than they were a year or two ago, but they’re still in process. What you’re talking about is actually a church culture, not a staff culture only, but I wanted to dig into why is this so important to cultivate that culture throughout your church?
What Jesus Calls Us to DoBrandon: Right. I think to answer that we have to, you know, really take a step back and go back to the Scriptures that Jesus calls us, you know, in Matthew 28, to go make disciples. The church, when we see in Acts, you know, immediately began making disciples as the church grew. Jesus calls us to be obedient. He calls us to be obedient to the things that he commands, that he calls us to. And I see again, so often in the church, is we spend so much effort and energy trying to create a new strategy, trying to create a new plan, rather than just, take a step back and go, “Let’s be obedient to what Jesus modeled, to what he lived out, to what he asked us to do, to go back to kind of those original things.” Paul says in 1 Thessalonians, I talk about this quite a bit in the book, is he, he praises the church and Thessalonica for imitating them as they had imitated Christ. Well, to imitate something, you have to know what that original is, and they were imitating what Jesus had done. And so, it’s so important to me because I believe Jesus is King, that he’s boss, he’s Lord. He is the creator of the church. He is the one that developed the methodology of how disciples are made. And I just, I think it’s incorrect, it’s disobedient thinking that we have the right to create any system of disciple-making that we want, or to implement any kind of program or strategy that we want. And again, in and of themselves, they’re not bad, but we have to—to me—to go back and go, “What did Jesus do? What is it, the original format, the original plan that he modeled?” And we need to be obedient to that because that’s what works.
His process, his methodology works because it’s his, and it’s his church.
And so, you know, you’re right. I’m super passionate about it because I think us living out and being obedient—obedient-based disciple-making—is critical. And if we want to see God’s results in our churches, then we need to do things God’s way.
Our Call to ObedienceAnd I just, I really believe strongly in challenging our listeners, challenging pastors, leaders that I come across that are stuck that are like, How do we do this? How do we live these things out? And to me, it starts at this place of, it’s who you are, living it out. You need to personally live it out, but be obedient and model, imitate, as Paul says, what Jesus already modeled for us to do. That’s why I’m so passionate about it. Chad: What I hear you saying is that it’s not just the fact that Jesus modeled this, but he also showed us how to do it. So the answer to the why question is, well, Jesus created culture. It wasn’t like he handed the disciples a rule book and said, “Alright, follow me.” He’s like, “Come be with me.” So it’s not just like, okay, Jesus did that. So now let’s go find our culture. Let’s sort of integrate the American culture, you know, in general, the bad parts of it or the sin, maybe even the sinful parts of it into sort of church culture. What you’re saying is, “No, no, no, no. Let’s look at how Jesus made disciples, like how he did it, and let’s make that who we are.” I think some people out there Brandon are tracking with you. They’re like, I’m passionate about that idea too, but they’re wondering, you know, But when the rubber hits the road, what does it actually take to get there? So, because you’ve had, you know, lots of years in ministry—I think it’s over 20 years in pastoral ministry. You’ve been a part of different church plants, you planted your own, you’ve been on teams, and you’ve been at different stages in the process. So, tell me a little bit about what it takes to, not just get there yourself or your staff, but your church.
Take a Look at Your MotivationBrandon: Yeah, I think the starting point first as a leader is, it’s a little bit of kind of a gut check, I guess, or kind of a stand in the mirror and ask yourself, you know, Do I really want to be obedient to what Jesus calls us to do? And that may require of letting go of kind of some, some things that are in the church or some things that have always been done, it’s the way it’s been done in the past, and have an honest kind of conversation with yourself and say, Do I really want to commit to Jesus’s methodology the way that he did it? Do I want to do life with people? Do I want to focus and be intentional with my time? Do I want to really allow this disciple-making to be who I am and begin building a culture around that? So, I think the first part of this that is some hard work is kind of having a conversation with yourself. And I’ve had this conversation with pastors and they say, “I am, I’m ready. I want to do this Brandon, but I don’t know how.” And you know, I think that was a portion of writing this book, of why I was passionate about it. But the part that I kind of caution people with is, I say that this is hard work. You know, even today, this morning, a person that I’m discipling, they’re dealing with some very difficult things in their life. And he’s very transparent with me and we’re kind of in the trench of the difficulties of his life. And it’s hard work walking with him through it, and we’re looking in the Scriptures and what does God’s Word say? And, and how does he navigate this? And, and it’s hard, but it takes also a discipline to stick with it. You know, my friend, Jim Putman, I’ve heard him say that, you know, pastors will stick with this as long as it grows their church. That can’t be the motivation for doing this. The motivation behind it has to be because King Jesus said so. It’s his responsibility to grow the church.
It’s my responsibility to be faithful and live out the methodology that he modeled for us.
As you said, Chad, and that takes discipline. It takes discipline to not chase the next new program. It takes discipline to continue to meet with, invest in, and disciple people that are going through really hard things in life. Even right now in the midst of COVID that’s going on, it’s difficult. We can’t meet face to face and all those things, but we’ve remained committed to disciple-making, even through using tools like Zoom, to not abandon it or give it up or to stop. But we continue to meet and talk and work on these things and focus on disciple-making.
Jesus’ Growth ModelSo, it takes kind of a gut check. Do I really want to do this? It takes hard work. It’s going to be hard to get in there and roll up the sleeves and get into people’s lives. And then it takes discipline to stick with it and to stick with it over time and to not abandon or chase the next thing that sounds like a great church growth model.
This is Jesus’ church growth model: making disciples that can make disciples.
And I just believe that we have to stick to his methodology because that’s what he gave to us to do. Chad: Yeah. And I think what you’re saying right now is a really important point, that his methodology is timeless. The way we contextualize it to our church is specific to our church. It’ll look very similar, but very different, right? In one sense, everything’s gonna look the same in disciple-making churches when it’s part of who they are, but the language, the specifics, the slight nuances are going to change from church to church, because, you know, in Texas, for example, the culture is different than where you first started ministry, which was an Idaho. Right? Chad: Which is really a cool part of your story is that you haven’t just cultivated this culture in one area of the country. You were in, you know, I guess you would call Idaho the Pacific Northwest, even though it’s not Seattle or Portland, but I grew up in Calgary, Alberta, which is just North of Idaho. And I’m like, you know, living in Tennessee, most of my life after that. And I’m like, man, there’s more, and I’ve been to Idaho. There’s more in common with Idahoans and you know, Canadians than there are Idahoans and Tennesseans, and now you’re in Texas. So, it’s like what you’ve told me about. And I think a really important point is that the context really matters. And so you’re, you’re saying it’s hard work. It takes discipline. And that is timeless. And I just want listeners to know that that’s not the only element, that’s a huge part of it, but we have to also remind people what that work looks like will be different from place to place. So.
Cultures Can Be DifferentBrandon: Correct. If I can kind of add onto that piece that you’re saying. I think an example of this is the context in Idaho. It was much easier to do multi-family things. We would have small groups there that had, you know, four or five, six, seven couples that would meet in a home. And that was easier to do. We discipled more kind of family-to-family in the context of the Pacific Northwest. When I moved to Houston, the groups that we tend to do more, not always, but we tend to do more, is more, a smaller group of four or five or six guys in a group, three, four, five, six ladies in a group. And a lot of that has to do with work schedules, commuting in the city, some of those types of things, cultural, but we also do bigger group things together, collective barbecues, collective things where we’re building community and culture, but discipling there in the Northwest seemed to be more kind of couple-to-couple. Where in the South, it tends to be almost more one-on-one or one- on-two or -three. And the consistent issue is, is yes, it takes discipline to stick with. It takes hard work. Relationships are the critical glue in both scenarios that have to be there because that’s what Jesus modeled. That’s what Jesus called us to, the relational glue is there, the face-to-face, the time, the transparency, all of those elements. And of course, obviously applying the Word of God into the process of disciple-making. And so yes, there were cultural changes that happened, if you will. The contextual changes that occurred, the difference between North Idaho and Texas, but there are also biblical foundational truths that must exist regardless of where you are in the United States or somewhere in Africa. There’s timeless, consistent things. Chad: Yeah. That’s what I love about your story, and really, the message that you’re offering to the church right now. And you’re not the only one, there’s a lot of people talking about it, but I love the fact that you’ve been in different North American cultures, but you’ve also taught these principles effectively in Africa. And so I just love the fact that what you’re saying is, “It’s Jesus’ style disciple-making culture. It’s not trendy, fleeting, discipleship is a new catchphrase, “Let’s all get on the bandwagon kind of culture.”
It’s “No, let’s go back to the Bible. Let’s talk about scriptural truth.”
Share the Gospel Like JesusOne of my favorite things that you mentioned in the book is from, I believe it’s 1 Thessalonians and it’s when Paul talks about, he doesn’t use the word culture, but he’s talking about, “Hey, this is just who we are,” and he frames it in terms of disciple-making. Could you talk about that verse a little bit? Brandon: Yeah. In 1 Thessalonians, chapter 2, verse 8, Paul’s talking about, he says,
“Not only did we share the gospel with you, we shared our very lives with you.”And the surrounding part of that, and even before back in chapter 1, when he’s talking about that, “You imitated us.” As I said earlier, there is this imitation and this relationship and this togetherness that they have, that’s the culture that they had. And when he talks about it in verse 8 in chapter 2, he’s talking about that. Not only we preach the message, the gospel, we verbally were preaching it, and we shared that with you, but we shared our very lives. So here you have this example of this model that had been imitated from Christ. And when you look at it, go, where did Paul learn that?And where did the early disciples in the church learn those things? They learned it by imitating what Jesus had done with his disciples. It was a consistent transferring of truth and a process of living out that extended now clear out into the church in Thessalonica, miles and miles and miles away from Jerusalem. And so we see this, these principles being lived out in a culture that was created in the church. And I think we even see it, you know, when we go into Acts chapter 2 and Acts 4 and how the church was born, and how it was living out these principles of not only sharing life together, but sharing the truth of the gospel. It was the culture that Jesus passed on and was reproduced as the churches were being born and grown throughout the known world at the time. Chad: Yeah. I love how you tie that together. It’s like, where did they learn this from? You know what I’m saying? Right. And it’s like, that’s not just ancient near-East, Mediterranean culture, right? Because he’s tying it with discipleship; he’s tying it with the gospel.
Cultivate ConnectednessAnd so, you know, some cultures are inherently more relational than others in the sense of, they place value on relationships and interactions with one another more than others. And I think that that’s kind of lacking in American culture. But like you mentioned earlier, you were talking about Zoom, you know, so we’re in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis here in 2020 when we’re recording this, and we’re all kind of in our own homes. And what’s really fun to watch is how my church, and what you’ve said of your church, Brandon, and others that I know of who have a culture of disciple-making, they’re still connecting. Chad: You know, in these smaller groups one-on-one or, you know, we have small discipleship groups of three or four at our church. And our small group attendance I heard from our pastor last night is almost 100% attendance, right. So, it’s like, maybe they’re just stir-crazy, but you don’t get that overnight. That’s something you cultivate over time. Chad: And so, you know, you mentioned that it’s hard work, but I want to focus as we close out this episode, and this is just the first special on disciple-making culture that we’re going to have. We’re going to have other interviews with Brandon. But Brandon, I wanted to finish this episode out by talking about the payoff, the results.
Radically Changed LivesNow you said we don’t do it for growth as a result. That’s not the motive. Chad: But obviously Jesus’ kingdom saw results. And when we follow him, we will too. So, once we get our hearts right about that, about the motive, I do want to talk about the results. So, in your experience, what results have you seen from this, this that we’re talking about, this culture-making, that can motivate listeners who want to start, but they haven’t really done this yet, Brandon: Man, that question just, it hits really at the core of my heart, because really, it’s the lives that you see changed, the impact that biblical disciple-making, when we live out in do this Jesus this way, and we see, you know, these lives changed, a lot of names and faces flashed through my mind. And you know, one of the Scriptures that’s always had a big impact on me with this is, you know, further on in 1 Thessalonians, Paul even kind of talks about this at the end of chapter 2. And it’s about verse 19, he talks about, “For what is our hope or joy or our crown?” He says,
“What do we have to boast about?” And he says, “It’s you; it’s the people.”And I think that’s the part, for me, that is so motivating, it’s not the people in the sense of the numbers, it’s the people in the sense whose lives have been radically changed in that process. And I think of, there’s a family that, that I’m very close with in our church, that, that I got the opportunity to meet through hurricane Harvey. Um, several years ago when our church was first planted, we were faced here in Houston with hurricane Harvey, and it was incredible, and it caused devastation like I had never seen. I’d never lived through a hurricane before, and I got the opportunity to meet Greg and Laura. They’re very special people to me now. And at the time they were not following the Lord and their home had been flooded out and we got to serve them and walk with them. And through that process, as we just spent time and got to know them and cared about them, and, you know, Greg was very resistant to the church. He had been hurt by the church at a young age and he wanted nothing to do with it, but he was open to spending time together to living out the method of Christ that he didn’t know or understand at the time.