Recently, I read through 3DM’s guide on “Building a Discipling Culture” by Mike Breen for the 2nd time. There is a lot of things I enjoy about this guide in building an effective discipleship plan and culture. Here are some notes, quotes and thoughts from the book. Building a Discipling Culture


Understanding Discipleship

Types of cultures we create:

  • High Challenge / Low Invitation. Stressful quadrant. Discouraged culture.
  • Low Challenge / Low Invitation. Boring quadrant. Apathetic culture.
  • Low Challenge / High Invitation. Chaplaincy quadrant. Cozy culture.
  • High Challenge / High Invitation. Discipling quadrant. Empowering   culture.

A very helpful concept is how Breen described the way people learn:

How We Learn

Breen says:

“There seem to be three different ways that we learn, but unequivocally, we learn best when there is a dynamic interplay between all three at one time: 1) Classroom/Lecture passing on of information 2) Apprenticeship 3) Immersion.” (Kindle Locations 256-259).

Passing on information is fine, but it is difficult to translate that information into practice. Take, for example, the often used example of learning to ride a bicycle: you could read a book on it and still not be able to ride a bike. For this reason, Breen thinks learning information needs to be coupled with apprenticeship. “In many ways, the practice of apprenticeship is about investment. Someone invests their time, energy, skills and life into ours, teaching us to do what they do.” (Kindle Locations 287-288).

We also learn through immersion, where we are immersed in a context where something is used or some skill is practiced. We learn from merely being in that environment. “The key to immersion is having access to the culture you are hoping to shape you.” (Kindle Location 306).

The research has shown us, according to Breen, that people learn best when there is an interplay of the three types of learning. I find this to be true, at least from my own experience it has been true.

Three things we need to build a discipling culture:

  • A discipleship vehicle (or engine): Huddle
  • People need access to your life (discipleship can’t be done at a distance)
  • A discipling language: LifeShapes 

Definition of a Huddle: 

A Huddle is a group of four to ten people God has called you to specifically invest in, and you will meet with them regularly (at least every other week) to intentionally disciple them in a group setting. The best discipling relationships always have an intentional, “organized” component to them as well as a less formal, “organic” component. Having a regular Huddle meeting is the “organized” component (page 45).

Using Huddles

Section 1: Key Concepts (What is a Huddle? How is it different than a small group? Why do Huddles work? Spiritual Formation)

Section 2: Launch Guide (Before your Huddle begins. Your first 10-12 Huddles. After your first 10-12 Huddles. Teaching mission in Huddles. After you have taught all the LifeShapes)

Section 3: Sample Huddle Outlines (Circle, Semi-Circle, Triangle)

Disciples are the only thing that Jesus cares about, and it’s the only number that Jesus is counting. Not our attendance or budget or buildings. He wants to know if we are “making disciples.”

Jesus has not called you to build his church. In fact, in all of the Gospels he mentions the church only two times. One time he mentions it, it’s about conflict resolution. The other time? To say that he will build his church. Our job, our only job and the last instructions he gave us, was to make disciples.

Teaching is incredibly important. Theology is incredibly important. Doctrine is incredibly important. But Jesus wasn’t able to compartmentalize teaching, theology, and doctrine into ethereal, cognitive realities. Teaching and theology were ways of describing reality, and then he showed his disciples how to live in that reality.

Good leaders always define their own reality. No one else can build a discipling culture for you—it must begin in your own life and then overflow into the lives of those you lead.

We need to externalize the things that have been going on internally. Change doesn’t happen in private.

Prayer was as fundamental an element in the life of Jesus as breathing. He inhaled his Father’s presence so he could exhale his Father’s will.

Many Christian leaders fall into the trap of being so ministry-focused that they spend too little time enjoying God. Sermon preparation takes the place of delighting in his presence. Prayer is something done mainly for the benefit of others, and the familiarity of worship may not necessarily breed contempt but indifference.

A leader’s demand for our time and energy will always exceed our capacity, working harder and longer is not the answer. Jesus said “I only do the things I see my Father doing.” He didn’t get a three year download to his Outlook calendar at his baptism, rather, each morning he had to retreat and establish the priorities for that day.

Appendix Section 

Appendix One: Character & Skill questions for UP, IN, and OUT

Appendix Two: Fivefold Ministries Questionnaire (pastor, teacher, evangelist, prophet, apostle)

A Discipling Language: LifeShapes 

Learning Circle: Seeing Spiritual Breakthrough


Triangle: Deeper and Balanced Relationships

  • UP: Connecting with God
  • IN: Connecting with Others
  • OUT: Connecting with the Community


Semi-Circle: Rhythms of Life


Square: Multiplying Disciples 


Pentagon: Personal Calling


Hexagon: Prayer (Lord’s Prayer)


Heptagon: Communal Life and Health


Octagon: Mission through People of Peace

Building a Discipling Culture