The Great Commission commands Christ’s followers to go and make disciples. However, David Stocker Jr. experienced a paradigm shift concerning discipleship after he took over five years ago as pastor of Brave Church in Miami.
Stocker says the church didn’t start growing until leaders began focusing on making mature disciples.
“We grew rapidly and realized that the growth we had wasn’t producing life change in people,” says Stocker, who grew up in Miami. “Sunday morning experience wasn’t enough to cause the growth in lives like we know Jesus intended.”
The church had 175 attendees in 2014 when Stocker became pastor, but it has mushroomed to more than 2,000 adherents on two campuses. In the spring of 2018, Brave Church took a new approach. In order to make mature disciples, the church developed its own curriculum called Brave Life, divided into two courses, each 10 weeks long.
“The two levels meet on Sundays together and then we break into groups based on men, women, and teenage groups,” Stocker explains. Brave Church also has Dinner Parties: more relational groups that meet throughout the city during the week. Overall, Brave Church has 150 Dinner Parties groups and 50 Brave Life groups, each focusing on discipleship.
Carleigh Gentry, who recently completed the discipleship training, says Brave Life taught her a lot about what Christianity should look like on a daily basis.
“I grew up going to church and attended church when I moved away from home, but I was still living a toxic lifestyle,” says Gentry, 31. “When I first came to Brave, I would sit in the back row alone and leave without speaking to anyone other than saying hello.”
But the discipleship training gave her an opportunity to branch out of her comfort zone and meet other Christians with whom she could develop positive relationships.
“It gave me a deeper understanding of what I mean when I say, ‘I’m Christian,’” says Gentry. “I remember saying when I was younger that I wanted to follow God’s path, but I never really knew what I meant. Brave Church is where I found what that path looked like.”
Ivan Saenz, another recent graduate, agrees.
“I no longer sit on the side of the road as a spectator of His divine work, but I roll up my sleeves and am a part of the whole experience,” says Saenz, 50. “I share my life struggles with others as well as the miracles the Lord has done for me, so that they will be encouraged in their own lives to allow God to maximize their potential and in turn love others.”
Stocker says it’s important for churches to focus on discipleship by getting to the heart of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20. A third Brave Church location will be launched in 2020 in downtown Miami. Brave Church launched with help from the Church Multiplication Network and AGTrust.