Discipleship is the great calling of the church, and the only soil that grows disciples is a local church culture of spiritual formation. Every other ministry of the church can (and should) grow from this soil.
But here’s the challenge: Each church already has an existing culture; any attempt to change the mixture of the “soil” will require the deep, patient work of tilling, fertizing and weeding. Culture change is neither a tactic nor a strategy: It is a transformation. Peter Drucker famously observed, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” He should have said, “breakfast, lunch and dinner” because the prevailing culture in any organization is the great unspoken factor in ministry. (Note to church planters: Start here, because by the time your church is two years old, church culture is beginning to produce fruit, either good or bad.)
Issues of spiritual formation and discipleship are not questions of planning, method or even teaching—they are hardly even questions at all. Spiritual formation and discipleship are more like horticulture than education. Church planting is about growing things. The ground is prepared, seeds are selected and planted, weeds are tended as they arise, and the harvest can seem like a distant dream. But good soil brings great harvests. Success in making disciples is not (at first) measured quantitatively, but qualitatively.