Nurturing a Discipleship Culture: The Role That Transformative Learning and the Learning Context Play In Forming Disciples at Northview Church

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The primary work of the Church is to make disciples. At Northview Church, a multi-site church in central Indiana, there is a desire to nurture a culture where discipleship is expected and supported. Despite years of classes, programs, retreats and small groups, a discipleship culture has eluded Northview. Therefore, this study seeks to strengthen discipleship at Northview by gleaning insights from 1) adult learning theory, 2) learning organizations, and 3) churches who are exemplars of disciple-making.

Through a review of the literature, a robust definition of discipleship emerged that captures the characteristics and ultimate aims of discipleship. The literature also revealed an adult learning theory—Transformative Learning—that is compatible with, and a supportive framework for, the discipleship experience. Finally, the literature on learning context and learning organizations produced thirteen factors to promote a culture of learning. The insights from the literature were used to inform the field research.

The field research for this project consisted of a multi-case study, using a triangulated research protocol of three discipleship exemplar churches. The findings revealed five essential components of a transformational discipleship experience (TDE), as well as eight factors that promote a discipleship culture. To integrate the five essential components of a TDE, a training outline was created. Additionally, a Discipleship Culture Assessment was developed, based on the eight factors of a discipleship culture.

To implement the findings at Northview, two action plans for change were introduced. The first change plan utilized John Kotter’s Eight Stage Change Process for introducing training on the five components of a TDE. The second change plan drew upon Kim S. Cameron and Robert E. Quinn’s nine steps for initiating organizational culture change for promoting the eight factors of a discipleship culture. In addition to strengthening discipleship at Northview, this research can be useful in other churches who desire to nurture a discipleship culture.

Degree Name

Doctor of Intercultural Studies (DIS)

First Advisor

Maros, Susan L.

Document Type





Northview Church, Discipleship, Discipleship culture, Discipling (Christianity), Transformative learning, Learning organizations, Christian education, Benton Harbor, Michigan, Urban minorities, Christ Church of Oak Brook, Word of Life Church, Perimeter Church


Missions and World Christianity | Religious Education


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