Discipleship Pathway Assessment

A History of Improvement

The Discipleship Pathway Assessment is an online assessment for individuals and churches to measure discipleship progress in becoming more like Christ. Knowing where you are is the first step toward taking proactive steps in your discipleship.

The Discipleship Pathway Assessment is a new improved version of the Transformational Discipleship Assessment (TDA). In fact, it reflects more than 30 years of research and testing.

This assessment is a statistically validated online assessment tool built on exhaustive research. “Statistically validated” means that the patterns are consistent across surveys and groups surveyed. You can trust the numbers because they are reliable with the same kind of consistency like you expect from a ruler or a speedometer. This research measures eight signposts that reveal each person’s spiritual progress on their discipleship pathway.

8 biblical signposts:

  1. Engaging the Bible
  2. Obeying God and Denying Self
  3. Serving God and Others
  4. Sharing Christ
  5. Exercising Faith
  6. Seeking God
  7. Building Relationships
  8. Living Unashamed

How did we find these eight markers?

The quick answer is that the assessment started with biblical descriptors of a disciple shaped into question form and tested repeatedly.

  1. Biblical characteristics of a disciple
  2. Theologian reviews
  3. Small sample testing, analysis, use in resources in 1990
  4. National testing and analysis in 2007
  5. Discipleship expert interviews
  6. National testing and analysis in 2011 and 2019

Flashy new assessments may come and go, but these consistent patterns within a disciple have stood the test of time. Where this tool came from and the rigor that has gone into the revisions provide a reliable measurement of the spiritual maturity of an individual.

The full story began about 30 years ago in a doctoral dissertation seeking to answer the question of how to measure spiritual maturity. Dr. Brad Waggoner’s original research started with Scripture: He listed the exhortations in the New Testament of what the life of a follower of Christ should look like. These were then put into the form of questions and reviewed by a panel of theologians.

As Dr. Waggoner tested the instrument certain statistical patterns emerged. These patterns have persisted for almost three decades in repeated use and testing. Each of our paths are different and we don’t learn the same lessons in the same ways or in the same order. Yet our walk with Christ still share these biblical markers making them a helpful measure of our growth in becoming like Christ.

For twenty years the original assessment was used in numerous discipleship resources and doctoral studies. When Dr. Waggoner came to LifeWay, the team at LifeWay Research began to invest in the tool with national sampling for the first time in 2007 among 2,500 Protestant churchgoers. That first national tool was referred to as the Spiritual Formation Inventory.

In 2011 LifeWay Research interviewed key discipleship experts from all over the world. We asked them how they “did” discipleship, what they had learned, and feedback on the dimensions the assessment addresses. (*See interviewees below) This qualitative research was followed by a national quantitative survey of Protestant churchgoers in the U.S. and Canada in English, Spanish, and French. The quantitative survey in the U.S. included 2,930 church attendees.

In 2019 LifeWay Research again conducted a quantitative survey in the U.S. among 2,500 Protestants who attend church once a month or more. This included new questions as well as previous questions in the assessment. The sample provides 95% confidence that the sampling error does not exceed +/-2.0%. Highlights of national findings are found at LifeWayResearch.com.

What type of improvements have been made?

Over the years, edits have been made to questions to improve the tool in several different ways:

  • To improve the clarity of questions
  • To address aspects of the discipleship path more completely
  • To help questions better fit the underlying pattern reflected in each of the 8 biblical markers
  • To utilize questions that provide more differentiation (if everyone answers a question the same way, it doesn’t tell us very much)

*Qualitative interviews included:

  • Jerry Acosta- evangelism coordinator with the Venezuelan National Baptist Convention
  • Francisco Aular- pastor in Canada and founder of the Latin American Baptist Discipleship Movement
  • Henry Blackaby- president of Blackaby Ministries and author of Experiencing God
  • Luis “Gary” Cesar- senior pastor of First Baptist Church Satelite
  • Marigene Chamberlain- professor at Samford University and former member of General Board of Discipleship, The United Methodist Church
  • Neil Cole- founder and director of Church Multiplication Associates
  • Robert Coleman- author of Master Plan of Discipleship
  • Hector Hugo Arias Contreras- leader at the Chilean Baptist Convention
  • Earl Creps-professor of leadership and spiritual renewal at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and author of Off-Road Disciplines
  • Edgard Castano Diaz- senior pastor of Central Baptist Church, Bogota, Columbia, and former president of the Colombian Evangelical Council
  • Jon Ferguson- teaching pastor, Community Christian Church
  • Angel Mena Garcia- pastor and denominational leader with the Assemblies of God in Panama
  • Alton Garrision- assistant general superintendent, Assemblies of God
  • Billie Hanks- founder of Operation Multiplication
  • Alan Hirsch- founder of Forge
  • T. W. Hunt- author of The Mind of Christ and The Doctrine of Prayer
  • Mary Kassian- professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of In My Father’s House
  • Larry Lee- executive secretary of Youth and Leadership Development of National Evangelical Christian Fellowship Malaysia
  • Aubrey Malphurs- founder of The Malphurs Group, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, and author of Advanced Strategic Planning and Strategic Disciple Making
  • Robertson McQuilkin- president emeritus of Columbia International University
  • Jaime Riquelme Miranda- pastor and leader of the Chilean Ministers Alliance
  • Alexander Montero- director of Venezuelan National Baptist Convention
  • Steve Murrell- founding pastor of Victory Fellowship, Manila
  • Waldemar Morales Roca- director of Guatemala Baptist Seminary
  • Leonard Sweet- professor at Drew University and author of The Gospel According to Starbucks
  • Natan Velazquez- pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Caracas, Venezuela
  • Victor Villanueva- leader at the Mexico National Baptist Convention and professor at Yucatan Autonomous University
  • Don Whitney- professor of biblical spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life