What is a Core Competency?

July 2018 Blog Theme: How to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples

In the early 1990’s, a new brand of business management theory began to gain traction. C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel wrote an article entitled, “The Core Competence of the Corporation”, in which they taught that healthy companies have certain core competencies or skills that distinguish them from other similar companies in the marketplace. For example, a company that makes cameras may have a core competency of fine optics that could be utilized to make other products like microscopes or radar guns. Prahalad taught that healthy companies know the basic skills in which they excel and focus on those skills to produce many different products. Those basic skills were called, “core competencies”.

In just about any career, there are certain core competencies a person must learn to be successful in that career. If you are a surgeon, you need to be competent in the basic skills of surgery. If you are an accountant, you need to be competent in certain basic skills of accounting. If you are an engineer, you need to be competent in the basic skills of engineering. In the same way, when Jesus pulled His men aside to train them (Mark 3.13-14 ESV), He trained them in a few basic core competencies that would enable them to effectively make disciples who would also make disciples. He could not train them in everything. He didn’t have time to teach them all the nuances of theology or history. He simply trained them in the core things necessary to ignite a movement of multiplication.


This is an excerpt from the book Invest in a Few by Craig Etheredge, which you can purchase here.


In recent years, churches have begun to recognize Jesus’ method and speak about “core competencies” of a person’s spiritual life. One nearby church articulated on their website, “30 Core Competencies of Spiritual Formation”, identifying core beliefs, values and practices of the Christian life.  So what are the “core competencies” Jesus taught His men? What basic skills did Jesus teach them that were necessary for making disciples? Answering that question is incredibly important, because disciple making is training men and women to think and act like Jesus. If we are going to do that, then we need to know what Jesus determined to be the most important core competencies of a disciple. After studying the life of Christ for many years, I believe that the “core competencies” of Jesus can be summarized in three phrases: walk with God, reach your world and invest in a few. So, lets briefly take a look at each one:

First, Jesus taught His disciples how to walk with God. Jesus modeled and trained His men to obey the Father (John 8.29 ESV; Hebrews 5.8 ESV), and exalt Him in everything (John 3.31; 17.7 ESV). He taught His men the importance of personal prayer (Mark 1.35 ESV) and instructed them on how to pray (Luke 11.1-4 ESV). He demonstrated the vital need for knowing God’s Word and saturating their lives with God’s truth (Matthew 5.17-19 ESV). He taught them how to handle temptation (Luke 4.1-13 ESV), how to respond to personal failure (John 8.1-11 ESV), how to live in community (John 13.1 ESV), and how to rely on the Holy Spirit’s power (Luke 4.18 ESV; John 5.19 ESV). He also modeled how to listen to the Father’s voice (John 5.30 ESV). All of these practices are vital to knowing how to walk with God personally and intimately for a lifetime.

Second, Jesus taught His disciples how to reach their world with the Gospel. Early in the process, Jesus began to stretch their thinking about people who are far from God (John 4.1-39 ESV). He taught them that people matter to God, regardless of their cultural background, skin color or socio-economic status. He instilled in them that sharing the Gospel is a life and death issue (John 3.16-18 ESV). He modeled how to have spiritual conversations (John 3.1-21 ESV), how to share the Gospel (John 3.15-16 ESV) and how to demonstrate compassion (Matthew 9.35-38 ESV). He modeled for them how to respond to critics and cynics, all the while radiating the love of God for a lost world (Luke 5.27-32 ESV). He demonstrated before His men how to live their lives “on mission” for the Gospel.

Finally, Jesus trained His disciples to invest in a few. As He called them out to follow Him, He was demonstrating how to cast vision, select faithful men, invest his life and multiply his influence (Matthew 4.18-22 ESV). He trained them personally, then He would send them out to put their “core competencies” to practice on their own (Luke 9.1 ESV). When they reported back, Jesus debriefed them on how things went and what they learned (Luke 9.10 ESV). Later, Jesus showed them how to multiply their lives by making disciples who would make disciples to the fourth generation (Luke 10.1, 17, 21 ESV). All the while, Jesus was preparing them to live as He lived long after He was gone from this physical world. He wanted them to be competent in the core skills of how to walk with God, reach their world and invest in a few. I’m convinced that those three areas provide the basis for every person to know what it means to be a disciple and to make disciples who make disciples.

If Jesus taught His disciples how to walk with God, reach their world and invest in a few, then so should we. These become the “core competencies” each disciple must master if we are to be effective in fulfilling the Great Commission”. Far from disciple making simply being about Bible studies or getting through curriculum, disciple making is about training men and women to do what Jesus did and live as Jesus lived. Now you may be asking, “How do we train people to do these things? How can I forge these practices in the lives of the people I’m discipling?” Well, the three books in the “Grow Series” are designed to do just that. Each book focuses on one of the three major themes of Jesus: Walk With God, Reach Your World and Invest In a Few. These tools focus the person you are training on the “core competencies” of Jesus. But again, it’s not enough to simply go through these tools, you must also model how to live this out in our world today. In addition to the “Grow Series” material, there are some practices you can employ that will produce great results. Each of these practices will inspire your new disciple to walk as Jesus walked. What are they? That is what we are going to look at for the rest of this week!

Written by Craig Etheredge

This blog is an excerpt that comes from our book Invest in a Few, which you can purchase here.

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2 thoughts on “What is a Core Competency?

  1. What are these 3 books in the “GROW series”? I would like to know whether I can buy it in Singapore.

    1. We sell our materials online @disciplefirst.com, however we can not ship to Singapore via our website.

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