Let's start by looking at the typical Church approach to discipleship in the average American Church today.
Painting in broad strokes, the typical approach to discipleship looks something like this:
Weekly membership classes to learn about core tenants of the faith.
Small groups meeting weekly to do a book study or a Bible study.
Weekly meeting in some fashion with an older, more mature, believer once a week for coffee.
While each of these things are very good things, it's sad to see how many Christians are actually involved in these types of activities that spurn on growth. The Navigators commissioned Barna Group to conduct a comprehensive, multi-phase research study among Christian adults, church leaders, exemplar discipleship ministries and Christian educators. They've published their findings in a report that is called the "State of Discipleship" study. Here are some things they uncovered recording Christian's engagement in discipleship activities. On this chart, "Practicing Christians" are self-identified Christians who say their faith is very important to their lives and who have attended a worship service, other than for a special occasion, one or more times during the past month.
The state of discipleship in America is sorely lacking. Why?
I would argue that there are two fundamental reasons this is so:
1) The average church doesn't create a culture of discipleship.
2) The average church doesn't hold the bar high when it comes to discipleship.
In other words, the normal church discipleship experience for a Christian doesn't really challenge believers in a similar way to how Jesus challenged them and doesn't make this kind of discipleship the norm in their church. What is meant by using the phrase, "culture of discipleship"? A culture of discipleship means an environment where learning Jesus' commands and obeying them is the focus. This means that all parties in the environment are focused on discipleship in this manner.
What is the typical experience for a new believer?
When someone comes to faith in Jesus Christ and begins going to a church, over 50% don't really get engaged in any type of discipleship other than hearing the teaching once a week - if they go every week that is. If they do get involved in something, usually they might get plugged into something weekly where they are learning more about the Bible or going through some book together. Rarely do they start meeting with a mentor to get personalized discipleship. While this may work for some who have grown up in really well-put-together households, this doesn't really cut it for sinners coming to Christ our of any type of serious sin lifestyle (alcoholism, pornography, drug abuse, relational abuse, or cults).
What they need is to be surrounded completely by the Church community for discipleship to really take hold.
Most, if not all who come to Christ need a radical mindset shift from the patterns they've picked up from their parents, culture, the devil, and their own sinful lifestyle. Paul refers to this as mind transformation in Romans 12:2 when he says, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect". The context of this passage is about surrender to Jesus that leads to obedience (i.e becoming a true disciple of Jesus).