We live for discipleship by being the spiritual example that our disciples need. This means that we are committed to seeing not only ourselves, but our disciples spiritually transformed. To do this we should be committed to practicing spiritual disciplines and spiritual training until they are spiritually mature.
Live A Life Committed To Spiritual Transformation
- The purpose of discipleship is to “produce maturing and sanctifying disciples of Jesus” and this results in spiritual transformation or godliness. This is a training process that includes refusing or avoiding the godless way of life (false teachings) and exercising or training ourselves to be godly (right teachings). Godliness is profitable unto all things. Godliness is to have the right attitudes, actions and beliefs. This is a painful process of hard work, but we know that it is worth it because we trust in the living God, we want to become like Him, and we want to please Him.
1 Timothy 4:7-10
- Thus, discipleship includes living a life committed to spiritual transformation, for ourselves and our disciples. That means we desire to be conformed to the image of Jesus and not conformed to this world. This results in making us spiritually mature and being throughly equipped for all good works. But it takes great effort and training in spiritual disciplines.
Transformation: Romans 8:29; 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:16; Galatians 4:19; Purpose: 2 Timothy 3:17
Live A Life Committed To Spiritual Disciplines
- Spiritual disciplines are important because, through the work of the Holy Spirit, they help us to be spiritually transformed. They help us to focus our lives on growing spiritually. We can’t just live normal lives and expect transformation to happen. We have to carve out time to purposefully practice spiritual disciplines. Just like intentional bodily exercise helps a person to build a healthy body, the Bible says, we are to “exercise” unto godliness—meaning that through consistent instruction, practice, and application we can develop godly behavior. Below are some (but not all) spiritual disciplines:
It takes Effort: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Corinthians 11:23-29; Philippians 3:12-14; Colossians 1:29; 2 Timothy 2:1-7
- Disciplines of Bible Study: (1) Bible Reading and Listening—to look at or hear and comprehend the Scriptures so that you can know more about God, to know His will, and to know how to properly obey God. (2) Bible Truth Meditation—to focus our mind on Bible truth and to think deeply and over a long period of time about it in such a way that it helps us change the way we think, to worship God or to have a greater understanding of truth and its applications. (3) Bible Verse Memorization—to commit verses of the Bible to memory so that God’s Word becomes part of who we are and it can be brought to memory when needed and the Holy Spirit can use it.
(1) 2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:6; (2) Psalm 1:1-3; (3) Psalm 119:9, 11; Colossians 3:16
- Disciplines of the Christian Life: (4) Prayer in Jesus’ Name—to boldly talk to, confess, request of, and thank God continually and directly because of the access that we have through Jesus. (5) Worship and Praise—to reverently express adoration and admiration to God. Thus we are to fill our heart, soul, and minds with the goodness of God and respond to His wonderfulness in words, actions and attitudes of praise. This is often done in song, journaling and prayer. (6) Evangelizing the Lost—to give the good news of Jesus to those who don’t know it. This is being directly involved in God’s Kingdom work and advancing it. (7) Serving Others—to help or do good to others with the focus on serving God and not man. It helps us to not focus on ourselves but to humbly put others before ourselves and show the love of God to them, expecting nothing in return. (8) Faithful Stewardship—to be frugal and prudent with our wealth (money and possessions) to use it for God’s kingdom (not ours) and to excel at giving. (9) Celebration and Joy—to take great pleasure and joy in God, His goodness to us and to enjoy all the good things in life that He has given us. (10) Believer’s Fellowship—to gather together with other believers in a local church for edification. Our faith is meant to be lived out in community and relationships. This also includes confession among fellow believers with whom you trust when necessary.
(4) 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; (5) Psalm 99:1-9; (6) Mark 16:15; (7) Galatians 5:13; (8) 1 Timothy 6:6-11; (9) Ezra 6:15-16; (10) Hebrews 10:24-25
- Disciplines of Self-denial: (11) Fasting—to go without food for a specific period of time to focus on depending on God; to show that He is the greatest substance in our life; to train and learn self-control which helps us overcome sin; to find joy in God not food or earthly things. One can also abstain from others things (such as sex), or make certain sacrifices to accomplish this. (12) Solitude and Silence—to deny self “social interaction” and “the busyness of noise” to find rest in God. We need times to be alone, away from the chaos, so we can hear ourselves think and to focus on God and be refreshed. We need times to be away from all the noise and problems of life and to think on God. We need uninterrupted times of us and God—this also helps us clearly see our sinfulness and the need of repentance.
(11) Matthew 6:16-18; (12) Psalm 46:10
- All of our spiritual disciplines are not to be done in a manner that displays our goodness in doing them and draws attention to ourselves—meaning we are not to do any of these for the praise of men. Such disciplines are to be done in secret—meaning we are doing them in obedience to God and He decides if they are to be known or not. This is the true test of spiritual disciplines—will we faithfully do them if no one else notices? (Note: It is not that we should hide them from other people knowing, but we shouldn’t be doing them for others’ approval and praise.)
Matthew 5:14-16; 6:1-18
Live A Life Committed To Spiritual Training
- Training to create godly habits. We are to train ourselves and our disciples in spiritual disciplines until the disciplines become a normal pattern of life or healthy spiritual habits. It is only through spiritual training that we can accomplish spiritual transformation. Every believer should be growing spiritually and eventually they ought to be teaching others.
Galatians 6:9; Hebrews 5:14; 12:11; 1 Peter 3:15
- Thus, discipleship includes living a life committed to spiritually training your disciples in spiritual disciplines until they are spiritual transformed. They need to see it modeled and not just told to do it. The principle is: “it is more caught than taught”—meaning that the disciplines are passed on from one believer to other believers by example. We are committed to the process of discipline through training until our disciples learn it enough to carry out the process themselves.
- What is spiritual transformation?
- Why are spiritual disciplines important?
- What are some of the disciplines?
- What does it mean that disciplines are to be done in secret?
- What is spiritual training?
An environment of discipleship is created by a disciple of Jesus who intentionally invites others into a discipleship relationship, challenges them to change with the Word of God and trains them how to accomplish it. It aims to build a culture where if one is immersed into it they will intuitively learn from their surroundings. It is also a place where love reigns which allows discipleship to thrive.
We Must Be Intentional About Inviting, Challenging And Training
- An environment of discipleship is created by being intentional about it. To establish an environment of discipleship we must be deliberate and purposeful about doing so. It doesn’t just accidentally happen but it is carefully orchestrated by one person—(who is fluent in discipleship)—who then teaches others to do the same. Thus, an environment of discipleship is created by being intentional about the following three areas:
Jesus’ Intentionality: John 6:70; 15:16
- Invitation: We need to intentionally and consistently be inviting others into our lives to establish a relationship with them so that we can help them become or mature as disciples of Jesus. This means we are inviting new people into a relationship with us, but also inviting those who we are training to be around us. This gives them access and permission to be with you.
Jesus’ Invitations: Matthew 4:19-20; Mark 1:17-18; John 1:35-42
- Challenge: We need to intentionally and consistently be challenging others to change—to live the victorious Christian life—especially those who respond to our invitation. Basic challenges can be “open ended” to different groups, but the high pressure challenges that lead to real life change need to be given within the discipleship relationship because it is more personal, the permission for such challenges is already given, and the structure of accountability is setup to help it get accomplished.
Jesus’ Challenges: Matthew 10:38; 16:21-26; 23:1; Mark 8:34-37; Luke 9:23-25; 14:25-27; John 15:1-11
- Training: We need to intentionally and consistently be training others to accomplish the challenges we challenge them with. We must be fluent in the area we are challenging others about if we are to train them by example and through our teaching. In other words, we have to be living the victorious Christian life to be able to train others in it. Thus, every challenge must be backed by the promise of our help to make them successful at accomplishing it.
Jesus’ Training: Matthew 5:1; 10:7-10; Mark 4:33-34; 6:7-9; Luke 9:1-4
We Must Establish A Strategic Culture Of Discipleship
- An environment of discipleship is created by building a strategic culture. A culture of discipleship is when our attitudes, actions and words all work towards the achievement of discipleship. It is within this culture that others can “immerse” themselves into and learn by experiencing discipleship. Thus, discipleship is not viewed as just taking a class (learning information) or apprenticeship (learning skills), but as an entire way of life full of shared discipleship characteristics where people can “intentionally” and “intuitively” learn how to be a disciple of Jesus and how to train others to be disciples of Jesus. We refer to this as “strategically doing life together.” It is using everyday life to its fullest potential. As we do this we can remember to be strategic about the following three areas:
Jesus’ Strategy: Mark 3:7-19; Acts 4:13
- Strategic Relationships: One person can’t disciple everyone, but everyone can disciple someone. Our disciples will have more access into our lives than others do. We strategically give them more time. They have access into our everyday lives and we strategically use this time to invite, challenge and train them in all areas, whether formal or informal. Jesus ate with, traveled with, did ministry with His disciples, etc.
Jesus’ Disciples: Matthew 10:2-4; Luke 6:12-16
- Strategic Influence: Our training includes three key components. First, the trainer expounds knowledge through instruction (teach them how to do it). The trainee listens, contemplates, ask questions, talks about it and learns. Second, the trainer encourages emulation to cultivate ability (show them how to do it). The trainee imitates, mirrors, and does things just like their trainer until they are proficient. Thirdly, the trainer empowers confidence to bear responsibility and make decisions (allow them to do it). The trainee has the freedom to independently make plans and take action but is held accountable. Thus, that pattern is simple: (1) You serve—the disciples watch and learn. (2) You and the disciples both serve. (3) The disciples serve—you encourage and advise.
Jesus’ Influence: (1) Luke 6:28; 9:18; 10:2 (2) Luke 9:28; 11:1-4; (3) John 14:12; Acts 1:24; 4:31; 6:6
- Strategic Growth: There needs to be growth in the following three relationships: (1) the disciple and their relationship with God—eagerness in their devotion to God. (2) the disciple and their relationship with the church—edification in the local community of believers. (3) the disciple and their relationship with unbelievers—engagement in reaching the lost.
Jesus’ Focuses: (1) Matthew 16:13-16; (2) Matthew 16:17-18; (3) Matthew 16:19; 28:16-20
We Must Love One Another Like Jesus Loved His Disciples
- An environment of discipleship is created by loving one another like Jesus loved His disciples. This kind of environment allows your disciples to thrive. This creates an environment of influence (not dictatorship). Thus, training disciples in an environment of love should have the following characteristics:
Matthew 20:28; John 13:34-35; 15:12-17; 1 Corinthians 13:4-6
- Trust and Commitment—Discipleship requires that we trust the other person and be committed to the training process.
Proverbs 11:14; 31:11-12; 1 Corinthians 13:7
- Grace and Mercy—Discipleship requires that we extend grace and show mercy when the other person messes up or when conflicts arise.
Luke 6:36-38; Ephesians 4:29
- Humility and Submission—Discipleship requires that we humble ourselves and submit to one another for our mutual benefit and to be able to serve one another.
Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:1-11
- Encouragement and Affirmation—Discipleship requires that we encourage others in the Lord and affirm their importance in Christ and as they produce spiritual fruit.
1 Thessalonians 5:11; 2 Timothy 1:3-4
- Accountability and Transparency—Discipleship requires that we hold each other accountable and live transparent lives so that we can experience true growth.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Luke 17:3-4; Galatians 6:1-5
- What are the three areas we need to be intentional about?
- What is a strategic culture of discipleship?
- What is the strategic focus of discipleship?
- We must do what to one another like Jesus did?
- What characteristics does an environment of love have?
How Are Disciples Trained In The Lord?
Disciples are trained in the Lord when we encourage them to imitate our example so that we can lead them to follow Jesus. We can only do that if we first become the disciple that we want them to become and be devoted to them until Jesus is formed in them.
We Train Disciples By Encouraging Them To Imitate Our Example
- Disciples are trained by imitating the life of another disciple. This means that we invite them to imitate our lives because, Lord willingly, we are imitating Jesus’ life. So the goal isn’t for our disciples to become just like us, but they are to become like us in so much that we are like Jesus. We encourage them to imitate our way of life in Christ Jesus. People need a model to follow. Teaching isn’t enough. They need to see someone living out the victorious Christian life so they know how to do it too. Disciples receive instruction through various means but they can only truly be trained “in person” because they need to imitate a face-to-face example. Is your life imitate-able?
1 Corinthians 4:14-17; 11:1; Galatians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 9; 2 Timothy 3:10-14; 1 John 1:1
- Disciples are trained by placing themselves in positions of submission to be trained. Life-on-life mentorship requires a commitment of submission. All believers are equal in value and none are superior, but we do have different roles and positions of authority and influence. In the discipleship relationship, the mentor (the leading believer) has the primary position of responsibility to faithfully lead. The mentees (the following believers) have the secondary position to accept the leadership of, yield to and learn from their mentor. All of this is done with the goal of maturing and sanctifying disciples of Jesus.
Luke 6:40; Ephesians 5:21; (Submission to Leadership: 1 Corinthians 16:15-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Hebrews 13:17)
- Disciples are trained by following disciples who train them to be disciples of Jesus not themselves. We are not to train up disciples for ourselves. This discipleship relationship does not void the mutual “submission, service and humility” that should be characteristic of all believers. We are to put on the mind which was also in Christ Jesus. Jesus is the only Master. We are all to be serving with humble attitudes, striving to live godly in Christ Jesus for God’s glory.
Matthew 23:7-12; Philippians 2:3-11; 3:17-18
- Things to remember when establishing this type of training:
- Relationship: Spiritual growth takes places when we are willing to submit to one another to benefit from a discipleship relationship. It is humbling to know we can’t grow on our own, but God uses relationships and community to grow one another. We can’t be self-dependent. We should be investing our lives into others and others should be investing their lives into us. We need other disciples and other disciples need us. (Note: Obedience to many commands requires interaction with others.)
- Following: A disciple chooses who to follow—someone who can show them how to follow Jesus. Any believer who desires to train other believers can invite others into a discipleship relationship, but the decision to follow can’t be forced only offered.
- Engagement: A discipleship relationship is a two-way relationship. Both sides are engaging the other side. The mentor leads but is also challenged to grow from the questions asked and the accountability to properly lead his mentees. The mentees are growing from the mentor’s leadership, life, character, attitudes, words, ministry and teachings. There is mutual influence. Both should benefit greatly from this relationship.
We Train Disciples By Becoming What We Want Them to Become
- Before we can invite others to follow us, we need to know where we are going. We need to already be following Jesus and growing in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 3:18
- A changed and changing life: Has your life radically changed since believing in Jesus? We are to be renewed in the spirit of our minds. We are to be actively putting off the “old man”—our old sinful way of living, and putting on the “new man”—our new righteous way of living. Before salvation, we sacrificed others to bless ourselves but now that we are saved we sacrifice ourselves to bless others. Our actions, attitudes, character, morals, are all being molded into Christ-likeness. If our lives aren’t changing and growing then we can’t train disciples.
A Changed Life: Psalm 15:1-5; Ephesians 4:17-28; Colossians 3:1-8; James 1:21-26
- The Basics: Are you doing the following basics: reading the bible; praying; faithfully attending church; memorizing bible verses; giving generously; actively witnessing to others; using your spiritual gifts in the local church? How is your family life? Are you striving to obey the Bible in all areas? We can only teach others to do what we are doing.
(1) Joshua 1:8; (2) 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; (3) Hebrews 10:25-27; (4) Psalm 119:11; (5) 2 Corinthians 9:7; (6) Matthew 5:13-16; (7) 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; (8) 1 Timothy 3:5; (9) Luke 11:28; (11) Matthew 5:19; 23:3; Romans 2:21-23
- Become Imitate-able: If we train disciples in the Lord by inviting them into our lives to imitate it, then we need to evaluate if our lives are worth imitating. We can only reproduce what we are. The desire to train disciples should cause us to seriously evaluate ourselves and our spiritual walk. A negative outcome of that evaluation shouldn’t keep us from training disciples, but it should: (1) encourage us to strengthen those areas where we are weak; (2) seek those more mature than ourselves to train us; (3) be committed to doing the best that we can so that we can train others for the glory of God.
We Train Disciples By Being Devoted Until Jesus Is Formed In Them
- A devotion to train. Paul not only calls Timothy to become a disciple-making disciple but he explains the cost to do so. We need to be devoted: (1) to “endure hardness”—the world opposes us training disciples and like Paul we need to be willing to share in suffering to do so; (2) to be “a good soldier of Jesus Christ”—to live a wartime life with our allegiance to Jesus (and not this world) and His mission; (3) to not “entangleth” ourselves with the affairs of this life—to not get intertwined and distracted with this world so that we don’t train disciples; (4) to “please him” who hath chosen you to be a soldier—God chose us and we live to please Him, not others, this is our single and utmost purpose and focus; (5) to “strive lawfully”—like an athlete, we put forth great effort to train disciples but we must do so in accordance to God’s Word and like Jesus did, no shortcuts; (6) to “laboureth”—like a farmer, take the initiate and through tough, thorough and time-consuming work wait for God to give the increase as we make disciples.
2 Timothy 2:1-7; (Reject Worldliness: James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17; Hard Work: 1 Corinthians 3:5-8; Colossians 1:28-29)
- A devotion to finish. Paul was committed to the Galatian believers when they had many problems. He didn’t forsake them but was willing to go through much heartache to help them understand the gospel, its implications and how to be conformed to the image of Jesus—until Christ be formed in them. Paul truly cared for them, he calls them his little children and he desired to be with them. He was committed to finish what he started.
- We train disciples by encouraging them to do what?
- What are three things to remember when establishing this type of training?
- We train disciples by becoming what?
- We train disciples by being devoted until when?
- What are the six areas we need to be devoted in to train disciples?
How Do Discipleship Relationships Start?
Discipleship relationships start when we seize and seek opportunities. Sharing the gospel becomes “a way of life”. The gospel is the foundation of all our discipleship relationships. Thus, we need to be actively sharing the gospel and embracing opportunities.
Discipleship Relationships Start When We Seize Opportunities
- Everything starts with prayer. Jesus went out into a mountain to pray all night to God the night before He chose twelve of His disciples to be apostles. Also, believers are commanded to pray for unbelievers because God is willing for them to be saved. So if we are wanting to start a discipleship relationship with another person we need to start with prayer. Question: Are you praying for believers and unbelievers and “watching” for opportunities of who you can establish a discipleship relationship with?
Luke 6:12-16; 23:33-36; Romans 10:1; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; Asking and Believing: Matthew 7:7-11
- Seize current opportunities. Are you expecting God to answer your prayers? Next, you need to be looking for opportunities to seize. A discipleship relationship can start with a believer or an unbeliever—anyone who is willing to spend time you and learn from you. It often starts with those that you know—such as your family and friends. (Your family is your first disciples.) But you also need to be looking for people (inside and outside the church) who have similar interest as you or people who want to know more about the Bible. Question: Are you seizing current opportunities to start a discipleship relationship?
- Believers: If a person is a believer then they already have an established gospel foundation. Thus, you need to find out where they are at in their spiritual walk and, if you are able to help them grow in their faith, invite them to spend time with you studying the bible and developing a spiritual friendship. If they are willing and accept your invitation, this is the beginning of a discipleship relationship. (Remember: you can only lead people to do what you have already been doing.) Question: What believers around you can you help grow and mature in their faith?
- Unbelievers: If a person isn’t a believer then there is no established gospel foundation. Thus, you need to start with teaching them the gospel. You can invite them to spend time with you for the purpose of sharing the gospel with them and establishing a friendship. If they are willing and accept your invitation, this is the beginning of a discipleship relationship with the goal of leading them to become a genuine disciple through repentance and faith in Jesus alone as Lord and Saviour. Question: What unbelievers do you know that you can you share the gospel with?
Discipleship Relationships Start When We Seek Opportunities
- Make new opportunities. What if you currently don’t know any believers or unbelievers that you can start a discipleship relationship with, what should you do? You need to start making opportunities—meaning you need to be actively involved in reaching new people—those who you don’t currently know—through evangelism. Thus, the ultimate catalyst to initiate new discipleship relationships is witnessing to unbelievers. Jesus trained His disciples to be fishers of men—people that make disciples of all nations—but this absolutely included preaching the gospel. Witnessing is part of the great commission process. We cannot make disciples without evangelism. All believers are given the Holy Spirit for this very purpose—to be Jesus’ witnesses unto the uttermost part of the earth. Questions: Are you trying to initiate new discipleship relationships by witnessing to unbelievers—even those you don’t currently know?
Mark 1:17; 16:15; Luke 19:10; (Examples of Jesus Evangelizing: Matthew 19:16-22; Luke 10:25-37; John 4:5-29)
- Just like those who responded to Jesus, we need to remember: (1) Not everyone will believe and become genuine disciples. But we should still continuously and intentionally preach the gospel. (2) Some will believe the gospel and become genuine disciples. We should continue to teach them in all things concerning following Jesus. This is the beginning of a discipleship relationship with the gospel foundation established.
Being Equipped With The Essentials Of Sharing The Gospel
- Boldness: We boldly share the gospel knowing it is God who ultimately has to do the work of salvation in a person’s life. Each time you share the gospel you might get a scared, nervous or unsettling feeling but we don’t let this fear paralyze us from sharing the gospel. We need to pray for boldness and allow this boldness to overshadow our weakness as we trust in God to save sinners. We are His workers, but He gives the increase.
Boldness: Proverbs 28:1; Acts 4:13, 29, 31; Salvation: Psalms 68:20; John 6:44; Romans 2:4; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 3:6-9
- Step 1—The Starting Point: Sharing the gospel can be done in a group setting or one-on-one. The starting point to share the gospel with either is to discover their knowledge of God and start where they are. Then you can properly contextualize (not change) the gospel message so they have a better understanding. For example, in the book of Acts we find that when they were sharing the gospel with the Jews they started with the prophets and law but when they were speaking to the Gentiles they started from Creation.
(1) Start at Creation: Romans 1:19-20; (Preaching to Jews: Acts 26:22; 28:23; Preaching to Gentiles: Acts 14:15; 17:24)
- Conscious Anxiety: Each society has different anxieties that they are conscious about, such as: sin, death, and the afterlife. We should be probing and find out what these anxieties are and try to share the gospel from that vantage point.
- Intentional Questions: Where did we come from?—Talk about the origin of man and God’s creation in comparison to other views. Why do you exist?—Talk about the purpose of life and the reasons for living. What is right and wrong?—Talk about man’s inherit knowledge of morality and the standard of good. What happens after you die?—Talk about life after death and eternity.
- Step 2—The Law of God: The purpose of using the law to share the gospel is to show people: they are sinners; they have offended a holy God: they will be judged by God one day; and they will receive death and hell as the price for sin. (Ask questions of sin, death, justice, etc.)
(2) The Knowledge of Sin: Romans 3:10-12, 23; (3) The Judgment of God: Romans 2:5-6; (4) The Price of Sin: Romans 5:12
- Step 3—The Gospel of Jesus Christ: The good news always follows the bad news. Thus, we need to share the core message of the gospel which means to show people: the atoning death of Jesus Christ; the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ; salvation is a free gift from God; the great exchange of righteousness; and that Jesus is the only way. (Ask questions of forgiveness, mercy, grace, etc.)
(5) Jesus’ Gift: Romans 6:23; (6) Jesus’ Death: Romans 5:8; (7) Jesus’ Resurrection: Romans 4:25
- Step 4—The Crisis Point: Finally, when a person is humbled by their sin and the cross, it is time for them to make a decision. See if the person is willing to give all for Jesus, and encourage them to count the cost. We need to show them: how to repent towards God and how to put their faith in Jesus. (Ask questions of decision, time, application, etc.)
(8) Confess and Believe: Romans 10:9-10
- Everything starts with what? Are you doing that?
- What does it mean to seize opportunities?
- What does it mean to make new opportunities?
- What does it mean to have boldness in sharing the gospel?
- What are four essential steps of sharing the gospel?
Pastors are the equippers of discipleship because they are God’s choice servants to lead the local church to fulfill its purpose. Their job is to equip believers to service for the edification of the church until the church is spiritually mature and built up in love.
Pastors Are The Equippers Of Discipleship In The Local Church
- Who: Who does God choose to lead and set the example for others to follow? God has not only given different spiritual gifts to all believers but He has also given special-gifted men to lead the church. Today, the “pastors and teachers” are the gifted men God is using to lead local churches. We also refer to this as “the office of a pastor”—but this office of leadership includes both responsibilities and gifting of pastoring or shepherding and teaching. These pastors are to lead the church in submission to the leadership of Jesus who is the Great Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. There may also be “multiple pastors” or “plurality of elders” within a church, but this man is the lead pastor who has the main responsibility for spiritually leading a specific local church. Thus, the pastor is God’s choice servant to lead the local church to fulfill its purpose. (Note: we use the word “pastor” to be the same as “elder,” “bishop,” and “overseer”.)
Ephesians 4:11; (Jesus as Supreme: Hebrews 13:20-21; 1 Peter 2:25; Pastor’s Obligation: Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Titus 1:5-9; Apostles and Prophets were foundational, but have ceased for today: Ephesians 2:20)
- Why: Why does God use pastors to lead? The answer is threefold: (1) “For the perfecting of the saints”—this means the pastor is to equip all the believers under his care to fulfill the purpose they were ordained for; (2) “for the work of the ministry”—believers were ordained to walk in good works and to serve—every believer is a minister; (3) “for the edifying of the body of Christ”—as each believer fulfills their duty of service, it builds up the church. Thus, a pastor’s job is to equip believers to service for the edification of the church.
Ephesians 2:10; 4:12
Pastors Are Primarily And Continually To Be Training Disciples
- When: When is the pastor’s task completed? The pastor is to carry out his job “till we all come”: (1) “in the unity of the faith”—the believers under his care should harmoniously become one or unified in the gospel and the revealed will of God in the Scriptures because of his teaching and training in sound doctrine; (2) “of the knowledge of the Son of God”—to grow in the knowledge of Jesus and have deeper and more personal relationship with Him; (3) “unto a perfect man”—to spiritually mature in Christ; (4) “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”—this maturity should be measured by the how much we are like Jesus. God wants us to become like Jesus in every area of our lives. Thus, the pastor is to equip believers to serve for the edification of the church until the church is spiritually mature.
Ephesians 4:13; (Psalm 133:1; Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:8-12; Colossians 1:9-10; 28-29; 2:2)
- What: What does a spiritual mature person look like? A spiritually mature person is no longer a “child” spiritually—meaning they no longer do spiritually immature things. They are no longer easily deceived because they have a firm grasp on the Scriptures and the correct understanding and application of them. They won’t be spiritually tricked, taken advantage of, deceived by false teachers or their teachings. Thus, a spiritually mature person is able to brave “the waves and the wind” of false teaching without being overtaken by either, but instead firmly stands on the truth.
Ephesians 4:14; (1 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1-3; Jude 3-4; Revelation 2:2)
- How: How does the pastor lead? How does a spiritually mature person live? The answer for both questions is one word: love. The pastors speaks “the truth in love” so that everyone will grow up in every way into Jesus—which is the head, even Christ. Then the spiritually mature person takes the truth and applies it to start ministering in the body of Christ and when each part is working properly, it results in growing the body and builds itself up in love. Thus, a pastor leads through faithfully teaching the truth in love and the believers serve in love.
Ephesians 4:15-16; (Ephesians 4:20-24; 5:1-2; Colossians 2:19; John 15:9-10)
Principles Concerning Pastors And Discipleship
- Pastors are the spiritual coaches in the local church. Pastors equipping believers to service for the edification of the church, is like coaches training their basketball teams to win the championship. Thus, like a coach, a pastor doesn’t do all the serving and ministry within the local church, but he trains the church members to do it. The church members are not just the fans sitting in the stands watching the game being played, but they are the athletes playing the game while the coach is instructing them from the sidelines. When they aren’t playing the game, he is training them in practice—which often includes doing many hard things they don’t necessarily want to do, but must do to be able to be ready to play and win.
- Pastors are the equippers of discipleship because God has called them to be the leaders of the local churches. The local churches’ mission is the great commission—to make disciples of all nations. The method to fulfill the great commission is discipleship—the life-on-life process where disciples spread the gospel to other people who become disciples and then they help them to become fully mature and serving believers of Jesus.
- Pastors have more duties than just discipleship, but they use every other aspect of their pastoral duties to help train their disciples. Jesus had many ways that He served and taught people, but it seemed that in almost everything He did, He did it with the secondary purpose of training His disciples.
- Pastors are to train leaders of leaders. Not only does the pastor have the responsibility to be the example to the flock, but he has the responsibility to train others who can train others. Thus, like Jesus, He can’t spend large amounts of time with everyone, but with a few, who will then also minister to the larger group.
- Pastors are more than just preachers and preaching is only a part of training disciples. Faithfully preaching the word of God is nonnegotiable to being a pastor, but discipleship is paramount for establishing spiritually healthy churches.
- Pastors train disciples through life-on-life training. They share with their disciples not only the gospel of God but also their souls. They are glad to spend and be spent for them.
2 Corinthians 12:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8
- Who does God choose to lead and set the example for others to follow?
- Why does God use pastors to lead?
- When is the pastor’s task completed?
- How does the pastor lead?
- What are some principles concerning pastors and discipleship?
A disciple-making disciple is a person who: (1) has believed and called upon the name of the Lord to be saved; (2) is growing in their faith—meaning they are living for Jesus and have defining “disciple-required” characteristics that distinguish them from others who are followers of Jesus in name only; (3) and are actively striving to reproduce themselves by making disciples throughout their lifetime.
Disciple-Making Disciples Have A Firm, Active And Sanctifying Faith
- A firm faith: Jesus asked His disciples, “But whom say ye that I am?” Every disciple needs to know that they personally have found the Messiah—the Christ, the Son of the living God. We need to know that Jesus is the one of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write. Thus, a personal relationship with Jesus is first and foremost.
Matthew 16:13-16; John 1:41-51
- An active faith: Jesus told His disciples, “Ye shall be witnesses unto me.” Every disciple should be engaging the world around them through speaking God’s word and ministering in God’s strength—that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus.
Acts 1:8; Colossians 3:17; 1 Peter 4:11
- A sanctifying faith: Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth.” Every disciple is being sanctified as they press toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus—to obtain the glory of their Lord—to be conformed to His image.
John 17:17; Romans 8:29; Philippians 3:12-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:14
Disciple-Making Disciples Have Distinguishing Characteristics
- A persistent commitment to the Bible: Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed”. Thus, true disciples are those who continue believing in Jesus and obeying all that Jesus has taught and said—as revealed to us in the Bible.
- A sacrificial love for one another: Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Jesus’ new commandment for His disciples was to love to the same degree that He had loved them. Being with Jesus they had experienced the very love of God in a new way and would eventually understand Jesus showed God’s love to the world when He sacrificially died on the cross for sinful mankind.
Matthew 5:43-48; John 13:1, 34-35; 15:9-13; Romans 5:8
- A healthy bearer of much fruit: Jesus said, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” We cannot do anything on our own, but we are to abide in Jesus. He is the vine and we are the branches. This abiding allows us to glorify God by producing “much fruit” and showing ourselves to be Jesus’ disciples.
- An unrivaled devotion to Jesus: Jesus said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” The relationships with our family members are often the dearest relationships we have, but Jesus says that we need to “hate” those relationships—meaning to “love less” those relationships in comparison to Him. Another way to say it: we are to “love Jesus supremely.” He is even more important than our own lives. (Don’t misunderstand, this isn’t a command to “hate” people but it is a command to choose Jesus above all else, which can seem like “hate” in comparison.)
Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26
- An utmost determination to follow Jesus: Jesus said, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” Jesus expects His disciples to be determined to daily denying their own wills (living for self), removing hurdles to following Him and bearing any ramifications for doing so and firmly embracing His will (living for God) even if it means paying a great price to do so. The cross represents an instrument of death—it means that we die to ourselves but we live unto God. It represents the extent that Jesus is calling us to deny ourselves so that we are free and able to follow and serve Him. We reject the life of “self-determination” and accept the life of “Jesus-determination”.
Matthew 10:38; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; 14:27; Galatians 2:20
- A complete forsaking of everything: Jesus said, “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” Jesus is talking about absolute surrender. His disciples are to be completely surrendered to His will without reservation, thus renouncing all rights, privileges, demands, possessions, appeasements or indulgences in the process. Everything in the life of a believer comes under the Lordship of Jesus—there are no negotiations just unconditional surrender. (Don’t misunderstand, this doesn’t mean that you have to sell all your possession immediately and aren’t allow to own anything, but this is putting every aspect of your life under the Lordship of Jesus to do as He pleases and the willingness to follow Him at any cost and in every respect.)
Luke 5:11, 28; 12:33; 14:33; 18:22
- A courageous desire to imitate Jesus: Jesus said, “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.” The objective of discipleship is for the disciple or student to become like his teacher. Each disciple that is fully trained (perfect) will be just like his teacher. So there should be a desire in every disciple to be like Jesus in every way—even if that means the way the world treated Him they will treat us. Thus, this is a courageous desire because it promises varying degrees of persecution for everyone who lives like Jesus.
Matthew 10:24-25; Luke 6:40; John 15:20
- A willingness to obey orders from Jesus: The Bible says, “The disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them.” Jesus effectively becomes the boss of our lives and we should be willing to be obedient and submissive to all His commands.
Matthew 11:1; 21:1-2, 6; John 21:15-17
Disciple-Making Disciples Have Disciples Who Reproduce Disciples
- A passion to make disciples of all nations: Jesus told His disciples to, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” During their training, the disciples were bringing others to Jesus and even sent out to preach. At the end of their training, Jesus told them to go out and “teach”—make disciples—of all nations. They were to reproduce themselves—to train disciples who will train disciples. Thus, a disciple-making disciple must have disciples who train disciples.
Matthew 28:16-20; Luke 5:27-32; 10:1; John 1:40-45; (2 Timothy 2:2)
- Disciple-making disciples have what kind of faith?
- What are the eight distinguishing characteristics of disciple-making disciples?
- Disciple-making disciples must reproduce what?
- Are you a disciple-making disciple? Why?
- Where are your disciples? Are they making disciples?
A discipleship relationship is characterized by withness—meaning that training is accomplished as you “do life together”. This is also called life-on-life mentorship. This creates a unique bond between the “mentor” and the “mentee” as they both strive to serve the Lord all for His honor and glory.
A Discipleship Relationship Is Characterized By “Withness”
- Jesus ordained the twelve disciples “that they should be with Him”. Jesus knew that before they would be sent out to preach and have power to perform miracles that they needed to be with Him. This means that they needed to spend a lot of time together. This was a charge for them to constantly be in His presence so that they could learn from every aspect of His life and He could mold every aspect of their lives into representations of Himself. This was a transparent, intimate and bonding relationship that can only be established through spending good quality and a large quantity of time together. This was also more than just friends hanging out, Jesus was a man whom God was with (in fact, He was God Himself), and took every opportunity to teach them the truth.
Mark 3:14; Luke 9:18-20; John 3:2
- We need to realize that discipleship isn’t just sitting down and teaching our disciples lessons from the Bible for an hour each week, but it’s a relationship where we invite others into our lives so that we can train them like Jesus trained His disciples. Also, we can’t expect for people to follow us except God be with us and we desire to teach them God’s truth. Our discipleship relationships also need to be defined by withness—spending time together with our disciples training them for the kingdom of God.
A Discipleship Relationship Is Characterized By “Life-On-Life”
- A discipleship relationship is like a spiritual “teacher and learner” relationship. A “disciple” is a person who is a learner or student that is devoted to learning from a specific teacher in an instructional relationship. But this is more than a “classroom relationship” where a professor teaches and the students listen and receives information, instead it is teacher who is imparting knowledge and practical skills to his student. The student is fully committed to learning from his teacher and organizes his life around his teacher so that he can spend the necessary time with him to accomplish this. Thus a student (disciple) ends up being like his teacher (master).
Matthew 10:24-25; John 13:14-15
- A discipleship relationship is like a spiritual “father and son” relationship. Paul referred to his disciples as spiritual sons or sons in the faith (“Timotheus, who is my beloved son,” “Titus, mine own son after the common faith,” “my son Onesimus”). Timothy was the greatest example of this and Paul said their relationship was like a son with his father, because He had served with Paul in the work of the gospel. Timothy did ministry like Paul did. This relationship signifies a permanent and lifelong commitment to invest in your disciples’ lives for their edification. We are to train our disciples in the same way that a father teaches and cares for his own sons.
1 Corinthians 4:14-17; 16:10-11; Philippians 2:22; 1 Timothy 1:2, 18; 2 Timothy 1:2; 2:1; Titus 1:4; Philemon 10
- A discipleship relationship is like a spiritual “leader and follower” relationship. Jesus was the leader and those who wanted to be His disciples were to follow Him. On the part of the disciples, there wasn’t a full understanding of what the “pathway of following Jesus” was going to look like or what would be required (although Jesus did challenge them with many hard sayings), but they had confidence in the leader. A follower needs to have confidence that the leader is going to lead them well and they need to make the necessary sacrifices to be able to follow—not just following literally, but also to accept and follow their guidance and leadership.
Matthew 4:19-22; 8:19-23; 9:9; 16:24; 19:21
- A discipleship relationship is like a spiritual “master and apprentice” relationship. A “master” is someone who already has experience and skills in a certain area or trade and is teaching the less experienced and unskilled person everything they know about it. We have several examples in the Bible, but a few from the Old Testament are: (1) Elijah and Elisha; (2) Moses and Joshua; (3) Eli and Samuel.
(1) 1 Kings 19:19-21; 2 Kings 2:1-25; (2) Exodus 24:13; Deuteronomy 31:1-8; (3) 1 Samuel 1:24-28; 3:1-23
Principles For Discipleship Relationships
- Principles in being a disciple trainer:
- Invite: You have to invite others into your life and give them permission to “follow” you, learn from you, and be trained by you. Like Jesus, we aren’t looking for those with the best education, those from great families, those with enormous wealth or the most religious person, but we are looking for those with humble hearts willing to learn and serve God. We aren’t looking for those without problems, but normal hard-working men and women who might make a lot of mistakes—but we aren’t focused on who they currently are as much as we are focused on what they can become through Jesus.
John 1:43; 15:16; Acts 4:13; Heart: 1 Samuel 16:7; Double Vision: Acts 9:10-19; Judges 6:13-18
- Instruct: As you are training those who accepted your invitation to learn from you, you want to give them instructions about how to grow and serve. You are not to do all the serving and work by yourself, but you are to instruct them how to do it and give them the opportunity to actually do it themselves, even if they can’t do it as good as you can. For who could do anything better than Jesus, but He allowed His disciples to serve. Instruct each person through encouragement at a pace they are able to endure.
Serving: John 6:10; Luke 22:8; Growing: Matthew 10:5; 14:26-33; Pace: Genesis 33:13-14; John 16:12, 33; Mark 4:33
- Inform: We are to teach our disciples God’s word, but also spend extra time making sure they understand everything that we are teaching and how to apply it to their lives.
Mark 4:1, 34
- Principles in being a disciple:
- Follow: You have to be willing to “follow” someone who invites you into their life to learn from them. This means making sacrifices so that you can establish this discipleship relationship. Those who are training for full-time service will have to make greater sacrifices as this becomes their entire livelihood.
Mark 1:19-20; 2:14; Luke 5:11; 18:28
- Serve: Disciples serve wherever they are needed. They learn to obey what they are told to do by those who are training them and serve alongside them. They aren’t looking to just serve in the areas of prominence, but also in the small, insignificant and seemingly less important areas. They are also willing to bring their friends and family to church and tell them about Jesus.
Serving: John 6:11; Luke 22:9-13
- Learn: Disciples are learners. They are to be constantly asking questions to the person who is training them so that they are learning new things and understanding everything that is being taught. They are to be interested, inquisitive, and imitative.
Matthew 13:10, 36; Mark 4:10; Luke 11:1; 24:35
- What does “withness” mean?
- What does “life-on-life” mean?
- A discipleship relationship is like what four types of relationships?
- What are three principles in being a disciple trainer?
- What are three principles in being a disciple?
The purpose of discipleship is to be consistently producing maturing and sanctifying disciples of Jesus, but the potential of discipleship is producing the next generation of church leaders. It starts by taking the large group and funneling them into smaller groups to train disciples at differing levels. Believers take each disciple as far as they can and as far as they want to go. Then they pass them off to someone who can take them farther than they are able to, especially those who desire full-time ministry. Those who surrender to full-time ministry are then trained by those who are already in full-time ministry—thus it becomes their priority ministry to train leaders who reproduce themselves, eventually working towards training leaders of leaders.
Purpose: Colossians 1:28; Potential: 2 Timothy 2:2
Understanding Discipleship Groupings
- Jesus’ ministry had different groups of people that He interacted with and He spent different amounts of time with each group. First, “The Crowds”—these were large groups of people He was preaching the gospel to or those who would come to hear His teachings. Second, “The Church”—this was the larger group of disciples that Jesus was working with and that were gathered together after His resurrection. Third, “The twelve”—this represents those Jesus was working with more closely and were training for full-time ministry. Fourth, “The Three”—these were three of the disciples from the group of the twelve that Jesus worked with more closely. Fifth, “The Beloved”—this was probably the disciple that was closest to Jesus. This helps us understand how different groupings are beneficial in making disciples. We learn the following two aspects:
(1) Mark 2:1-6; 2:13; (2) Luke 10:1; Acts 1:13-15; 2:42-47; (3) Matthew 10:1-6; Luke 6:13; (4) Matthew 17:1-2; Mark 5:37; 14:33; Luke 8:51; (5) John 13:23; 19:26; 21:7
- Discipleship Groupings: As we are training disciples, we are going to divide them into different groups and spend time with each group differently. This also allows us to offer different kinds of training to different groups. There are large evangelistic outreaches, the gathering of believers at the church, small groups of people we are working more intimately with and also one-on-one relationships. It seems with Jesus, the larger group got less time and the smaller group get more time.
- The Leadership Funnel: As we are training disciples, those in full-time ministry (like Jesus) need to focus on developing leaders. At the wide end of the funnel there is a large group who are challenged to follow Jesus. A smaller portion of people respond to the invitation and move down the funnel. They are being trained and growing in the Lord. They are challenge to go to the next level of ministry and leadership. An even smaller amount responds to that invitation, and eventually there is a small group of leaders who are being trained for ministry. Eventually, this small group of leaders will work their own funnels as they start discipling others and training leaders themselves.
- The principle is that we take the large group and funnel them into smaller groups to train our disciples at differing levels.
Advancing Within Discipleship Growth
- Every disciple should be “receiving training” but also “training others”. As we learn the basics of the gospel and the basics of living the victorious Christian life, we need to be teaching someone else those truths and training them how to live it out. But the basics are just the beginning and not the end. As we train disciples, we should be willing that each person be taken to the next level in the Christian life. Thus, this means that we should be willing to pass those we are discipling on to a more spiritually mature person who can help take them further in their spiritual walk or take them to the next level of serving God. For example, you might be able to train someone to be a faithful church member, but you don’t know how to train them to be a teacher or to be a pastor, so you need to pass them on to someone who can. Timothy is an example of this discipleship advancement. He was taught the Holy Scriptures and how to have an unfeigned faith by his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. But later he was trained by Paul for the work of the ministry.
Acts 16:1-5; 1 Corinthians 4:17; Philippians 2:19; 1 Timothy 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:1-5; 3:15
- The principle is that we take each disciple as far as we can and then pass them off to someone who can take them farther than we are able to.
Prioritizing The Leadership Potential Of Discipleship
- As we are busy making disciples, we need to keep in mind that God might use those we are training (including our children) to accomplish great things for His Name’s sake. We should dream big dreams for everyone we train. We should pray that, if God wills, He will use our disciples in full-time ministry. Obviously, not everyone will be in full-time ministry, but some will, so we need to expand the range of our vision so that we are working to train everyone to their “full individual potential”—everyone produces varying amounts of fruit (some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty) and has different talents (every man according to his several ability)—so that by the grace of God, His grace that is bestowed upon us will not be in vain.
Matthew 13:23; 25:14-15; 1 Corinthians 15:10
- Full-time Ministry: All believers should be involved in training disciples, but pastors, missionaries, and those in full-time ministry have a priority ministry to be constantly looking for “faithful men” who will be able to teach others also. Men who desire to be in the ministry. These are men that they can entrust with the responsibility of full-time ministry. Like Jesus who trained His disciples to lead the church in carrying forth the great commission, so they are constantly looking for disciples who they can train for full-time service. They funnel the large group into small groups of men who desire to be in full-time ministry and spend the majority of their time training them—the next generation of ministry leaders. This is their priority ministry, just like it was for Jesus and the twelve disciples.
Mark 3:14; Galatians 2:7; Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Timothy 1:18-19; 6:20; 3:1-7; Titus 1:3-5
- The principle is that we take each disciple as far as they want to go and take those who are desirous and willing onto full-time ministry.
Training Leaders Of Leaders
- As those in ministry are training “ministry leadership” we must remember that we are to produce copies of ourselves (as we follow Christ) by investing our lives into them. Our training should set in motion a movement of leaders who train other leaders, who train other leaders, who train other leaders in a never ending cycle of discipleship that fulfills its purpose and lives up to its potential. For Example: From Paul to Timothy to faithful men to others and so on.
1 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Timothy 2:2
- The principle is that we train leaders to train other leaders and their disciples do the same.
- What is discipleship groupings? What is the principle?
- What is advancing in discipleship growth? What is the principle?
- How do we prioritize the leadership potential of discipleship? What is the principle?
- What does it mean to train leaders of leaders? What is the principle?
- What is the priority ministry of pastors and missionaries? Who are you training?
Discipleship is defined as a life-on-life process where disciples of Jesus spread the gospel to unbelievers who, Lord willing, put their faith in and start following Jesus, thus become disciples themselves. Next they help those new believers to mature as disciples—meaning to help them grow in their identity, behavior and ministry. Subsequently, they start training other disciples with the goal to be consistently producing maturing disciples of Jesus in all nations, at all times, all for the glory of God.
Defining What A Genuine Disciple Is Like
- What is a disciple? A genuine disciple is a person who responds to Jesus’ call to believe in and follow Him as Lord and Saviour. Jesus makes those who follow Him into fishers of men—meaning people that make disciples of all nations.
Matthew 4:19-22; (28:18-20); Mark 1:14-20; Romans 1:16
- First, you need to become a disciple—to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved. This means that you know who Jesus is, you believe what He did for you (death and resurrection) and you are willing to trust and follow Him.
Romans 10:9-10, 13
- Second, you need to grow as a disciple—continual growth in your life as you become ambassadors for Christ and are being conformed to His image. This means you will start living for Jesus and having certain characteristics, such as: loving one another; walking in obedience; knowing truth; bringing forth fruit; and discipling others.
John 15:12-17; (Fruits: Romans 1:13-15; Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 1:11; Hebrews 13:15;)
- Are you a Christian spectator or a disciple? What is the difference? Disciples consider and choose to follow Jesus; they discover and believe Jesus is the greatest treasure; they renounce their lives and submit to Jesus as Lord; they realize that even though salvation is completely free, living the Christian life may cost them everything.
Luke 14:28-33; Matthew 10:34-37; 13:44-46; 16:24-26
Defining The Growth Stages Of Discipleship
- Discipleship Development: After salvation, a disciple should start to mature in Christ and live out that maturity. The following is a process or method that identifies four specific stages that guide believers as they desire to follow Jesus, obey His Word and submit to His will.
- Stage 1: Identity—who I am—(Focus: Position in Jesus; Action: Believing). “Identity” is referring to your position in Jesus. Through believing the preaching of the cross you have been gloriously placed in Christ. Thus, this level starts at salvation, but its continued growth is accomplished through learning, understanding and believing the Biblical and positional truths about who you are “in Christ” and firmly standing by faith on those truths and on the promises of God.
John 1:12; 10:28-29; 1 Corinthians 1:18; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:4-7; Colossians 3:1-4; 1 Peter 2:1-10; 2 Peter 1:1-4
- Stage 2: Behavior—what I do—(Focus: Personal Growth; Action: Obeying). “Behavior” is referring to personal growth in your attitudes and actions. Through salvation you have been given a new opportunity to live a transformed life for Jesus that is pleasing to Him. Growth in this level is accomplished through obedience to God’s Word that produces inward changes (the way we think and feel) and leads to outward changes (the way we act and behave), with the goal to completely change our character—our mental and moral qualities—to become like Jesus.
Psalm 15:1-5; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 2:10-12; Titus 2:7-8; 2 Peter 1:5-11; 1 John 3:18
- Stage 3: Ministry—how I serve—(Focus: Practical Service; Action: Serving). “Ministry” is referring to your practical service within the local church and your good works to your “neighbors”. Through salvation God has ordained that you should walk in good works and He has given you spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit to edify the church. Growth in this level is accomplished by being full of good works towards others, actively edifying your local church by using your spiritual gifts and getting involved in serving.
Mark 10:43-45; Romans 12:9-13; Ephesians 2:8-10; 4:16; 1 Corinthians 10:24; 12:7-27; Galatians 5:13; 2 Peter 1:12-15
- Stage 4: Training—who I train—(Focus: Producing Disciples; Action: Mentoring). “Training” is referring to producing more disciples thus multiplying God’s kingdom. Through salvation you have been commissioned to make Jesus’ name to be remembered in all generations and so that the generations to come might know Jesus and make Him known. Growth in this level is accomplished by constantly being with and actively investing your life in other disciples’ lives so that they can grow in their identity, behavior, ministry and be able to teach others also.
Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 14:21-23; 2 Timothy 2:2; Ephesians 4:11-12; Titus 1:5-6; (Psalm 45:17; 78:1-8)
- Important Note: Each stage in the discipleship development process should be seen as individual stages but also as complimentary of each other. This means that a disciple’s growth isn’t a list of boxes to be checked off, stages to be completed or lessons to be studied, but it is more of a gradient of color where each stage fades into one another and builds upon one another. For example, the “identity” stage is foundational to all the other stages, but it is a stage that must remain strong and have continual growth to effect healthy growth in the other stages. Each stage does go in consecutive order, but you never complete a stage, you just continue to growth more in each stage. If there is a problem in one stage, then you need to go back to each previous stage to see where there is a lack of growth.
- Measuring Growth: Growth is measured by the effectiveness of the last stage “training” because it is the healthy reproduction of “disciples who are producing disciples”. This can be seen in the illustration of human development: newborn to child to adult to parent. Spiritually, when people are new believers, they are “spiritual newborns” who don’t know much but start to grow with the help of their “spiritual parents”—those who disciple them. Then they start to understand, grow in the Word and live out their faith. Next, they became mature and independent in their faith and are serving God to the best of their ability. Finally, they start discipling others or become spiritual parents of others. Thus, spiritual parenthood, not spiritual adulthood, is the goal. Growth question: How many disciples are training or producing other disciples? Who are your spiritual children?
Examples of this terminology: 1 Corinthians 3:1-3; 4:14-17; 13:11; Philippians 2:22; 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12; 1 John 2:12-14
Defining The Purpose Of Discipleship
- Therefore, the purpose of the discipleship process is to be consistently producing maturing and sanctifying disciples of Jesus in all nations, at all times, all for the glory of God. This is an ongoing process that doesn’t stop until the return of Jesus.
Ephesians 4:13-16; Colossians 1:28-29; Matthew 28:20
- What is a genuine disciple like?
- What are the four stages of discipleship growth?
- What is the important note we need to remember?
- How do we measure growth?
- What is the purpose of discipleship?
The Biblical framework for discipleship starts with the foundation of understanding that God wants the world evangelized and disciples made from every nation. This responsibility was given to the local church whose main task is to make disciples of all nations, who in turn, will make disciples—until the end of the age. Jesus modeled the framework of what discipleship looks like and how we are to invest our lives into training other disciples.
The Foundation Of Discipleship Is World Evangelism
- World evangelism is the bedrock of discipleship. From the beginning, God promised to save “whosoever will” through sending Jesus as the Saviour of the World and in the end He will accomplish His mission by saving people from every kindred, tongue, people and nation. Thus, this is the single pulse of world evangelism: to actively pursue the lost world so that they are brought into a reconciled relationship with their Creator; and hereafter live to mature “in Christ” so that they can glorify God and enjoy Him forever through the gospel of Jesus. This has two main focuses:
2 Corinthians 5:11-21; Psalm 16:11; 145:1-3; Acts 2:28
- Reaching unbelievers with the message of Jesus—reaching is the idea of holding out, establishing communication and successfully influencing unbelievers with the gospel message of Jesus; it is the idea of stretching past boundaries and going forth with the gospel message of Jesus; it is the idea of successfully contextualizing and convincing (through the work of the Holy Spirit) unbelievers with message of Jesus (a person hears the gospel and believes).
- Teaching believers with the word of God—teaching is the idea of instructing new believers in the Word of God so that they will obtain the necessary knowledge and skills to be a faithful disciple of Jesus; it is the idea of educating and training disciples for the ministry so that they fulfill the biblical requirements and are proficient to carry out their own ministerial roles; it is the idea of church planting; it is the idea of continual instruction.
- The responsibility of “world evangelism” (and thus discipleship) has effectively and solely been inherited by the local church. Thus, the core purpose or focus of each local church is to evangelize the world. Members of each local church should collectively be using their time, talents and treasures to accomplish this task.
Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:45-53
Jesus Modeled The Framework Of What He Commanded Us To Do
- Discipleship: From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry we see Him training disciples and at the end of His ministry He commands His disciples to “teach all nations,” which literally means to “make disciples of all nations.” Basically, He was looking at them and telling them to do the same thing that He had just done with them. This was to be a repeated process—meaning disciples train other disciples who train other disciples and so on. Thus, this is the single plan of world evangelism: to train up maturing disciples of Jesus who train up other maturing disciples of Jesus.
Matthew 4:19; 28:16-20
- Jesus modeled exactly how this was to work within the local church because the local church started with Jesus and His disciples (and it was established when they received and were filled by the Holy Spirit). Jesus’ relationship with His disciples becomes the pattern for ministry and the plan for fulfilling the great commission.
John 20:20-23; Ephesians 2:19-22; Acts 1:8; 2:4, 42-47
Key Components Of The Discipleship Framework
- Discipleship is training. Disciples are people who willingly take on the roles of “students, trainees, or followers” so that they can believe and follow the teachings of their “teacher, trainer, or leader”. Discipleship is investing your life into other disciples. The Bible is the tool we use to disciple because it is truth that is profitable for teaching doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for training or instruction in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be perfect or complete, throughly furnished or equipped for every good work. Example: Jesus was the trainer and the twelve men were the trainees and He faithfully committed to them the Words of the Father.
2 Timothy 3:16-17; John 7:16; 8:31-32; 12:49-50; 15:3; 17:17-19
- Discipleship is relational. It is a training, instructional and teaching relationship, but it is also an intimate relationship—like that of close friends but with the purpose of helping others become more like Jesus. Thus, this training includes learning from spending time with the trainer and learning directly from their lives. This is called life-on-life training. The trainer and the trainee live life together and use every opportunity as a training moment. Example: Jesus called the disciples to “be with Him” and He called them “friends” and not “servants or slaves”—showing the closeness of such a relationship.
Mark 3:13-15; John 15:15; (It is a “way of life”—similar to the responsibilities of parents in Deuteronomy 6:5-9.)
- Discipleship is multiplication. After Jesus trained His disciples, they received the Holy Spirit, they started working out the great commission, and the church experienced explosive growth. What were they doing? They were doing what they were trained to do: training disciples through reaching unbelievers with the message of Jesus and teaching believers with the word of God. These “new disciples” would reach and teach others and the number of disciples multiplied. This was accomplish by training disciples who trained other disciples and so on—through the power of the Holy Spirit. Example: Jesus investing His life into His disciples had much greater results than if He would have only witnessed to one person every day for the three years of His ministry. Here is an example scenario to help us understand how this works: If there was a new convert everyday for 12 years there would be 4,380 total converts. But if Jesus’ eleven disciples each trained eleven disciples every three years and then their disciples each trained eleven disciples every three years, etc, in a period of 12 years there would be 161,051 disciples.
Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 13:49; 16:5; 19:20
- Discipleship is reproduction. The secret of discipleship is the “spiritual continuum factor”—meaning that each disciple is to always reach and teach others who in return will be able to reach and teach others also. Thus, we are to train our disciples, but there is a time that we are to release them to go out and reproduce themselves—like a child who eventually becomes a parent, a training disciple becomes a trainer of disciples. Example: Timothy was to take what he learned from Paul and commit it to faithful men, who would be able to teach others also.
2 Timothy 2:2
- What is the foundation of discipleship?
- Who has the responsibility of world evangelism?
- What is the single plan of world evangelism?
- How did Jesus model the framework of discipleship?
- What are some components of discipleship?