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Discipleship Introduction

Finding Discipleship participates in discipleship and disciple-making in several ways:

  1. Its members engage in one-on-one discipleship relationships.

  2. We train disciple-makers using the First Steps discipleship program.

  3. We teach discipleship principles to church leaders and work with them to establish discipleship as an inherent part of a larger Spiritual Formation training program.

Please call, text, or email us if you would like us to do any of these things for or with your laypeople or leadership teams. Or, if you would like to be discipled.

 

What follows is our introduction to the discipleship process using Jesus as the model. 

Teachers impart information or data. It’s pretty much a one-way process without a lot of interaction. Discipleship isn’t like that. Jesus, the master disciple-maker, didn’t just spew information and knowledge at His disciples and walk away. He taught, conversed to ensure they understood His points, modeled desired behavior, expected them to repeat what they learned and saw, and then gave feedback before sending them out as His replacements upon His ascension.

Jesus reproduced Himself; we must do the same and train others to repeat the process. The training will be ongoing and done to fit the individuals we mold into mature followers. This is how the story of reconciliation continues and righteous behavior perpetuated. Let’s begin …

Right off the bat, we need to make note of some very key takeaways:

First, let’s set a disciple training paradigm. Most importantly, understand that discipleship is a dynamic training system, not a program! I repeat, discipleship is NOT a program but a system – a lifelong lifecycle of dynamic and varied approaches to discipleship and its spiritual formation training.

Second, and related, a successful discipleship system won’t have discrete stop and start dates. For instance, a new believer may receive 10-week one-on-one guided discipleship using the First Steps tool and then spend several years in ad-hoc Spiritual Formation courses that train First-Steps topics such as Dealing with Temptation, Prayer, Bible Study at a deeper level. Simultaneously, the follower of Christ should be involved in indefinite prayer, accountability, and Bible study. One established term for these groups is Life Transformation Groups.

Third, and as you’ve probably gathered, discipleship is meant to be an indefinite direction – not an end in itself. In other words, don’t establish a Discipleship Program comprising a book, set start and stop times, and pre-conceived notions of where someone will be when they finish the ‘program.’

Finally, discipleship is the stuff of mentoring and training made possible through relationship. Again, discipleship is relational; training, as opposed to teaching, will likely not happen without the trust relationships bring.

Now that we’ve set a basic paradigm, let me give you a few more important takeaways:

  • First Steps is a tool – again, not a comprehensive program in itself. It is invaluable for conducting short-term (10-week) training and providing a theological and spiritual foundation upon which we should build with deeper and longer-running spiritual formation courses, small groups and Life Transformation Groups, etc.

  • Our goal: Reproduce ourselves as righteous Christ-followers and disciple-makers

  • Consider becoming authorized First Steps Trainers to get materials. We can provide training, mentoring, and materials help make this happen!

Discipleship in General

Question: What is discipleship? What is a disciple? What do you think?

First, discipleship is primarily training for the purpose of reproduction, not teaching! Reproduce what? Godly behavior and actionable love that are the trademarks of the Bride of Christ in His Kingdom.

What about disciples? In his gospel account, Mark reports several characteristics of a contemporary disciple. We see some listed in Chapter 8:31 – 10:45.

  • Deny himself

  • Take up his cross and follow

  • May lose their life for the gospel

  • Pray and fast

  • Successfully execute the authority of Christ

  • Don’t stumble or cause the less-mature to stumble into sin

  • May have to lose or not gain material wealth

  • May have to abandon relationships

  • Practice humility

And in Jesus’ day, disciples devoted themselves completely to the master. They lived, ate, breathed, slept, and modeled what they heard and saw.

So we shouldn’t be surprised at Jesus’ requirements I just mentioned and perhaps we can make more sense of ideals such as “clothing ourselves with Christ” or “Abiding in the Son” – John 15:4-6. But why would or should someone become a disciple or a disciple-maker?

  • We can’t obey a God we don’t know or follow a covenant we don’t understand.

    • Wait?!? What? Covenant?? Yep – this is an arrangement not unlike God’s marriage to Israel and our relationship with Him through Jesus. Ever hear that we are the “Bride of Christ?”

  • And God is pretty clear about the consequences of disobedience (e.g. John 15:6, Matthew 25, etc.).

Question: What would compel people to become disciples? The answer isn't as simple as you might think in our 'rinse-n-repeat, sin cycle' Christian culture whereby someone is permanently 'saved' just by saying some kind of 'sinner's prayer' 'in their mind.' Everything about our western salvation concept is deadly and nothing biblical. Why should someone devote himself or herself to God and exercise self-control in purity and good works when they don't know there's a need? The conundrum is at the center of Christianity and a topic Finding Discipleship is happy to 'roll up our sleeves' and discuss with Christians or Christian organizations interested in turning the tide and wondering how to compel people to go through a discipleship process.

Jesus' Discipleship Example

Jesus’ Example … and yours.

Jesus was the ultimate disciple-maker. He had lots of followers but selected twelve to remain close enough to learn and reproduce the reconciliation story and Godly behavior. He cultivated relationships to build trust and then used those intimate relationships to train them. So, how did He train? His training involved relationship, choice (by both parties; think covenant!), teaching, modeling, practice, accountability and correction, and then release.

He also emphasized spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, giving, and accountability. Ongoing spiritual formation through small groups can and should focus on disciplines such as prayer, study, and accountability to become and then stay aligned with the Kingdom. Let’s take a quick look at each component of Jesus’ discipleship model:

  1. Relationship. Jesus likely had existing relationships with those who became his disciples … or they had relationships with those who did. Otherwise, it’s unlikely the men would’ve given all to follow a stranger with a new look at the Kingdom of God that didn’t match their image created by the Law and prophets. The miracles came later …

  1. Choosing by both parties. A true disciple must be devoted. This isn’t unlike Israel’s Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) or Jesus’ reiteration of it (Matthew 22:37-40). God has proved His love first by giving; however, we still need to respond and follow. So, Jesus chose twelve to be close and they devoted themselves to him in response. We are likely willing to offer discipleship to anyone, but they must accept and put a little skin in the game!

  1. Teaching. Jesus did teach – impart knowledge – of the Kingdom of God. This was His gospel message He then modeled. You won’t have to be a Bible scholar to begin making disciples and training them – just use what you have and know (a right heart, a basic message of God’s grace through Christ, and the workbook). And, then model godly behavior as Jesus did.

  2. ModelingHearing is one thing; seeing is another. Telling the disciples of the power of the Spirit who would enable them without showing would’ve likely fallen on deaf ears. Want to know another possibility? We could, and likely would, turn others away from the Kingdom of God like the Pharisees that often paraded something of a, “Do as I say and not as I do” behavior. So, Jesus demonstrated the good news of the Kingdom and the power of the Spirit to build confidence. Just be yourself as you walk in righteousness (if you’re not walking the talk already, there’s no righteousness!).

  1. Practice. Jesus then sent His disciples out to practice what they’d seen and heard. This was to internalize the knowledge and wisdom and build further confidence. Practice also includes using what you know in discussion or retort. For instance, Jesus checked their understanding (not just knowledge!) by asking questions such as “What do you think?”

  1. Accountability & Correction. But, that wasn’t the end. Jesus needed to provide feedback – accountability – and correction. Accountability and gentle correction during the discipleship (initial and ongoing) are important to growth today.

  1. Release. Finally, Jesus released His disciples to continue telling the good news of God’s Kingdom and carry on the ministry of reconciliation. He basically reproduced Himself. We will do the same as we prepare the disciple and then encourage them to live a righteous life and train others as they were trained.

So … let’s discuss further our role in all this.

Our Role in Discipleship

Your Role in Training is the same as Jesus’.

Each of us will fill one or more roles in disciple-making and they may overlap:

  1. Implement and oversee discipleship and spiritual formation training.

  2. Train the Trainer – enable and empower disciple-makers.

  3. Be a disciple-maker.

Implement and oversee discipleship and spiritual formation training. This role is perhaps most difficult and yet extremely rewarding because of the God-given responsibility and the potential harvest for God’s Kingdom. And if you’re a trainer of trainers or a disciple-maker, you’ll need to be very dynamic and yet exact in your preparation.

You’ll need to uncover ways to compel people to train those who become disciple-makers as well as creatively light a ‘holy fire’ if you will under many if not most churchgoers in our experiential Christian culture. 

Train the Trainer – enable and empower disciple-makers. Your job will be just as important and perhaps harder than that of the implementers. Again, you’ll need to be of the upright spiritually-speaking and confident enough in your faith to teach the discipleship system and lesson plan to those who’ll make disciples.

And as with the others, you’ll be engaged in dynamically figuring out how to compel people to honor God through actionable love including the ‘Great Commission.’

Be a disciple-maker. Lastly, the disciple-maker who agrees to disciple and train others is an obedient and upright person – even if they know very little scripturally yet. Again, what do they need?  (1) A righteous nature; (2) The Bible and, ideally, some kind of guide for them and the disciple (e.g. the First Steps workbook); (3) Relationship.

This role of disciple-maker is easiest when you already have the disciple’s trust and relationship conduit. Of course, making disciples out of pew-warmers who are unaware of this two-way relationship with God and their part of the partnership is another matter ...

Regardless of your role, you’ll need to set expectations. Why?

  • First, people need to know the requirements of the role. Otherwise, there can be no accountability or improvement (because there’s no standard or guidelines).

  • Second, an agreement to basic expectations – and then keeping their word – shows intent/ heart.

What expectations? Here are few examples:

  1. Time: Together, agree on a particular day and time to meet and then hold the disciple accountable.

  2. Preparation. Ensure you and the disciple are both prepared for meeting by reviewing material, answering questions, etc.

  3. Next Steps. Establish ongoing disciplines of prayer and Bible study. As with the establishment of any good habit, there may be a need to start small at first and then increase the daily timeframe for prayer and study (proper study, not a daily devotional alone!).