19. Effective Discipleship Copy

"The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you."

Philippians 4:9


Lord make me a discipler like your Son was.  

Make me a developer of others like Paul was.  

What and Why


In John 17 Jesus said, “As you (God) have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” These words cause us to look deeply into the life of Christ and study it. We have been given a mission that will resemble that of our glorious Savior. In Christ’s last words in the Gospels he underlined one part of that mission. He commanded his followers to make disciples.


Our love for Jesus moves us to say, “God, if this is what you want, if this is how you will send me into the world, I will do it!” We then must answer the question: How? What is the best way to disciple someone? What is the heart of the task? How can I evaluate if I’m doing it well? To these questions we now turn.


We seek to understand how we can disciple others by following Jesus’ example. We seek to learn how we can encourage our disciples to take faith-steps that result in growth and spiritual maturity.

Learning from the Word

We will look at three texts in which we observe Jesus, the master discipler, working with his disicples.


Read Matthew 4:18-22

Click for the text


Describe Jesus’ intentional actions in these verses.


What do we learn about Jesus’ call to discipleship from the disciples’ change in behavior?


Read Luke 6:12-20

Click for the text

 In Luke’s account of the calling of the 12 we find Jesus in an interesting setting.


What was happening around him? (verses 17-20)


Given this setting, why is it significant that Jesus apparently addressed his message to his disciples? (He looked at them and said...vs. 20)


The Gospels were written to tell us the story of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The authors of these books did not attempt to distill discipleship into an easy-to-follow, step-by-step process. Instead, they show us discipleship in action. It is quite informative that in Luke’s Gospel, the very first thing that Jesus did with his new disciples was to teach them. He explained to them the ways of God. Despite the fact that there was a crowd of people clamoring for Jesus’ attention, he focused on instructing his followers in the way of the Lord.


As we continue to read Luke’s Gospel we find the disciples play only a minor role in chapters 7 and 8. This is most appropriate for Jesus is the central character of the story. What we are told is that these men stayed with Jesus. In 7:11 we read, “His disciples were going along with Him.” They followed Jesus, watched him work, listened to his instruction and had the privilege of asking him questions (8:9). Chapters 7 and 8 contain the story of Jesus working while his disciples accompanied him. Their time with Jesus was preparation for what would follow.


Read Luke 9:1-6

Click for the text

After the disciples had accompanied Jesus and watched him work, he gave them work to do.


How did Jesus prepare the disciples for their work?


What instructions did he give them?


In what ways did their work parallel the work of their master?


As we watch our Savior work with his disciples there are primary themes that emerge. We see that Jesus:

♦ Taught them

♦ Spent time with them

♦ Sent them out to serve the Lord

Connecting with the Truth


As we seek to be disciple makers we keep our eyes on Jesus, the greatest discipler of all time. We seek to do what he did, and trust the Lord to enable us to follow his example.


Teaching the Word


Discipleship is always connected to God’s Word. Our disciples need God’s Word. They need to see how it addresses their needs, answers their questions and leads to growth in righteousness. Apart from God’s Word, we do not have the wisdom nor insight necessary to guide others.


We take our disciples to God’s Word where we discover and experience that God is alive, speaking to us, connecting with us. His Word teaches us how to think, how to act and what to believe. Those who grow in the Lord lean heavy on his Word.


Teaching God’s Word requires commitment and preparation. Disciplers share with their disciples what they have been learning from the Word. They also select critical truths to discuss with their disciples. (Devotional Life, Lordship of Christ, Holiness, Spirit-filled life our position in Christ, etc.) The materials that are recommended for small group studies can be resource for a discipler. (See Compass, and Cru.comm resources)


One way we evaluate our work as disciplers is by assessing if we consistently open God’s Word with our disciples, seeking to understand and apply his instruction. We are committed to this practice, knowing that our disciples need God’s Word more than our advice.


Building Relationships, Spending time together


The context of Jesus’ discipleship was relational. He spent time with his disciples. Lots of time. Later, after Jesus’ ascension, the disciples received an interesting back-handed compliment from their adversaries. While the Pharisees and religious leaders were upset at their preaching and their teaching they couldn’t help but describe these men “as having been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) Even Christ’s enemies noticed how the association with Jesus changed the lives of those who followed him. Within the relational context that Jesus created, his disciples grew to be like him.


The Apostle Paul picks up the theme of relational connection in his letter to the Thessalonians.


Read 1 Thess. 2:7-12

Click for the text


In describing his connection with his disciples, Paul used the images of our closest relationships – a mother and child, a father and his children. Paul selected a picture of intimacy, love and care. It was his pleasure to give more than “instruction” to the Thessalonians. He gave his very life. Sacrificial giving, of our time and energy is part of discipleship.


Sharing one’s life with another person is a fundamental aspect of discipleship. Developing a community of believers who grow together is also very important. This is mentioned because we do not want to paint a picture that suggests spiritual growth happens only between two people.



The first time Ben heard the gospel he was convicted by the Holy Spirit. The shame of his sin and the grace of Christ were powerful forces used by the Spirit to move him to place his faith in Jesus.


Having little to no religious background, Ben had no expectation about what might come next. He was just happy that Jesus had forgiven him, relieved that the punishment of his sin was resolved at the cross. He didn’t know that there could be a “next step.” He had never thought about spiritual growth, nor serving the Lord.


Jake, who led Ben to Christ, knew things that Ben didn’t. Jake could see a divine path that God laid out before Ben. So Jake took the initiative to stay in touch. He dropped by his room. He initiated catching a coffee between classes. He even attended Ben’s Salsa dance competition where Ben and his partner took third place. Best of all, Jake and Ben had the opportunity to talk about Jesus with Ben’s friends after the competition.


It was obvious to Ben that Jake was more than just a good guy. He cared about Ben, and really listened when Ben talked about loosing his grandfather in the fall. Together they looked up different verses in the Bible. Jake always had something he wanted to share about God which led to a discussion.


Through this constant interaction Ben observed and caught a few things that helped him figure out what his “next steps” ought to be. Like Jake, Ben started to read his Bible and remember verses. By watching Jake, Ben started to see a path that he could follow.

In what ways did Jake “impart not only the gospel, but also his life?”


In what ways did Jake effectively apply the principles of discipleship?


What are the challenges that a discipler must overcome in order to build a relationship with a disciple?


Part of a relationship is modeling


Most people learn the majority of life’s lessons outside of a structured class. They learn how to be polite not by listening to a formal lecture, but by observing someone behave with gracious tact. The concept of having discipline is uninteresting until we meet someone who is disciplined and find that we respect their behavior and accomplishments. Modeling is a powerful educational tool. It is also a primary theme in discipleship.


Our disciples will listen to our words. They will also watch what we do. When our words and actions work in harmony they will see an inspiring picture of the Christian life. It is important to note that they are watching us.


Since Paul compared his work of discipleship to a father working with his children (1 Thess. 2:11) watch the following video that takes a closer look into the relationship between a father and child.

What parallels exist between the message of this video and a discipleship relationship?


Given that our disciples will be watching us, and learning from our behavior, what responsibilities do we have?


Involving our disciples in God’s mission

Jesus quickly got his disciples involved in the work of the ministry. He modeled what they were to do and then asked them to do it. He asked them to live by faith and trust that he would work through them. The result was very encouraging (Luke 10:17-20). It led to Jesus “rejoicing greatly” (10:21).


In our work of building movements we are dedicated to working with simple, transferable tools so that new disciples can quickly join in the ministry. Like Jesus, we quickly take our disciples into the work of the ministry and show them how we share our faith and follow-up new believers. We then send them out to do the same.


You might be wondering, “How can I effectively involve others in the ministry?” The following is a process that helps us achieve this goal. Getting people involved and actually entrusting the work to them involves four steps:

♦ Model – show your disciple the skill

♦ Assist – help your disciple start to practice the behavior

♦ Watch – give your disciple the primary responsibility, and watch, encouraging him/her and giving feedback

♦ Leave – encourage your disciple to practice the behavior without you being with them


How might you be able to help someone you know take a step of faith by involving them in disciple making?  How could the process above help you effectively work with them?


Taking Action


There could be action points associated with each of the themes discussed in this lesson. Choose two of the following action steps that will help you develop as a discipler.


    1. Consistently take your disciple to the Word in order to hear God’s instruction.

Create a 4-week “teaching plan.” Determine what you want to study and discuss. Prepare for the discussions by first studying the passages yourself. Make God’s Word a central part of your interaction.


    1. Build a strong relationship with your disciple.

People sense how much we care about them. They notice when we go out of our way to serve them. Significant relationships always extend beyond programs. Thus, while meeting together for a small group Bible study is important, it won’t communicate a full picture of love and care. In meaningful relationships we experience life together.


What can you do to enter into a deeper relationship with your disciple? What common experiences can you share? How can you have fun together and involve others in the movement? How can you be part of your disciple’s life by expressing interest in his/her world?


      1. Model the Christian Life

Most people don’t have a lot of friends who passionately follow Jesus. They have never seen up-close the Christian life lived. Be that example for your disciple! Let them see you follow Christ.


Share openly with your disciple. Demonstrate the practices that are important to you. Have a quiet time together. Let your disciple see you make godly choices in your day to day life. Know that God will use unplanned and unstructured time to teach them things that you never would have considered.


        1. Take your disciple into the ministry.

Think of one person you want to invite to join you in evangelism. As you go sharing together keep in mind the principles of the simple process discussed above:


♦ Model – show your disciple the skill

♦ Assist – help your disciple start to practice the behavior

♦ Watch – give your disciple the primary responsibility, and watch, encouraging him/her and giving feedback

♦ Leave – encourage your disciple to practice the behavior without you being with them

Quick Summary

Elements of Effective Discipleship

While it is true that discipleship cannot be distilled into a formula, there are primary elements that strengthen it.  Four have been mentioned in this lesson.

Take your disciple into the ministry

Discipleship is active. It is faith based. It involves a dynamic expression of obedience. Comfortable discipleship emphasizes personal conversation and discussing the "ideas" of the faith. Biblical discipleship puts those ideas in action. We must remember, what we do with our disciples is likely what they will do with their disciples.

Model the Christian Life

When it comes to learning how to live, how to act and how to behave, often more is caught than taught. Seeing a godly example is extremely informative. When ideas and concepts are lived out they become clear. Your life will be an example to your disciple. Invite them into your life and share not only your thoughts, but who you are.

Build a Strong Relationship

It pleases the Lord when his children have strong relationships. Within a relational context of trust and love we can learn many things. Part of the charm of discipleship is how it is supported by personal care. A shepherd lovingly cares for his sheep. We are to shepherd our disciples, encouraging, exhorting and correcting them in order to help them become faithful followers of Jesus.

Take your disciple to the Word

We need to constantly be in God's Word. His revealed truth teaches us how to think, what to believe and how to honor the Lord. Healthy discipleship is always attached to studying God's Word.


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