"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."
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
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Describe Jesus’ intentional actions in these verses.
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
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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?”
What parallels exist between the message of this video and a discipleship relationship?
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?
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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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