Discipleship: Help Christians Grow
What happens once someone comes to faith in Jesus? How do they grow in maturity, in faith, and in love? Does it happen automatically?
Extending the Kingdom of God through church planting and missional living.
What happens once someone comes to faith in Jesus? How do they grow in maturity, in faith, and in love? Does it happen automatically? Do we immediately sin less, love more, find our gifts, and walk in victory?
Making Disciples Is Intentional
The Bible’s answer to these questions is “No.” Every new Christian has a process of healing and growth in front of them that involves studying the Scriptures, learning to pray, and embracing their new identity as a child of God. We call this process discipleship.
A new believer must be trained to become an apprentice of Jesus, and he or she usually needs someone to walk alongside them in that growth process.
As Christians, we are mandated to go into all the world, and to make disciples by teaching people how to act, think, and love like Jesus in their everyday life. Discipleship is a relational process by which people help each other become more like Christ. #EDLDdoitagain Click To Tweet. It is not accidental nor automatic. It is intentional.
Go And Make Disciples
If we practice evangelism, the next logical step is to begin to disciple those who have come to faith. To disciple others is an act of simple obedience to Jesus’ command in Matthew 28 – “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20a).
In other words, people who give their lives to Jesus must be taught to obey Jesus’ teachings. Old habits die hard, and Jesus’ call to surrender runs up against our lifetime habit of taking care of #1 – ourselves! Becoming like Jesus doesn’t just “happen;” people discipling people produces the fruit of healthy, mature Christians – and healthy, mature churches.
Leaders in the Church of Jesus must come to the realization that discipleship is our task. #EDLDdoitagain Click To Tweet It is not something we can simply delegate to others, or hope that people will discover on their own. Rather, we must come to terms with the fact that Jesus has commanded us to make disciples.
Am I Discipling Others?
One way we can assess how we are doing in discipleship is to ask a simple question. “Does our name come up in someone else’s story of spiritual growth?” Most people are discipled by committee! If we tell the story of how we have grown in Christ, we name names. Parents, relatives, neighbors, youth leaders, pastors, small group leaders, mentors, friends, prayer partners, and on and on – these are the names that show up in peoples’ stories. If someone you know told his or her story of discipleship, would your name be spoken?
We can ask ourselves, “Who am I involved with right now in such a way that I am reasonably sure my name would come up in one of their testimonies?” Don’t be falsely humble, but don’t lie to yourself either! This is a crucial question. We can become so busy with the work of maintaining church structures that we lose track of the command from Jesus to make disciples. If our answer is that we are not involved in the intentional discipleship of Christians, then we need to deal with this reality. One way to do this is to simply write down our schedule for a given week. If we are not discipling others in that schedule, then we should ask what we are doing with our time. What are we so busy doing that we aren’t taking time to invest in the growth of others? This need not be a shaming experience at all. It is simply a way of revealing our reality, and adjusting our life to reflect the values of God’s Kingdom in our weekly choices.
How Do We Disciple Others?
The answer to this question is as varied as are human beings. We don’t generally need to ask someone “Would you like me to disciple you?” Choosing to disciple is simply a matter of taking note of the people around you and asking yourself what you could do to help them grow toward God.
The first step of discipleship is often listening – a double listening to others and to God. #EDLDdoitagain Click To Tweet. If you’ve never taken a class or read a book on effective listening, you may want to do so as soon as possible. Listening is probably the most important part of discipleship. If we don’t listen, we’ll probably just project our lives onto other people. That is not love, nor is it the foundation for healthy relationships.
After a lot of listening, discipleship also involves the willingness to challenge others. Depending on their personality, this might be a gentle nudge, or it may involve a fairly direct confrontation of a behavior.
Discipleship is about helping another person grow in becoming like Christ. For that reason, discipleship needs to involve the Bible, and helping the other person apply the lessons of Scripture to their daily life in the real world.
The Outcome Of Real Discipleship
The outcome of discipleship is a person knowing they are deeply loved by God, turning to Christ in times of success and struggle, and then turning their energies toward lavishly offering Jesus’ love to others through evangelism and discipleship.
In other words, we evangelize and disciple again and again. Then the people we evangelize and disciple do the same thing for others – again and again over their lifetime.