Discipleship is all about relationships. We enter into the Kingdom of God via a personal encounter (relationship) with the Lord Jesus Christ. We accept His perfect atoning sacrifice and we are now in a restored relationship with our heavenly Father. Our sins are forgiven and we are redeemed. We now can have as personal of a relationship with our Creator as we desire.
After we are born again, we become part of a huge family called the Body of Christ. This Body is made up of all those who have also been redeemed by the sacrifice of Jesus. While salvation is accomplished in a one on one transaction between our Maker and us, discipleship is accomplished in a multiple relationship setting. We are saved alone, but as long as we reside on this side of eternity, we will be in many relationships with God’s other children.
Like a family, the Body of Christ has members that are older and those that are younger. Those who are older have a responsibility to assist and help those that are younger. The members of the Body of Christ that have more experience are supposed to share that experience with those who are younger. The experience may be positive or negative but both should be freely shared for both have value. We may feel all of our mistakes are wasted but they won’t be, if we share them with others so they don’t have to repeat the same ones.
There are many tools available to assist the discipleship process but the reality is that it will still all be about personal relationships. Like the Ethiopian eunuch that had questions about what he was reading, (Acts 8) new believes will have questions about their faith. Philip asked a powerful question – “Do you understand what you are reading? The wise Ethiopian man answered, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” These questions, and the answers given, are at the heart of discipleship. The older helps the younger gain wisdom and understanding.
We live in a social media world. There are smart phones, iPads, notepads, web casts, the internet, and a plethora of books being published daily. All of these are powerful tools to assist the furtherance of the Gospel and can greatly enhance the discipleship process. They cannot however, replace the relationship aspect of it. New believers will still ask, “How can I unless someone explains it?” and they will be correct in asking. Those who are older will still have to explain to those who are younger what they are reading and seeing, even in our high tech world.
Discipleship is all about relationships. It always has been and always will be. Two or more people talking and sharing information that leads to growth. Of course, this can be accomplished on other sides of the globe via technology, but the people will still need to talk. Questions abound and answers are available but those answers are always connected to a relationship of some sort. It is by God’s design. God designed us to need human interaction in order to grow and mature in Him.
Human relationships reveal many aspects of our character that would not otherwise be exposed. God is the One that first brought up the whole, “It is not good for man to be alone,” thing in Genesis 2. For the record, man was not alone; he had an intimate, personal relationship with his Creator! Yet, the Creator thought it best for man to have someone else to share his life with, thus Eve was created.
Our Christianity is lived out with others and that is by God’s design. Discipleship will only fully be effective when we live in on-going relationships with other disciples. Classroom instruction can be helpful, as well as six or eight -week lessons, but the reality of discipleship occurs as we walk in long-term relationships with others. I would also add that in order for discipleship to really make much of a difference, relationships must be at the center of any discipling effort. Jesus simply could have thrown down His word from heaven, but a great deal would have been lost. Jesus modeled relationships.
Some verses to consider in light of the relational aspects of discipleship:
Proverbs 27:17 – Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
Proverbs 27:6 – Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
1 Peter 5:5 – Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Philippians 2:3 – Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
While there are hundreds of verses we could consider, these four provide plenty of material to point us in a relational direction. We need each other to become sharp, to be honest with one another, even when difficult, to learn humility, and to help us die to our selfishness daily. Spending time with someone else will eventually lead us into conflict, wounds, a choice to submit and humility. Almost none of these take place without the personal interaction with another person.
The relationship aspect of discipleship will help everyone involved to mature in Christ, and that is after all, the goal. The older teacher learns to grow in patience and the younger student experiences humility and growing pains. As delicate issues are addressed, faithful wounds are given and the sharpening process deepens. Yes, relationships are messy, but without the potential struggle there is little growth, and with the relationship difficulties maturity follows.
We tend to overcomplicate discipleship, but when it is all said and done, relationships must be formed and growth will come as a result of people walking together in their mutual pursuit of Christ. This is certainly not all that can be said about the topic, but this at least must be considered when discussing discipleship. The Kingdom of God is relational in all aspects.
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Jesus’ final words to His disciples included the mandate to “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19).
In our pursuit of making disciples, our first priority must be growing in our own personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. If we fail here, really nothing of value will be accomplished elsewhere.
Jesus invites us to abide in Him, rest in Him and learn of Him, and in order to be effective for His Kingdom, we must come to Him. As we grow in Christ, the natural outworking will be reaching to others for Him.
What follows are seven discipleship ideas to assist you in your goal of walking in obedience to Jesus’ final command. These ideas are given to provoke thought as well as action. These basic steps are a good foundation to build upon in our life-long pursuit of making disciples. Perhaps some of these ideas will be obvious and others maybe not, but the goal is to expand the Kingdom of God by making disciples, and these seven ideas should be included in your plans. The first two will be a bit longer than the last five, but all are important in this journey of discipleship.
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May the Lord grant you wisdom and grace as you walk in loving obedience to Him. If we can be of any service to you, please contact us!
Google+ renders an ever-evolving array of feature-rich features and benefits for the all Christian leaders, Christians atlarge, and Christ seekers; the church as a whole. We are announcing a new series of hangouts on air. Google+ Hangouts On Air will allow any number of people to participate in each free video conference.
Now that Google has integrated the “Hangout” platform into Gmail it is even easier to participate. We encourage you to come fellowship whenever you are able. You can review the schedule of upcoming Online TV sessions here. We will post a link to the corresponding Google+ Hangout each week on Google+ and send along email reminder and social media reminders for those who wish to be keep up to date.
Registration is not required; though I encourage those using Google+ to click, “Events” and then attend each session as the Lord leads you. Doing so will automatically add all the details and a reminder to your Google Calendar.
Come join us (Pastors Michael Duncan, Jeff Klick, and Brian Whiteside along with Christian Discipleship Ministries (CDM) Founder, Tony Marino) live with your testimony, comments, questions, and suggestions. Be sure to fully engage on Google+ during each live session.
Live Christian Discipleship TV session can be view at:
http://www.ChristianDiscipleshipMinistries.com/tvor for complete online interactivity go to Google+ (click here).
Upcoming Online TV topics include:
- The Biblical Origins of Discipleship
- The Historical Context of Discipleship
- What Christian Discipleship Is and Is Not
- The Qualifications of Being a Christian Disciple/Discipler
- The State of the Church in America
- The State of Christian Discipleship in the Rest of the World
- Christian Discipleship: The Members
- Christian Discipleship: The Leaders
- Church Sustainability Precepts
- Salvation and Assurance
- Evangelism vs. Discipleship
- Disciple-Based Ministry
- Discipleship Communication Strategies
- Practical Discipleship Action Plans
- Discipleship and the Family
- Discipleship and the Church
- Shifting Culture from Religion to Relationship
- Belief and Obedience to Christ
- Mature Christianity
- Church Benchmarking
- International Discipleship Outreach
- Catching the Vision Develop
- Intentional Relationships
- Indentifying Spiritual Progress
- Encouraging Spiritual Transparency and Accountability
Upon completion of each live session, the video archives will be made available for viewing and sharing at:
How do you know that a person’s response to the gospel of Jesus Christ is genuine? I suppose that there is no absolute way of knowing, but it seems to me that, in the Scriptures, those who have encountered the gospel have a remarkable reaction to it. Here are just a couple of examples:
Acts 2:37 (NIV) – “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers what shall we do?’”
Acts 16:29-30 (NIV) – “The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’”
Have you ever wondered about this? Do you see this reaction to the gospel of Jesus Christ in the current culture? When was the last time a person was “cut to the heart” as they encountered the real gospel of Jesus Christ? When was the last time you saw someone rush into the gathering of God’s church during a Sunday service and threw himself down at the feet of the pastor and began to beg saying, “what must I do to be saved?”
I believe that in these two examples are found the qualities of a real encounter with the gospel.
The first: a real recognition of sin.
In the modern presentation of the gospel, there is often no need to be “cut to the heart.” All a person needs to do is “pray a prayer” and they’ll be saved. The “Jesus loves you” message is true, but how many times do people understand why Jesus had to die? The high cost of sin and grave consequences of rebellion toward God are missing in the message. Go back and read Peter’s message to the gathered thousands on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Do you read, anywhere, that Peter begins his message with: “I want to tell you how much God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life?” In fact, it wasn’t until after the crowd was cut to the heart that Peter gave them the message of hope in Christ through the forgiveness of their sins.
The second: a real desperation for salvation.
Who is clambering to the altar because of their deep desperation for Christ Jesus? My guess is, not too many. There are times when I’ve seen deep brokenness and open repentance from sin. I’ve known those who have seen the power of God and fell to their knees begging that they should be delivered from His judgment. As Paul and Silas sang in the Philippian Jail, I suspect that they were not singing “Kumbayah.” Perhaps they sang something along the lines of “How Great Thou Art?” Maybe they sang the text of Psalm 2, “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the LORD scoffs at them. Then He rebukes them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath” (Psalm 2:4-5, NIV). Imagine them singing that hymn the moment the earthquake struck! Whatever the hymn, there was a message in it, for the jailer responded at the power of God.
We say that the Holy Spirit is the only One who can bring a person to the place of salvation. What does that look like? “When He [the Holy Spirit] comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8, NIV). So, then, how can we say that the Holy Spirit came upon a person for salvation when there was no experience of conviction? We cannot. Trite and insipid responses to the gospel are never a result of the Holy Spirit.
Let me conclude by saying this:
If Jesus Christ, the Lord of all creation, the King of kings and Savior of mankind is someone that you can either take or leave, you never encountered the gospel.
If Christianity is little more than a religious mode of operation and that being a Christian has never truly changed your life, you’ve not responded to the gospel.
If there is no real recognition of and repentance from sin, if there is no heart anguish and desperation for salvation, if there is no deep conviction of guilt before God and overwhelming gratitude for His great mercy in Christ Jesus, what gospel did you respond to?
Or, as the Apostle Paul warned:
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace ofChrist and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel ofChrist” (Galatians 1:6-7, NIV).
Ever since Greek philosophers, such as Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato trained their apprentices, leaders have long wanted to help their learners make progress – to evolve effectively. Part of that means helping the learner or student know where he or she stands and how he or she is coming along.
Robert Coleman’s “point-on” The Master Plan of Evangelism essentially and succinctly dissected Jesus’ life and then brought it back together again. He accurately identified eight stages Jesus used to make and to equip disciples.
We now discuss and summarize these eight stages.
Selection – People were His method.
Jesus believed that people should reach other people. He could have used an exclusive mix of miracles, or He could have brought everything to conclusion while on earth. Instead, Jesus chose common men and women like us to reach the world. This clearly demonstrates not only His love for us, but also His confidence in us.
Association – Jesus stayed with them.
With the first disciples, the essence of Jesus’ training meant just letting His disciples follow Him. He drew them close to Himself, becoming His own school and curriculum.
Consecration – He required obedience.
Jesus expected His disciples to obey Him. He did not require them to be smart, but He wanted them to be loyal – to the extent that obeying Him became the distinguishing mark they were know by. “Disciples” meant they were the Master’s “learners” or “pupils.” Later Jesus’ disciples became known as “Christians: (Acts 11:26), a befitting description of obedient followers who took on the character of their leader.
Impartation – Jesus gave Himself away.
Jesus gave His disciples everything: what the Father had given Him (John 15:5); His peace (John 16:33); His joy (John 15:11); the keys to His kingdom (Matthew 16:19); and His own glory (John 17:22, 24). He withheld nothing, not even His life.
Demonstration – Jesus showed them how to live.
Jesus showed the disciples how to pray, study, and relate to others. More than 20 times the Gospels recount Jesus’ practice of prayer. He taught His disciples about the use of Scripture by extensively using words from the Old Testament. As the disciples saw Jesus interact with Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the rich young ruler, and many others, Jesus showed them how to talk to and how to treat others.
Delegation – Jesus assigned them work.
From day one, Jesus prepared His disciples to take over the mission. He gradually turned over responsibility, sending out the 70 (Matthew 10:1-42) and giving extensive instructions to the 12 (Luke 10:1-20). Jesus told His disciples to follow His methods, practices, and techniques; to expect hardships and adversity, and to go out in pairs. Following His resurrection, Jesus clearly gave His disciples the responsibility to take the gospel to the whole world (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).
Supervision – Jesus continued to check on them.
When Jesus gave His disciples work to do, He followed up. Jesus listened to their reports and blessed them. When Jesus was with His disciples, He spent time helping them understand the reason for a previous action or preparing them for a whole new experience. Jesus used questions, illustrations, warnings, and admonitions to teach His disciples what they needed to know to reach the entire world.
Reproduction – Jesus expected them to reproduce.
Jesus told His disciples to pray for workers (Matthew 9:36-38), and He called them to teach everyone to obey His teaching (Matthew 28:20). Jesus required the costly components of leadership development and reproduction and expected His disciples to reproduce by finding other disciples who would also follow Jesus.
On July 18, 2012 the General Baptists gathered in Springfield Missouri for their annual conference. The central theme encompassed the concept of evangelism and learning how to be better fishermen. Almost as a foreshadowing of the next year’s gathering focusing on discipleship, Tony Marino was invited to present a workshop.
The workshop Tony taught was entitled, “The Discipling Church” and was presented three times. Since I was in the area I stopped by to observe this presentation first hand and to record my findings. The room was tight and the seats were close, but those that came were not disappointed. Tony, as only Tony can, gave them everything he had and held little back. This fiery, graying Italian, marketing guru, used every bit of his time, and then some, to attempt to challenge, encourage, explain and motivate the crowd.
Because of my desire to observe and report, I stayed and covertly operated the power point on the laptop for the three workshops. Each presentation was better than the previous one and those that attended the third one were indeed blessed. Tony refined his goals, made mid-course corrections and adapted his presentation in order to present the most effective workshop possible. Each session was rated by those that attended, and the grades soared through the roof by the third one. Due to Tony’s advancing age he was worn out after the day’s work, but grateful for the Lord’s anointing. Thankfully his lovely and gracious wife Lynn was there to assist him to his room.
The participants in the workshop were treated to a long drink from a fire hose of information. Discipleship was presented as the clarion call of the Church and like the precious jewel it is, many aspects were explored as it was turned over and over in the light of the truth of God’s Word. No matter which angle you look at this gem, the call from Jesus is clear – Go and Make Disciples!
Tony skillfully presented a host of problems we face in discipleship and debunked many of the excuses used to not walk in obedience to Jesus’ final command to His Church. Heads could be seen nodding in agreement as excuse after excuse was blow apart. There simply is no reason not to disciple others and those that attended these workshops agreed heartily.
There were many wonderful questions from the audience and solutions were presented, but they cannot all be explored here due to the lack of space and time. Suffice it to say, that if someone desires to grow in being a discipler, if they want to learn how to lead others in the process, tools are available. Many of which are on this very site, so please explore and let us know if you can’t find what you are looking for or what you need.
What I can leave you with is what was given to those in attendance – 10 practical steps to begin discipleship now. They are below and if you have no idea what to do, or where to begin, try these! Overall the workshops accomplished the purposes God had intended – He received glory and many were motivated to begin the exciting journey of disciplining others.
Practical Discipleship Action Strategies
Discipleship Plan and Routine Development
Develop and schedule a daily prayer and Bible study routine – specifically aimed at maturing you as a disciple and discipler; then keep your appointment with God. Keep a journal of what God shows you.
Access Resources and Relationships
Purchase and read our book. Connect with us via our website’s Pastor’s Forum for secured access to the materials you need to begin your discipleship journey. Prayerfully consider forming a partnership with us or someone who knows how to proficiently disciple others.
Start in the Home
Begin/Continue in your own home to lead your family in daily prayer, Bible study, and worship. Discussions around the table and before bedtime with your children will enhance the discipleship process with those closest to you.
Seek and Be a Mentor (Discipler)
Like Paul, Timothy, and Barnabas; everyone needs a mentor (discipler); needs to become a mentor (disciple); and needs other people (disciples) around them that can support them through a lifelong discipleship process. If you do not have time for relationships, you are far too busy.
Live Out the Discipleship Process
Ask God to show you someone outside of your own family to begin to invest time in. This person can be from within your church or from outside your church. Meet with them regularly to discuss God’s Word, pray together, and develop a close relationship/bond. Follow the guidelines in our book and at our website.
Evaluate Your Schedule
Aggressively evaluate your weekly schedule and remove all things that are not producing Kingdom fruit and helping people to grow in their walk with God. If you keep doing what you have been doing that has not been working, you cannot expect to attain measurable discipleship growth.
Be Discipleship-Centric in All Things
Begin to introduce discipleship into every sermon, Sunday school class, and activity within your church. All activities, events, and teaching opportunities must be clearly grounded and recognized with a discipleship bent. Encourage your families to practice discipleship within their homes in order to enhance your teachings to make the biggest impact between each regularly scheduled church meeting.
Live a Fully-Committed Discipleship Plan
Meet with the people in your church to define, explain, and discuss discipleship. Lead them to follow your example in the first 6 steps. Your goal must be to invest time in relationships that will reproduce other relationships (disciples). Schedule one meeting a week, or at least, every other week. Be sure to be faithful and adhere to the completion of these tasks.
Conduct a Discipleship Situation Analysis
Perform a church and personal S.W.O.T analysis to assist you in your endeavors of discipleship. Your goal is to fully know and understand yourself and each and every church member that you have been called to equip for Christ Jesus (discipleship). Follow the guidelines in our book and at our website.
Conduct a Discipleship Progress Analysis
Identify discipleship progress in yourself, your family, and those who you are ministering (serving) within in the discipleship process. Where and when necessary, apply adjustments and corrections to your discipleship process and spiritually repeat each of above action strategies until called home by God. Follow the guidelines in our book and at our website.
Christian Discipleship Ministries