I have had many experiences with discipleship, whether I was the one being discipled or facilitating the disciplship. Currently, I fit into both of these roles. I have a discipler in my own life that advises and encourages me in my growth as a believer. Additionally, I have been discipling other young women. Both being disicpled and making disicples can be a life long process.
How does discipleship work? Discipleship works in a circular manner. First, an individual becomes a believer and is discipled by the word of God and other Christians. Then that disciple leads another believer through the discipleship process. Once this process is efficient, the newest disciple can begin to make even more disciples.
Due to my evergrowing desire to grow, I have been doing additional research about discipleship. I decided to use some of my personal experiences, along with researched information in this blog. This blog covers the basics of discipleship for both the discipler and the disciple. I have also included many other discipleship resources that have proven themselves successful for many individuals.
How Discipleship Works For Disciplers
Discipleship for disciplers is an on-going process of personal growth and dedication to the growth of another individual. A discipler must first be strong in the foundation of his or her faith. This individual should have already implemented the main principles of Christianity into his or her life. A disciplemaker, or any Christian for that matter, will never be fully complete. However, there are basic things that should be evident within the fruit of a mature believer’s life.
For example, belief in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross should be the only accepted basis for salvation. Salvation comes through grace by faith. Nothing else, and no one else can provide this free gift of salvation. Secondly, it should be recognized that grace is not a license to sin. Rather, it is the ability to overcome sin.
Disciplers should be living a renewed life that focuses on forsaking sin and putting on righteousness. Additionally, baptism should be impletmented as soon as possible, if the discipler has not yet been baptized. Lastly, the disicpler should recognize the word of God to be the Bible. The Bible is the infallible word of God and the basis for all we believe.
Disicpleship is based on the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20. “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” The role of a disciple-maker is to follow this model, which includes first, being discipled by the teachings of Jesus.
Foundation of Love
All the work of a discipler should be done on the foundation of love, thus, fulfilling the greatest commandments. In Matthew 22:37-38 Jesus states, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Therefore, the motivation of a discipler should first be to love God and then it should be to love others. Any other impure motives should not be the leading factor for discipleship. Without love, all our work is nothing. All that we possess should be paired with love. The work that we do should be done in love. The apostle Paul describes this.
In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 explains,
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
The disciple-maker should build trust with the disciple. The relationship should provide a safe and comfortable atmosphere for vulnerability, accountability, and growth. The disciple should feel as though he or she can genuinely trust the discipler with personal issues. The discipler should then in hand, be confidential and worthy of trust. Personal information should not be shared or gossiped about. Unless there is an actual emergency, then, in that case, the discipler should make a report to a professional who can help.
The next step in the process is instruction. Instruction is thorough information that is expressed to another individual based on how to do a certain task. In this instance, the instruction would be how to follow Jesus, how to obey the scripture, and how to live a renewed lifestyle. John 3:3 states this concept of a new birth. It explains, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
A discipler should first take a disciple through the process of being born again by accepting the new life of Christ. This means explaining the gospel in a way that the disciple truly understands and can respond to. Next, the discipler should take the new disciple through one of the books of the gospels, either Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.
All the gospels were written with a different purpose in mind to reach a different audience during the historic time. Therefore, the different gospels focus on different aspects of Jesus. For example, the gospel of Mark was used to express to Gentiles who Jesus was and why He was significant. This would be a good book for a new believer with a little faith background.
The gospel of Matthew was written to Jews to display that Jesus was, in fact, the fulfillment of the many prophecies. The book of John is also a common book that is used for new disciples. Either gospel account that you choose will give an in-depth look at who the man Jesus is and why He is significant.
The book of Romans is also common to use for new disciples because it talks about the wages of sin, which is death. Romans can be used to reveal our need for a savior and to give us hope because of Jesus’ sacrifice.
Focus on Key Principles
During this process of instruction, it is crucial for a disciple-maker to focus on the key principles of the faith before going more in-depth with scriptures and different interpretations of scripture. If the disciple has specific questions it is not wrong to answer them. However, it is important that a new disciple creates a firm foundation in truth.
New believers are especially vulnerable to false teaching because they do not have a basis to judge what they hear and receive from other people. As a disciple-maker, you practically take upon the protective role of a parent to shield that disciple from the lies and false doctrines of the world. This is similar to how the apostle Paul sought against the false teaching that was taking over the church in the book of Galatians.
The goal of a disciple-maker is to strengthen a disciple to be mature in the faith and not easily moved by cunning teaching. Ephesians 4:14-15 portrays this, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
List of Key Principles
Listed below I have assembled the key principles that should be focused on at the beginning of discipleship.
- Belief in God the Father, Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit.
- The death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.
- All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We all need a savior.
- The new life that is bought by Christ’s sacrifice only comes by the grace of God and through the faith of the individual.
- Salvation is not through works but through faith.
- However, faith without works is dead. An individual cannot continue to live a life of willful sin.
- We all sin and should continue to renew our minds and stand firm again temptation to live a life worthy of the calling that we have in Christ.
- Jesus commanded baptism, therefore the disciple should get baptized.
- Christ is coming again and will judge the world. He will separate the righteous from the unrighteous.
If you are curious about monitoring the growth of your disciple, “The Five Stages of Growth” is a beneficial chart to refer to. I have included this chart and many other resources in my blog, “25 Discipleship Tools & Resources for Effective Ministry.” The majority of these resources are free and can be downloaded. Online websites and apps are also listed and easily accessible.
How Discipleship Works for Disciples
An individual can be a believer and a Christian without also being a disciple. In order for someone to become a disciple, there must be someone willing to disciple him or her. This can be initiated by either party, however, it is more of the responsibility of the mature believer to reach out to the individual. This can happen in or outside a church or ministry setting. A disciple must be willing to learn from another individual. He or she must choose to meet with and learn from the disciple-maker.
The first step for a disciple is imitating the disciple-maker in their walk with the Lord. A disciple learns from the teaching and example of a disciple-maker. Therefore, the disciple should be humble and willing to receive correction and instruction. The disciple may not have vast knowledge in the faith. In fact, the disciple may have more questions than answers.
The disciple must trust the disciple-maker in order to recieve instruction into areas marked with confusion and uncertainty. This can be a difficult process, yet, we see it working in many Biblical examples. Listed below are some scriptural references that refer to this principle.
- 1 Corinthians 11:1 states, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
- Hebrews 13:7 declares, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”
- Philippians 4:9 explains, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
- Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed.”
Disciples are to imitate their discipler. However, they are to imitate them only as they imitate Christ. If a disciple-maker is not following Christ in a genuine or pure manner, that disciple should find another individual to disciple them. Simply because a disciple may be new to the faith doesn’t mean that he or she is naive or ignorant. In fact, new believers have the same Holy Spirit as mature believers.
Therefore, new believers or disciples should not be afraid to test what a discipler is saying. Furthermore, we see other passages that warn against false teachings and false teachers. Disciples should be aware of this. They should observe the fruit of a discipler’s life to ensure that it is good fruit. In addition, they should test the spirits to be sure that what they are following is good and pure and from the Father in heaven.
The following passages were written because of false teachers who were trying to lead the believers away. The believers are encouraged to stand firm in the truth. The final passage was written as an example of how to spot false teachers.
- 1 John 2:24-27 explains, “As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life. I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.
- 3 John 11 states, “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.”
- Matthew 7:15-16, 18-20 explains, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits…Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits, you will know them.
Developing Growth in Key Principles
True disciples develop key principles. They follow the example of Christ that they see in scripture. They also follow the example and wisdom of Godly men and women in their lives. Disciples seek wise counsel. They are willing to change and move on from old ways and instead adopt new ones.
In order to develop these principles, disciples spend their own time in prayer. They study scripture on their own and they use their available resources to continue their growth. Disciples should respond to discipleship in a positive way that seeks growth. They should continiue on a path of growth.
Disciples do not need to be perfect or fully refined right away. For many individuals, the process takes significant time. Sanctification does not occur overnight. However, disciples should be displaying good fruit. They should be showing signs of growth and improvement, even if it is slow-moving.
Making Disciples of Their Own
The final step for a disciple is to grow to the ability to make his or her own disciples. Discipleship is a circular concept. It continues on until all individuals involved assume a place of leadership. This step can be many years down the road for a disciple, or it can be months down the road. Disciples can begin to disciple based upon what they have already learned at any point in the process.
They can lead people to the point that they are at. As they continue to grow, they can help other individuals to grow as well. A great way for new disciples to lead other disciples is to use various resources to help facilitate the process. These can include Bible studies, concordances, podcasts, sermons, books, worship music, conferences, videos, and Biblical apps and websites.
Additional Resources about Discipleship
If you are interested in learning more about discipleship, “8 Questions about Discipleship Answered” is an extremely helpful resource. This resource answers many questions, such as, “when should someone start discipling?”, “Is there a wrong way to disciple?” and “How much of the Bible do I need to know in order to be a disciple-maker? These questions and others cover the basis for discipleship and build a foundation to grow from.
Furthermore, the blog, “Before You Disciple Others: Here are the Qualifications”, will help you understand and grow the five qualifications of discipleship within your own life and the lives of others you are discipling. “Five Bible Reading Plans for Personal Discipleship” can also help you in these ways.
Lastly, if you are working with and discipling individuals through a ministry setting, you may benefit from “3 Discipleship Models to Drive Your Ministry Forward”. If you work especially with young people, you may benefit from, “How to Disciple youth One-On-One, In Groups & in the Church”.