Intentionality is a rare quality to find today in our world. Compared to our microwave society, relationships in discipleship can take as long as crockpot cooking. Nevertheless, the Bible tells us about the importance of intentional discipleship, and Jesus models this for.
What is intentional discipleship? Intentional discipleship is loving people with purpose, teaching them the Word of God, helping them grow in spiritual disciplines, and leading them into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.
Christian discipleship is not meant to put the pressure on us to convict or to save people, only the Holy Spirit can do that. However, once we start leading a community of believers or even one believer, we should begin discipling them. We get to join God in doing the intentional work of loving people as Jesus did.
Here are seven steps to intentional discipleship:
Before becoming leaders in discipleship, we must learn how to follow first. Of course, the greatest person we could ever follow is Jesus, and even He followed the will of the Father by humbling Himself.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.Philippians 2:5-11
If Jesus Himself could count Himself as nothing, surely we can admit that we’re not the ones running the show here. Even as we lead in intentional discipleship, we are acknowledging that it is not by our power that we lead, but by the Holy Spirit’s. God gets the glory as He works through us for our good, and other’s freedom.
Another great way to begin intentionally discipling others is to be discipled yourself. Be mentored as you mentor others, and follow your mentor’s lead, this way you will have someone pouring into you so that you’re not running on a spiritually empty cup.
If you’re wanting to intentionally disciple others, you’ve probably already realized that what fuels your ministry is love.
You’ve felt that deep ache inside your heart for people to know how deep their relationship with Jesus can go, and you know that God has put that passion inside your heart to love others like He loves them.
Love the people you are discipling well.
Jesus replied: ‘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.’Matthew 22:37-39 CSB
It’s just a fact, when you’re discipling others, you’re going to have to get practical and set up times, dates, locations, and events for whoever you’re discipling.
Don’t just get intentional about the idea, get intentional with the details. Would it be a good idea to meet up with your discipleship group in a fun setting if you’re meeting people for the first time? Would it be easier to focus indoors for this specific group? Did the person you’re discipling say that weeknights work better for them?
Whatever the preferences or specific details, be intentional about how you can honor people’s time, talents, and resources. If you see a spiritual gift in someone that you feel could bless the whole group, call them up into that, whether that’s if someone likes to bake cookies or schedule group outings, intentionally seek to make things work, and honor everyone involved.
Teach God’s Word
This all goes without saying that the most important thing to focus on when you’re discipling someone is the Bible, the Word of God. This is how we learn to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and learn to walk in His ways. Without His Word, we are lost in the dark, with no direction for our spiritual lives.
Your Word is a lamp for my feet, and a light on my path.Psalm 119:105 CSB
God calls all believers to obey His Word and live by it. If we are discipling others, the first tool we should use in the toolbox of discipleship is the very Word of God, which is profitable for all teaching. It is our lamp, guiding the way through our lives.
To create unshakable kingdom relationships and disciple others well, pray over them and with them. Pray scripture over their lives and your times together. This is such a great way to honor God and lift up the people you’re discipling.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.James 5:16 NIV
Praying for each other will bring healing. Prayers are powerful in His name.
Once you are discipling a group or a person, an intentional way to all grow together in your relationships with each other and the Lord is to serve together.
Jesus’ most common thing He did with His disciples was to go out into different villages and serve, heal, and love others. Go out with your own group and do the same, research some local serving opportunities in your area and ask Jesus where He’d like you to be.
You may also choose to find unique ways to serve the people you are discipling. Even Jesus served His disciples and modeled for them what it was like to put others before Himself:
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power,and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.John 13:3-5 NIV
Jesus, knowing He was going to be betrayed soon, decided to serve His disciples. If I knew I was going to die soon, I guarantee you I would not be washing people’s feet. I would probably be milking the pity from others as much as it was worth.
But even though Jesus knew what was coming and that the disciples would leave, betray, and deny Him, He still loved them intentionally.
There may be times for you as you intentionally disciple when people may hurt you, but know that The Father is always with you and loving you. He is the reason you can love others in the first place.
Lastly, worship and praise the Lord together. Praise Him for all that He’s done through your discipleship. He is more than worthy and always good. Even when you face storms you can still pursue intentional discipleship and use worship is a powerful way to seek God and pull down heaven to intercede for others.
Worship is something that you don’t have to wait for until the end of your discipling. You can praise God whenever, wherever, in spirit and in truth.
Intentional Discipleship Matters
Intentional discipleship is so important within the Body of Christ, it is a way to teach others about God’s Word, pursue them with an intentional love like Jesus, and lead them into a deeper relationship with the good, good Father.
If you’re called to intentionally disciple others, know that God is for you and will be with you always, even to the end of the age. He loves the people you are discipling more than anyone ever could, so rely on Him to provide, and worship Him as He sets the stage for you to intentionally disciple others.