Paul is often considered one of the most successful missionaries to ever live, and there is a lot we can learn from how he discipled others. I decided to research more to figure out what Paul’s discipleship model was.
What was Paul’s discipleship model? Paul’s discipleship model is how he planted and discipled churches in various cities during his time. In his ministry, there were ten key elements that contributed to effective discipleship, his teachings, relationships, prayer, suffering, goals, example, team, time, trust, and the power of God through him. Together, all of these things contribute to one of the most influential discipleship strategies in history.
By examining Paul’s model for discipleship we can look for ways to improve our own process and begin to see the dramatic change that Paul did. Paul, through the Holy Spirit, accomplished a lot in his lifetime and if we can understand how we can apply those methods to our own discipleship practices.
For an even deeper dive into discipleship, check out this enrichment course called, The Art of Discipleship, for more information.
1) Paul’s Teachings
Paul’s discipleship model contained a significant amount of teaching as expressed and expounded upon in his letters. His letters served primarily to correct any issues that had come up in the church after his departure, continuing to disciple even after he was gone.
Paul did not simply lay out a list of do’s and don’ts but truly took the time to teach them what honored God, how Jesus lived his life, and how it applied to them.
This attitude is extremely important to effective discipleship as it encourages people to truly understand right and wrong and not just check off boxes for dos and don’ts.
2) Building Strong Relationships
One thing that is very evident in all of Paul’s letters is his deep care for the churches he was writing to. He desperately wanted to see them thrive and succeed, and had built strong relationships with each one.
Relationships are super important to his model and in 1 Thessalonians we can see how much he cared for the church there. He describes their relationship as similar to that of a parent raising their child.
He was gentle with them as a mother and exhorted them like a father.
Relationships are what help make discipleship meaningful. Not only are we teaching others how to have a relationship with God, we are teaching them what that can look like by exemplifying God in how we treat one another.
3) Persistant Prayer
Prayer is an important part of any ministry and Paul’s is no different. Many of his letters express a theme of consistent prayer for the people and direction for them to pray consistently as well.
The fruits of this are visible in the persistence and strong faith of many of the churches. While they still struggled in various areas, many of them were still marked and recognized as having a faith that became known all over the world.
4) Be Open About Suffering
There are many Christians today who no longer understand what it means to suffer for their faith. Some have become complacent so that they are indistinguishable from the world. Some think that because we live in America those problems don’t exist anymore.
However, the Bible teaches over and over that suffering is to be expected when pursuing a relationship with God. Paul knew this experience well.
He was stoned, beaten, and thrown in prison multiple times throughout his ministry yet remained steadfast in his faith.
Paul taught this to his disciples so that they would be prepared for what lay ahead. He knew that if they pursued an authentic relationship with God and committed their lives to him they would face trials and persecution.
Yet, he remained encouraging, reminding them that the result of their persecution would be greater endurance to continue running the race set before them.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.Romans 5:3-5 ESV
5) Paul’s Goal for His Disciples
Goals are important in all fields of work and have been throughout history. However, sometimes we forget that this also applies to discipleship. Failure to keep goals in mind results in a scattered discipleship process and seemingly aimless disciples.
Paul’s method does not show this aimless attitude. Paul had a vision to see the churches that he ministered to become fully devoted to the cause of Christ and begin to expand on their own.
With a goal in mind, we know what we are working towards and have a sense of purpose.
Paul didn’t simply float about to different churches, teaching various topics, and hoping for the best. He was dedicated to the purpose of seeing faithful churches devoted to God be raised up around the world, full of strong disciples.
6) An Example Worth Following
Hypocrisy is seemingly just a part of life for many people. However, Paul lived differently. While he wasn’t perfect by any means, he lived his life in such a way that it reflected Jesus, and people could learn by his example.
In fact, Paul was so confident in the work Jesus was doing in his life that he encouraged his disciples that if they weren’t sure what it meant to follow Jesus, they should follow his example and he would follow Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1).
When I read this for the first time I was shocked. I couldn’t stop asking myself, could I do that? Am I living out my faith in such a way that if other people followed my example they would be following Jesus? This was definitely an important part of Paul’s discipleship model and definitely something to think about as you pour into others.
7) Paul’s Ministry Team
Today’s culture promotes an extreme emphasis on individual accomplishments, however, this was far from Paul’s mind. He relied heavily on his co-workers throughout his ministry and took little credit for his own achievements.
Timothy was one of his primary co-workers and is mentioned in all but three of his fourteen letters. Two of these letters are written directly to Timothy as an encouragement to him and his ministry.
Paul also emphasizes that his ministry is a result of God’s grace in his life. He does not take pride in his own accomplishments but praises God and gives him the credit and glory in everything.
8) Intentional Time
Another important aspect of Paul’s ministry is the time he dedicated to his ministry in each place he went to. 1 Thessalonians talks about how Paul worked day and night so that he would not be a burden to other people and also preach the Gospel among them.
One of the easiest ways to determine what is important to a person is to look at how they spend their time. For Paul, it was working hard, and preaching the Gospel, showing that the most important things to him were loving God, and loving others, the two greatest commandments.
Definitely keep this aspect of his discipleship model in mind. How do you spend your time? Does it reflect what is important to you? What does that communicate to the people you are discipling?
9) The Power of God in Paul’s Ministry
God’s power is perhaps the most important aspect of Paul’s discipleship model. Without it, Paul’s work would mean nothing, for it was the work of Paul. However, when God works through us, then we know that we are doing his will.
Not only does God work through us, but he works through us in power to do what we could never do on our own. Throughout ministry in the New Testament, in Paul and others, God uses his followers to accomplish signs and wonders in his name which are still available to us today.
The same Holy Spirit that dwelt in the apostles and disciples of the New Testament dwells in us today and is ready and willing to perform those same signs and wonders.
This is an important part of Paul’s discipleship model, especially in his ministry to the Gentiles shown in Romans 15. Don’t leave this to the side, take advantage of every gift and tool, and opportunity God has prepared for you to do his work.
For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ;Romans 15: 18-19 ESV
10) Let the Holy Spirit Work
Paul didn’t leave the entire burden of discipling these churches all on himself. He trusted in the power of the Holy Spirit to continue to guide the people and be at work even when he wasn’t. This is a very important lesson to learn from Paul’s method.
It is not up to you to change the hearts of those you minister to. Only God can do that. It is up to you to plant the seeds, teach them, build relationships with them, invest time into them and all of those things, and then to step back and allow God to work.
This is just the surface of everything that Paul did in his ministry and how he discipled others.
I encourage you to go and read through Paul’s letters, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, and continue to learn from the discipleship model and apply it to your own discipleship journey.
You can also check out The Art of Discipleship enrichment course if you are looking to learn more about discipleship as a whole.
NOTE: I got all the headers from this website. Everything was reworded and expanded and I used some different scripture than they did so I think it’s ok. Just wanted to be sure.