Being a disciple is another way of saying follower, or student of Jesus. Discipleship is helping people grow in their walk with God.
What are the stages of discipleship? The first 5 stages of discipleship are: becoming a follower of Jesus, building a solid foundation, desiring Christ and obeying his commandments, building godly friendships, and discipling others.
These stages can act as a guild for Christians when beginning their walk with God. These stages are not set in stone. These five stages come from my study of Scripture.
The 5 Stages of Discipleship
Discipleship stages are stepping stones in process of furthering one’s walk with God. As people are discipled, they grow in their maturity and relationship with God.
Here are the 5 stages of discipleship:
- Stage 1: Become a Follower of Jesus
- Stage 2: Building a Solid Foundation
- Stage 3: Desiring God & Obeying His Commandments
- Stage 4: Building Godly Friendships
- Stage 5: Discipling Others
In my eyes, the most important step is becoming a follower of Jesus (step 1).
The 2nd, 3rd, and fourth stages should last a lifetime. The last stages also should last a lifetime, and I believe the last stage should only come after the previous stages.
These 5 stages should give you a better understanding of how to go about coming to Jesus and living a life glorifying to God, that he calls all believers to.
Stage 1: Becoming a Follower of Jesus
Now that you know the five stages, let’s dig more into each one.
God desires that none should perish, and the Bible says whoever calls on him will be saved. It is an open invitation to the Jews and Gentiles (which is everyone – they don’t have to be a Jew) to be apart of God’s family.
Repent, therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.Acts 3:19
Once we have repented of our own ways and have faith in God’s grace, then the process of the other stages can begin. We can be in the continual presence of the Lord because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and we can be seen as righteous before God because our sin is forgiven.
In order to be a disciple of Jesus, we have to first drop everything and come to Jesus.
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.Luke 14:27
We have to be willing to give up a life of sin and of doing our own thing, to come before the Father. We must repent and turn to God.
Before this verse in scripture, it says we must be willing to leave our own family and friends for the sake of Christ. We should be willing to get rid of the attachment to our former life and not love anyone more than God.
All of us, no matter how little or big of the sin we commit fall short of God’s glory and holiness.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,Romans 3:24
Coming to Jesus is repenting of your sin and your own way, and letting God take over. Justification is by faith alone through Jesus – a legal act of God through the work of his son.
When we translate the Greek meaning of repentance it does not show the meaning through sorrow and regret rather more on the line of changing from one way, to another. Think of a u-turn sign.
We were going down one path and make a complete turn around.
In the gospel of John, repentance is talking about changing one’s mental attitudes. It is putting your faith in Jesus that he knows best, even if we don’t understand everything. Coming to Jesus equals trusting him as Lord over our life.
In order to come to Jesus, we must call on him.
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.Romans 10:13
Once we take that step to come to him, and for some that may take more time than others (researching, being convicted, and letting God soften one’s heart), we then can start to build a foundation in Jesus as our Lord, our rock, and our savior.
Stage 2: Building a Solid Foundation
The Bible talks about God as our rock or foundation and Jesus gives a parable of how we should be building our house (our lives) on solid ground.
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”Matthews 7:24
And the verses after says that the rain fell, and floods came, and winds beat on that house, but it did not fall because it was founded on the rock.
And it continues and says, those who hear God’s word, but does not do them will be like the foolish man who built his house on the sand. When the rains fell and floods came, it got destroyed (vs. 25-26).
Our foundation – for what we believe, how we behave, and how we think, should be built on the gospel and what the Bible says as applicable to our lives.
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.1 Corinthians 3:11
The Bible is ancient in text and filled with God-breathed, God-inspired text. Right now we can’t physically see God, so the Holy Spirit and the Bible are what God has left us with until Jesus returns.
Where should we start when building a foundation? We should look to the Scriptures to see how Jesus lived his life on earth.
He is our example, and his words and actions we should examine and take to heart.
We also need to answer questions about our faith that maybe one has not thought about before… like knowing who God is, what his plan is for the world, and for you specifically- who he calls you to be.
One way we can build a solid foundation is to research and look into the characteristics of God. For example…
- God is holy, just, a jealous God, eternal, omnipresent (God is anywhere and everywhere at the same time), omniscient (knows all things), immutable (or unchanging), infinite (God has no limit or boundaries), God is love, God is good, God is merciful, God is faithful, God is self-existence (has no origin), God is sovereign.
By looking into God’s attributes (that are his qualities), we can get a better grasp of who he is. These are the characteristics of his nature, and the qualities of his essence. This is foundational.
Understanding God’s Plan for Humanity
Another way we can build a solid foundation is by understanding God’s plan. What does he desire of people? What does he desire in this world? How has his plan so far come through? We must know and understand the gospel.
Here are some key points to research more as you grow in your understanding of God’s plan and sin:
- Humans were made in the image of God – what does this mean? Why does it say that? Look into this.
- When did sin enter the world? What happened next? How does God’s relationship with people change throughout the Old Testament, then after when Jesus came? Or how did it stay the same?
Then, we can see who God says we are. If we are a child of His, by choosing to follow him, then we have a new identity.
- Free from the law, free from sin
- New creation, the old has passed, new has come
- Born with a purpose
- Born to glorify our heavenly Father
- Given unique characteristics and gifts that should be used for Christ
- Called to be a light, called to make disciples, and preach the good news
- We are forgiven, justified, born again, children of God
God will never leave us and never forget about us. We are his now, and a slave to righteousness. Once we know these things and start getting a good foundation of who God is, the plan of this world, how the gospel truly affects us, we can live for him.
This doesn’t mean life will be easy, God actually tells us trials and temptations will come. This is why we need to prepare our minds right now and build our lives on truth.
We must prepare our minds for action. We must purpose in our minds right now for what you will do when evil, temptations, and trials strike.
We can know the truth, and how he wants us to live our lives. The more we know God, and understand who he is, the more we can desire him and obey what he says.
Stage 3: Desiring Christ & Obeying God’s Commandments
As we look to Jesus, we can realize that he is not just in the Bible alone that we see him, he is alive and active, actually speaking to us to this day. We can pray to him and grow our relationship with Jesus, and the Father.
We can seek him and the Bible says we will find him when we seek him with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:13). When we desire God and delight ourselves in him, he will give us what we truly need – our deep desires (that we might not even know of at that time) will be fulfilled.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.Psalms 37:4
As we seek him, we begin to know what God likes and dislikes, or what he loves and hates. We get to know what disappoints him, and what he desires specifically of us.
God’s commandments are not burdensome.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.1 John 1:3
God’s commandments actually bring joy and freedom when we keep them. This doesn’t mean it is easy to follow his commandments, but it is what’s best for us – how God has originally designed us to live.
God’s greatest commandment is to love him, and love others. We are to:
- Fear the Lord
- Be holy as He is holy
- Not settle for cultural or societal pressures
- Not care what anyone else thinks of us.
When we fear God, we are putting his view of us as more important than other views of us.
Loving God is caring more about what he says, his opinion of us, then what others say we are. Once we fear and love God, we only care about who he says we are. We put our full identity in him (not in our own accomplishments, appearances, personality, or goals) but in who God says we are.
Once we are confident in who God is and who he says we are, we respect how God made us be, desire, and rely on Jesus, and begin to grow as a Christian, enabling us to love others well.
There is no way to live the Christian life without the Bible. The more we read the Bible, study, and meditate on Scripture, the more we know God’s character and guidelines for a life of service with God. Once we are saved, we are dead to sin and alive to God. We must remember that and remind ourselves of that every day.
Sin no longer has a hold on us, we must remember this, know the truth, and let it manifest in our lives. We can keep his commandments because Christ is in us.
Stage 4: Building Godly Friendships
God’s greatest commandment is to love him before anything else, then we are to love others as ourselves.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.John 15:12-13
We are to be in communion with other people, and other believers. To love people.
The Bible says that iron sharpens iron, and there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. We have friendships to learn how to love well and build each other up.
The Bible says it is better to have a friend than to be doing life alone. When one stumbles or is having a hard time, the other can help them get up again.
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.Ecclesiastes 4:9-11
God designed for us to have friendships and to be there for each other. I also think it provides a learning opportunity and way to practically act out what God has been teaching us when it comes to loving others.
In Proverbs, it talks about friendship being a two-way thing. We should both be encouraging each other to make each other stronger.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.Proverbs 27:17
When we learn how to have healthy friendships where both are contributing to each other, then we can look out for others to help disciple them. This doesn’t have to be a two-way friendship, but can be one pouring out into another for the purpose of helping them grow in Christ.
Stage 5: Discipling Others
God’s purpose for the church is to fulfill his mission of making disciples in all places. This begins with the body of believers already in the church. Look for people who you can come alongside and be an encouragement to.
How to begin discipling others? Pray for the Lord to bring opportunities to you. Look around you, at people who are already in your life who may be struggling or may just need a listening ear, and encouragement.
Or maybe they do need help with guidance, discernment, or practical steps to strengthen their relationship with God. Maybe they are in need of help in a situation they are dealing with, or don’t know where to start when diving into Scripture.
Give them tools to get started with for their walk with God.
A good place to start when discipling is with the gospel of John. This gospel focus on the life of Jesus. Tell them we can look to Jesus to see how he lived on earth, and responded to situations.
Identity is another big thing when disciplining others. Without knowing who we are in Christ, we cannot love others well. Like one of the previous steps were, we must build a solid foundation in God, and who he says we are.
We are children of God, free from sin and not bound to the law, and we are capable of abiding in Jesus, walking in the Spirit, and bearing fruit (loving others, experiencing joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control).
Why Discipleship Stages are Important
It is important to view these stages (specifically the first stage) in order because we must become a follower of Jesus before we can do anything else. Without faith, it is impossible to please God, and that is the call of a Christian, to live a life pleasing to the Lord.
We can’t build a foundation if we don’t first choose to follow God, and we can’t obey his commandments if we don’t first desire Christ. It is hard to desire Christ if we don’t know who he is, and what he says, and actually wants for us.
Once we learn the basics of who God is, his nature and his character, how the gospel affects who we are, and understand God’s purpose and plan for humanity, then we can love others the way God wants us to, and then we can disciples others and effectively serve the church, ultimately serving the Lord.
Start today these steps today. Figure out what step you are and continue to grow. Maybe find a mentor to you continue to grow in your relationship with the Lord. Keep pressing into Jesus, the author, and perfecter of our faith.