Discipleship is commanded, isn't complicated, and yet it takes strategic commitment. First, let's define discipleship. Discipleship is the process of growing a person in his personal relationship with Jesus, to the point where he is consistently living from a Biblical worldview and is empowered to pass that worldview onto his children. Sometimes discipleship begins when a person is unsaved and other times, God places you into a person's life to bring them to the next stage in their discipleship. Discipleship is teaching him his identity in Christ and how to live a life authentic to that identity. Looking back, he needs to know what his identity was outside of Christ and how to leave that behind. Looking forward, he must be equipped to live a balanced life of grace-filled holiness.
There are Five Keys to Discipleship.
ONE: Discipleship requires a math equation. Discipleship Growth = Relationship over Time. You must spend time together with a person or family you are discipling. The relationship must weather the seasons of life, both the triumphs and the terrible trials. Jesus modeled this in His ministry to His disciples!
TWO: Discipleship must be constructed on a platform of consistent Biblical teaching, with an emphasis on the Holy Spirit teaching the believer. A combination of topical studies and verse-by-verse discussions will give the disciple a foundation of doctrine and the ability to study the Bible for himself. As quickly as possible, the disciple must begin to think Biblically and make decisions Biblically. Jesus commissioned us to teach His disciples to obey His commands. This doesn't mean to "obey our commands" or become our acolytes. A disciple must learn God's character and practice applying God's principles to each area of his life, including parenting, marriage, at the job, and as a vibrant member of the church fellowship. This will not happen by accident. Biblical literacy and Biblical worldview MUST be taught specifically and strategically.
THREE: Vulnerability and authenticity are the glue of discipleship. The disciple must be able to see the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit in your life, so that he can have a realistic expectation for himself. If you are not willing to admit sin, repent, and ask for forgiveness, you are not modeling an authentic process of sanctification. The disciple should see you organically live out the Biblical worldview that you're teaching, which leads me to the fourth key.
FOUR: Gradual release of the disciple. (Gradual release is a process of: I do, We do together, You do). At first, you are modeling and teaching the disciple the basics of the Bible and the Jesus lifestyle. You spend lots of time together modeling and coaching through life's ups and downs. All the while, you are thinking about how to release the person into more independence in quiet time, discerning the will of God, and living a holy, Biblical life. The objective is for the disciple to be mature and empowered to critically think and to independently make godly decisions. This key is connected to the last key, which is to let go of your control.
FIVE: Trust the Holy Spirit and the foundation of Biblical literacy that you've carefully built. Let the disciple learn how to be independent and capable. Manipulation and control of a disciple stunts his growth, causing the disciple to stagnate. He can't grow past your personal limitations, nor can he discover maturity in his unique giftings and calling. Manipulation and control feeds your own sense of security, but poisons his ability to personally own the great commission and go forth to make disciples. Your manipulation and control are the opposite of grace and contradict what you've been teaching: Learn the word, walk in the Spirit, and live out a Biblical worldview. When discipling, do the first four keys well, and the trust God for the outcomes. Remember, you are not building your multi-level marketing ministry. You are serving to build Christ's kingdom.
To summarize, discipleship is a multi-generational gift that you give a person and his family. Together, you live life and model Christ's wisdom applied through joys and sorrows. Systematically, you train the disciple to know and interpret God's word. Through this process, you gradually release the believer into an authentic life of walking with the Holy Spirit. Grace and truth are the gifts that you give to him and his children. Is this easy? No! It takes humility, love, and strategy. It takes commitment to living godly lives in community together. God's intention is for your to build His Son's kingdom. To live out this purpose, we must have the heart of Peter, the aptitude of Paul, and the attitude of John the Baptist... Jesus "must become greater, and I must become less." (John 3:30)
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