It is my earnest wish that this blog post will be short. Every blog post that I’ve written, whether for this series or for The Gospel Rants, has contained the word ‘short’ or the phrase ‘won’t take much time’ in the first paragraph—but I’ve had to delete every single one of those after 1,300 words. Goal for this blog: 800. I’m an optimist.
To complain about the length of this paper, bemoan my personal middling-average height, or to debate whether God has declared war on Russia, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What It Ain’t
Are you frustrated by discipleship you’ve received, or that which you’ve tried to give? Have you only seen moderate improvement in the disciples you’ve tried to make, or do you feel that the discipleship you’ve received has only slightly altered your relationship with God? Do you think there must be something greater to discipleship than what you’ve experienced?
After I became a Christian, I was deeply surprised by what my spiritual mother meant when she used the term ‘discipleship’. She paired me with a ‘disciple-maker’, someone who was supposed to teach me who Christ was and how to live in that, and we did what most churches prescribe: we met once a week for an hour to study some scripture and talk about life, capped by a couple minutes of prayer. We also went to the same Bible study, and sometimes we played frisbee with the youth group on Fridays.
I was surprised because I was expecting the standards for discipleship in God’s Church to be as high as the standards which God has set for His children to live under. My disciple-maker was teaching me answers to questions. Not how to live. Not how to know God. True, he was teaching me the answers to intellectual questions regarding those topics, but he wasn’t plunging me into the Spirit in community several times a week. We didn’t have the framework set up to gradually tilt my focus away from my normal life and affix it on Christ—we didn’t meet often enough, and our meetings weren’t structured properly in order to facilitate the influx of the Spirit into me.
But I do believe there’s a way to do all those things.
What’s That, Now?
What I’m offering is not a method—it’s a shift in ideology. Discipleship is not enabling a disciple to spout correct, biblical answers, or coaching him in a slow struggle against persistent sin. It is introducing him more deeply to the Holy Spirit consistently over time, and allowing him to develop his own habits and methods to approach God independently.
The logistics of this are simple, I believe, but they do take time and effort. The basic structure that I have is for two or three Christians to meet with me three times a week for an hour, with a community Bible study on one of the days in which we don’t meet (with a whole community, believers and nonbelievers, in attendance), and an hour of prayer thrown in there somewhere also. In all of the cases where I’ve seen God build something great out of a believer, the Christian has had community outside of the group, which also loved him and fed him.
But these guidelines are useless, frankly. It is not quantity of meetings that makes disciples—it is quality of Spirit. Pray for your discipleship sessions beforehand, that God would fill your younger believers with Himself and give them a deeper relationship with Him. Pray at the beginning of the sessions, that God would use the time of the study to show them how full He is, and how deep His love is. Finally, I recommend against going through any manuals or booklets for discipleship. Go through Romans. Don’t ask questions that aren’t clearly written in the text. If it gets boring, ask God to make it interesting, and He will—but keep your disciple’s mind firmly fixed on the Bible alone. (Even with this said, it’s not bad to use guides—they have good things in them. But particularly for new believers, keep their eyes solely on the Word.)
How To Do It
However, none of the above steps will get great discipleship. That rests in the hands of God alone—although there is an easy way to bring it down to Earth.
Pray. The cold fact is that if your disciples don’t feel God’s presence when they’re with you, that’s because you’ve got nothing to show when they ask you to flip the cards over. So pray. Ask God to change you, to bring you to a greater level of submission and obedience, and examine your life to see what weaknesses you might have that might be keeping Christ from developing disciples through your work.
Your personal walk with Christ is the single most determinate factor in deciding how your disciples develop. Of course, God is always sovereign, so He may build whatever building He chooses out of each man who is saved; but as far as it depends on us, we have a responsibility to dig deeply into the love of the Father in order to best serve our friends. I believe the modern church’s lack of intense discipleship is representative of certain other crucial elements that are missing in the Body’s pursuit of Christ—so pray with me that the Church would start making deep disciples again.
Lord, thank You so much for the opportunity to share in Your work! We love You, God, and we ask to love You more deeply. There is no greater desire in our hearts than to be with You—I pray that You might purify us and center us around the goal of Your presence every second of the day. I ask that we might be drawn closer to You as a Church, God, and that You might work through us to build great disciples in Austin and around the nation. Please teach us more about how to make disciples and please give us more love. In Jesus’ Name,
(1,008 words…getting closer.)