Developing a Discipline Culture
When one examines the mandate given by Jesus to his followers, making disciples was his primary concern. Evangelism was the door in, but discipleship was to be the goal. “Jesus told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 2818-20 NLT)
Some years ago, at the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelism, participants from over 150 nations signed a covenant that read: “We confess that we have sometimes pursued church growth at the expense of church depth, and divorced evangelism from Christian nurture.” Having travelled to over 108 nations around the world and personally witnessed the progress the church at large is making in this area, I believe the weakest link in the evangelism-discipleship process is the intentional follow-up care of new believers. One of Billy Graham’s greatest regrets was in this area.
Part of the difficulty is that we have complicated the discipleship process and have often made it to be more than it is. As a result, the task seems daunting, and people shy away from getting involved. These misconceptions have many times created unfair expectations of ministry leaders. Scripture shares three essential participants in the process of discipleship. God, others and you. God has promised to complete what He started (Phil 1:6; 2:13). He has placed us within the family of God to support one another. (Heb. 10:25) But then he looks to us to step up to take on personal responsibility for our own growth. “Continue to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” we are admonished. (Phil. 2:12)
Knowing this we must ask ourselves, “Am I availing myself of the many means of grace and spiritual growth that God has provided for me? Am I feeding my inner man daily with the Word? Am I seeking to put into practice what I learn? Am I participating in fellowship with other believers? Am I communing with God in prayer and truly seeking to know Him, and become more like Him?” If we are, we are being discipled! Discipleship is a process of learning, obeying, following, loving, and becoming more like Jesus.
The “act of discipling” is to help others do the same. Each time we meet with a Christian friend and talk about Jesus, we are discipling each other. Every time we pray with someone, write an encouraging note, share a verse of scripture, or lovingly caution a brother or sister about their ways, we are participating in the discipling culture Jesus looks for in His Church.
In I Thessalonians 2:5-12 we get a glimpse into the caring heart of the Apostle Paul for “discipling others.” “We cared for you the way a mother cares for her children. We loved you dearly. Not content to just pass on the Message, we wanted to give you our hearts. And we did. ...With each of you we were like a father with his child, holding your hand, whispering encouragement, showing you step by step how to live well before God, who called us into his own kingdom, into this delightful life.” (The Message)
When Jesus asked us to follow him, he invited us into a relationship that is personal but not private. Through faith in Him we become part of his spiritual body - the church. Therefore, “Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day (of his appearing) approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25 The Message)
Be blessed my friend.
The Barnabas Group (Loads of Love)
I Corinthians 12:12-30; Ephesians 4:11-16; Philippines 4:1; III John 1:4