14 Feb, 2011 Discipleship – the best way forward
The great commission is to ‘go’ to ‘make disciples’ of people from all people groups on this planet (Matthew 28:18-20). Sometimes these two things (‘go’ and ‘make disciples’) are seen as the (a) ‘evangelism’ and (b) ‘discipleship’ which make up the core content of practically every Churches mission statement on the planet. Mature disciples are the end goal of the process.
Discipleship is a topic that is often talked about but rarely practiced. Most assume that believers are discipled ‘by the way’ through their involvement in the local Church. They think discipleship is ‘incidental’ as opposed to ‘intentional’. To a certain extent believers are discipled through sermons and other such programs, however those who desire to disciple people effectively, and who then allow themselves to observe and assess the effectiveness of their discipleship in peoples lives in the years that follow, will soon realise that this is not the case. Discipleship needs to be INTENTIONAL if it is to be truly effective. Discipleship can utilise programs (we need platforms for meeting), but it cannot be merely ‘structured’. It must always have an ‘organic’ element to it – being relational, flexible, and Spirit-led. We cannot effectively disciple people in large groups alone – small groups, and with these also elements of relationship, flexibility and sensitivity to the Spirits leading, are absolutely necessary if we are to see genuine long term life change, and in multiple people (i.e. to be effective). The Apostle Paul said of his own discipleship in a place that he had laid a foundation ‘as an expert builder’. Effectiveness involves not only anointing, but also a growing maturity of perspective, wisdom and skill. We can’t just ‘program’ discipleship – it takes real effort, including the genuine giving of relationship and a sincere seeking of the Spirits leading each and every time we meet! So, now, here is a reflection on this.
The below is an article I have written on effective relational discipleship. This is published in the appendices of the book ‘That Leaders Might Last’ (by myself), more on this book being found in another blog found here. The encouragement in this reflection is toward spending personal time with people, just as Jesus did with His twelve disciples, and his inner circle of three of them. This is an encouragement toward what I feel is needed in addition to what we pastors do through our weekly services and sermons. However it is not only the pastor who can do it – we all can! Read on 🙂
Btw – please feel free to pass this link on to others, but as this is published and copyrighted one cannot publish this in any publication, etc… without permission (so ask if you’d like to- its very easily done).
Appendices 1: Ten Keys for Effective Discipling
The legacy can start with you
Our call is to make disciples – men and women who follow the way of Christ. There is much talk on ‘mentoring’ these days. Mentoring is just another word for discipleship. At a leadership level, the Apostle Paul told Timothy “…the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2). There are four generations mentioned in this verse: Paul, Timothy and the disciple who can in turn disciple others. This teaches us that our discipleship should be strategic, looking for multiplication, not just addition. If we are to grow the Kingdom, this is the model of leadership development we need. Just as in Ephesians 4:11-13 we are told the role of leaders in the Church is not to only minister with their strength (leading, preaching, evangelising, teaching, caring…), but to train others so they also can become equipped to serve in these areas. The idea here is that we can all be used by God to encourage others. We can all be ‘disciplers’ in our areas of strength, gifting and experience. While we may not all teach well, we can all give our time to meet with and encourage others, passing on what God has passed to us. So, here are ten keys for effective discipling:
Key One: A sense of ‘divine appointment’
Only commit your time to disciple those whom you feel the Lord has led you to. Seek a natural ‘synergy’ in the relationship and a sense that the Lord has purposed this. This limitation is because your time is a limited resource. Invest it wisely – just as Paul instructed to do Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2.
Key Two: It must be relational
Content-driven discipleship does not grow people. Start by taking time to know them and to care. Then you will be able to really encourage them, and to bring them lessons from God’s Word that are relevant to their needs or hopes. This will foster an even greater hunger for growth and learning.
Key Three: There must be faith and vision
As the discipler, believe in what God can do in the person you are meeting to encourage. Stir faith and vision in your heart for their healing and wholeness. Sometimes the odds seem overwhelmingly against a breakthrough in some people’s lives. However, God can give you the wisdom for the journey. Persevering with faith and vision will see the victory come. Through this you, the discipler, may even be rewarded with a lifelong friend!
Key Four: Set an initial time frame
Setting a timeframe sets expectations and helps clarify what the goal and purpose of meeting is. It is not an eternal mentoring relationship. It is for a set purpose, over a set time. Ten weeks or three months may be a good initial commitment – you can always extend it as you progress, if you both see purpose in this.
Key Five: There must be a regular contact point / meeting
It is naive to assume meetings will just happen. We often have noble intentions, but seeing them through when our lives are so busy is not easy. If we don’t plan for it to happen (i.e. arrange dates and times), it won’t! A regular meeting time helps.
Key Six: There must be a direction
The discipler needs a clear vision for what he / she is seeking to disciple the person in. Growing people is like anything else, if you don’t know what your target is you are unlikely to hit it. There is no greater discouragement in regularly meeting with a person than the feeling that it is achieving nothing and going nowhere. Take time to clarify what you hope to accomplish through meeting with a person. It is likely to be different for every one!
Key Seven: There must be a content
Each meeting will need a direction for discussion. To fail to plan is to plan to fail. You cannot grow a person without walking with them one step at a time. We will not always intuitively know the right direction for discussion at the time so as to be truly helpful to them. Content can be communicated through experiences, sharing stories, or studying God’s Word. I usually draft an initial content direction for several weeks when first starting to meet with someone. This content follows the direction I feel the Lord had given me to impart. I update this plan as meetings take place, seeking to have a clear vision of how I can help encourage the person forward, one step at a time.
Key Eight: Follow through on your commitments
A lack of commitment to follow through is the simple reason why many fail to impact those whom they earlier had a vision to encourage. There are many starters but few who would tally even ten meetings with a person whom they had once felt ‘called’ to encourage. This is where too much talk on ‘mentoring’ can be fruitless, as everyone can see the need but too few put it into practice. In a discipleship relationship both the disciple and discipler need to be committed. The discipler must set the pace – but the disciple must also respond. Where they do not respond, the discipler will need God’s wisdom, as every case is different. There is a time to serve the younger brother, but also a time to respect his freedom of choice.
Key Nine: Love comes first
You must truly love the person you are seeking to encourage. They will see your insincerity if you don’t. Love is a choice, and journeying with a person is not always easy. Loving those who seem less easy to love is a test of our character. Love sees beyond faults and flaws to see vision and hope.
Key Ten: Do it!
There is nothing better you can invest in with your life than another man or woman. Amongst the busyness of life there seem to be few who make this their habit. But Jesus did, so shouldn’t we?
God can use you to encourage and grow faith in others. Consider, all it takes is a coffee and a little bit of faith.
“Go and make disciples of all nations!” (Matthew 28:19)
Ten Keys for Effective Discipling
1. Consider those you are already investing in. Are you giving diligence to their encouragement?
2. Consider those you could encourage, and the areas or ways God could use you to encourage them.
[From ‘That Leaders Might Last’ by Dave Mann (Singapore Campus Crusade for Christ, 2010). See www.bigbookpublishing.co.nz for more from the author]