Paul emphasizes training and spiritual disciplines in I Tim. 4:7: “Train yourself in godliness.” Then in verse 11, he gives us the principle of discipling others in spiritual disciplines by exhorting (commanding) us to teach them and insisting that everyone learn them. In Deep Discipleship by J. T. English, he states, “Let’s be clear: the church is cal sled to make disciples, and it is time for us to stop delegating our responsibility.” He continues, “I believe, with every fiber of my being that the local church is God’s primary means of making holistic disciples of Christ.” It is hard to argue with those statements and, quite honestly, why would you want to?
Every church is called to make disciples who make disciples. Every disciple-making church must have a pathway (system) in place that requires an understanding of the next steps while remaining flexible in the process. Have you trained your people how to build relationships with people who are far from God and shown them how to lead someone to the cross? Once there do they know how to show them to step over the line in faith and begin serving Christ? Do they know how to continue the journey toward becoming fully devoted followers of Christ? There is a basic sequence to growing, maturing and multiplying disciples.
In Real Life Discipleship, Jim Putman has developed the discipleship wheel that begins with those who are dead in their trespasses and sins. They are characterized by unbelief and must be born again. Once saved they are described as infants and are characterized by ignorance because they just do not know what they need to know. The discipler shares (key word) his life, truth and spiritual habits with this infant. They then grow into childhood, where they are characterized by self-centeredness. The key word here is connect as the discipler connects them to God, a small group (life on life) and to their purpose.
Now they know how to do things for themselves. One of the greatest goals of a discipleship pathway is for the new disciple to learn how to feed themselves and walk daily with Christ. This process moves them from infants to children, and now to becoming young adults. The key phrase here is train to minister as you equip them to serve, provide them ministry opportunities and release them to do it. They are no longer characterized by self-centeredness; instead, they are God-centered, others-centered and focused on serving. They now become spiritual parents, reproducing themselves in new disciples.
The discipleship wheel purposely stays away from the word “mature” because it implies that the disciple has “arrived.” The process repeats itself, and you cannot settle for a kind of discipleship that allows people to sit down, become bored and go through the motions. Biblical discipleship will keep people enraptured and motivated by the beauty of Christ and His transforming power in one another’s lives. Parents are characterized by intentionality and strategy in raising up more disciples to make more disciples. They can explain the discipleship process and understand fully what needs to be done next. Simply put, they multiply.
Do you have a pathway like Jim Putman’s or maybe one like Hal Seed’s at New Song Community Church in Oceanside, Calif.? He uses a more agricultural model entitled Growing Up. They state, “The vision of New Song is to help unchurched people become fully devoted followers of Christ.” First is producing “Fruit” by sharing the gospel. Then the next step is “Branch,” which focuses on discovering your ministry. The “Trunk” is where you discover spiritual habits, and the “Roots” are where you discover who New Song is and how you can contribute. The last is “Dirt” by growing a strong faith. The focus is always growing.
At Cornerstone, we focus on “Helping People Find and Follow Jesus.” How do we do that? By being “Centered” on God in private worship (teaching the disciplines of SOAP and PRAY) and public worship. We also strive to get people “Connected” to one another. We repeatedly stress that the best way to get connected at Cornerstone is by joining a Connection Group (this is where they sit in a group and grow together) but we also encourage them to serve on a ministry team because that is where they serve the Lord side-by-side. The third C is “Compassion” for our community because we always want to remain outwardly focused.
The discipleship tool that is the foundation for our discipleship pathway at Cornerstone is Small Circle, which you can find at www.smallcircle.com. They even have a free app where you can look over all of the materials. They refer to their process as a one-on-one relational discipleship program, but it can be used in groups of three or four. Lifeword has initiated a new digital platform called “FOLLOW” that utilizes Good Soil materials. It connects those interested with a local church for the relational aspect that is needed for true discipleship to occur. Contact Eliezer Semedo at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information about Good Soil.
Here is the reality — the best discipleship pathway is the one that is biblical, has buy-in by your people, is easy to follow and is being utilized by your people. The worst discipleship pathway is the one that is talked about, but no one is being discipled. After Saul’s (Paul’s) conversion, he had people from the beginning of his spiritual journey who were discipling and mentoring him — there was Ananias, Barnabas and the church at Antioch. Then we see Paul pouring into John Mark, Silas, Timothy and others. Paul said to teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. So, who is your Paul and where is your Timothy?