What makes for quality discipleship? What are the things within a discipleship relationship that produce real growth and make for an enjoyable, satisfying discipleship experience?
The four Gospels offer fascinating answers when you consider two things: What did Jesus impart to His disciples, and how did He do it? He imparted to them His compassion for the lost and the necessity of servanthood. He demonstrated the importance of His relationship with the Father, and even how to pray.
Now consider how He did that – how He imparted these things while teaching in a large group setting; how He told stories to illustrate the kingdom of God; and how He modeled ministry at the very feet of His disciples.
Mark 3:13-14 describes Jesus’ method of discipleship:
“...He went up to the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach.”
Jesus selected these 12 to spend the next two and a half years with Him, to go wherever He went, and to eventually be sent out into the ministry. Jesus’ example is the very nature of discipleship we hope to model.
Here are three components of quality discipleship.
The number one thing that Jesus did was get involved in people’s lives. When you disciple someone, you’re not taking on a project, you’re investing in a person.
Look at 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12, a classic passage where Paul talks vividly about his heart for the people in whom he invested in the city of Thessalonica.
“Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well- pleased to impart to you not only the Gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us” (v. 8).
These believers at Thessalonica weren’t just a crowd of people; they weren’t just objects or a project. These were people who Paul deeply loved. No matter how spiritually gifted you may be or how much theology you may know, “People won’t care what you know, until they know that you care.”
Here are just five ways to build discipleship relationships:
While ministering at University of Miami – Ohio, Roger Hershey worked with a guy named Eric, an African-American man who had grown up in inner city Cleveland dealing drugs and hating white men. Roger was twenty-five years older than Eric, caucasian, and grew up on a farm in rural Pennsylvania.
Eric had met the Lord, and the Lord changed his whole life. Roger began discipling Eric his junior year, and Eric became like a son to him. Roger recalls the day as he sat in the dining hall where Eric was an RA, and him saying , “Hersh, I want you to know something. Our weekly time together, our discipleship appointment is my favorite time of the week.”
“Really?” Roger said. “Why is that?”
“Because when we get together every week, I realize this is the safest place I have to be on campus all week long because I know you love me, you believe in me, you’ll encourage me, and you’ll listen to all my junk, and you’ll walk me through my failures and sins, and I know you care.”
Race, age, background - it doesn’t make a difference. When you move into someone’s life, when you love them and they know it, they will respond.
Quality discipleship involves getting the Word of God into someone’s life. We know what Romans 12:2 says – “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind...” Don’t be conformed to this world - be changed, be transformed. But how? By getting the Word of God in your life, by the renewing your mind with the Word of God.
Here are three reasons why the Word of God is key to discipleship:
How do we get the word of God in their life? There are a lot of ways – during your one-on-one appointments with them and during Bible study.
But here’s the good news: you impart God’s perspective on life more often than you think.
You impart God’s perspective when you’re hanging out late at night over pizza after Cru. You’re sitting around just talking about life, and biblical truth just starts to come out. You start talking about God’s perspective on dating relationships, God’s perspective on money, and what makes you happy.
As you involve your disciples in the larger body, they’ll get the Word of God in their lives when they sit in Cru meetings and hear a good talk. On the fall retreat, they’ll get the Word of God taught to them all weekend long. The responsibility isn’t just yours. As you involve them in the larger body, the Word of God comes into their lives.
Training your disciple in how to have a ministry involves more than simply talking about how great it would be to reach out to people who don’t know Christ. Doing ministry together means planning outreaches together and actively sharing your faith with others.
Look what Jesus did. He took His disciples and went throughout Galilee and Israel, ministering to people. He spoke to the masses; He healed; He cast out demons; He taught. For two and a half years, Jesus went about ministering, and He took the disciples with Him.
When Paul challenged Timothy in Acts 16, he did not say, “Timothy, let’s hide away for three years. I’ll teach you everything I know from the Old Testament, give you a crash course in theology, and then you’ll be ready for ministry.”
Instead, Paul said, “Timothy, just go with me,” and Timothy joined Paul on his missionary journeys. Timothy learned how to have a ministry by hanging out with Paul.
For you and your disciple, ministry may be talking with guys at the basketball court where you’re playing hoops. Perhaps, it means showing your disciple how to talk about Jesus over a cup of coffee with her classmate. Maybe it’s modeling to your disciple how to initiate with a person, build a rapport with them, and transition into the Gospel. Modeling ministry in these ways allows the disciple to see your heart for the lost.
Four things happen when you are in ministry together.
Healthy discipleship involves all three components – building relationships, studying the Word of God, and doing ministry together. The challenge is to balance all three and periodically evaluate which component needs improvement.
There is no perfect discipler. You learn to disciple by doing it. Building relationships and studying God’s Word may be easy for you. Ministry is usually the most difficult because it means stepping out in faith and bringing another person along with you. But if we do not embrace all three, we rob people of the privilege of growing, of seeing God show up, of watching God work.
Article taken from The Compass.
Tim Henderson is the Campus Director at Penn State University and has authored or co-authored many of the Campus Ministry resources like Compass and The Community.
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