A model for discipleship

 An older pastor with some cross cultural experience writes this briefemail to others in leadership seeking to encourage them in practical ways. These subjects could generally apply to any person seeking to glorify God. (By Alan Utting www.firstfruitsministries.org.nz)

As Christian workers and especially pastors running churches, most of our time is spent in keeping a church going. We endeavour to prepare sermons well, visit the sick, raise money for ministry and evangelise where possible. Of late many churches have become missional in nature which is also good. However, the greatest need is to see the transformation of a person’s life to become more like Jesus. Attending church and even ministering to those in need in itself may fall well short of that goal. Good discipleship practice helps mature Christians as this is what Jesus wants.

  1. Biblical Principles of disicipleship

Scripture has many examples of discipleship, but due to lack of space I will mention only two.

  1. An Old Testament example:

Jethro taught Moses (how to care for people effectively Genesis 18:13-27) and Moses in turn taught Joshua (to stay at the tent of meeting to hear from God himself Exodus 33:7-11, and Joshua accompanied Moses who went up to Mt Sinai to receive 10 commandments Exodus 24:13. After all the discipleship training Joshua was finally equipped to lead the people of God into the promised land Deut 31:3)

2. A New Testament example.

Paul meets Timothy Acts 16:1, Timothy accompanies Paul and learns from him Acts 18:5, Timothy is now called a co worker Romans 16:21, He is seen as a reliable worker Phillipians 2:2, and is charged by Paul to train others who in turn will again train other people in the Christian life 2 Timothy 2:2.

The verb ‘disciple’ occurs 25 times in the New Testamanet and the noun ‘disciple’ occurs no less than 264 times. Note, Jesus last command was for His follwers to make disciples Matt 28: 19,20 therefore it must be a very important matter.

  1. A useful approach

There are different levels of discipleship; maintaining friendship over a period of time, counselling folk through difficulties, mentoring, teaching small and large groups of people, but the most effective model I have used for making disciples in over 40 years of pastoring is below.

  1. Fellowship: Once a week 4 of us men would meet for fellowship for 1 1/2 hours over a cup of tea. We would discuss how the past week had gone, sharing our joys and failings. We also talked about goals.
  2. Bible study. We opened in prayer asking God to ‘speak to us’ though his word. We would read a paragraph of Scripture e.g. the book of James asking ourselves the following questions: What does it say in our own words? b. Is there anything I don’t understand ? c. How does this apply to me? (What is God saying to me?). This last question is particulary important.
  3. GoalsWe always set goals involving other people for the following week. Normally this would take us out of our comfort zone especially in sharing our faith with others. Sometimes it meant doing something practical for a person.  As we were very dependant upon God for strength and opportunities, we would pray for each other and the contacts we wanted to make.
  4. Accountability. Generally this was very rewarding when we shared what God had done through us. It also gave us greater boldness to share Jesus in a greater way the following week.

John Wesley formed similar groups like this in the 18thcentury where Believers met twice weekly for study of Scripture and confession of sin. This in turn changed a nation towards Christ!

For those of you reading this email who are involved in discipling others, I would be very interested to know how you are getting on. Please write to me, also if you have any questions.

  1. Some suggested resources

‘Building a disicpleship culture’ by Mike Breen.

‘A Long Obedience in the Same Direction’ by Eugene H Peterson

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