By Chris McRae, BCI Discipleship Team Leader
There are four commitments essential for discipleship to take place in the small group life of the church. Last week we looked at the importance of having the right target when we aim for discipleship. That involved the non-negotiable aspect of rightly understanding biblical maturity and the transforming principle that is at work in transforming people from what they have been to what they will become and transferring them from dwelling in the kingdom of darkness by overseeing their move into the kingdom of light.
This is no haphazard process. Jesus was “intentional” in his approach. If the church is going to be effective in ministry, it would do well for us to be intentional as well. Such leadership is purposeful in the vision, behavior, character and skills that a disciple is to embrace and master as spiritual maturity is developed.
- A discipler needs to CAST A VISION of a compelling future for the disciple of Christ.
Life has a purpose and every believer has a calling from God. In order to fulfill the destiny for which God has created a person, a disciple needs to be able to visualize his place in God’s plan. Though we don’t know the specifics and the details, a discipler ever points toward God who does. A discipler encourages a vision of captivation with Jesus, the Living Word of God as our guide for truth and light in this world and with the Scriptures, the Written Word of God as our guide for belief and practice in this world.
- A discipler needs to MODEL RIGHT BEHAVIOR to the disciple of Christ.
Primarily I am speaking of biblical disciplines of the spirit expressed in daily life through an application of heart attitudes being transformed by the Spirit of the Living God in a disciple. In addition, though, this includes the “putting on” of godly actions and the “putting off” of ungodly conduct.
- A discipler needs to DEVELOP CHARACTER in the disciple of Christ.
People need help to unlearn the nature of the world that has been absorbed through their years of indoctrination by the world in the ways of the world. The character of Christ is most evidenced in the commands of Christ. That is, we are ordered to obey in order that our lives might be conformed to the image of God in which we were created.
- A discipler needs to NURTURE GIFTS AND SKILLS of the disciple.
For effective and productive ministry for the kingdom, God has entrusted a unique set of abilities, talents and gifts to every believer. Ministry flows as a disciple discovers, develops, and practices these in ways that serve the body of Christ and the sphere of influence in which God has placed him.
Discipleship takes place as we tell the stories of God’s activity in our own lives; as we explain what we believe and why we believe and how our belief has changed us; as we engage in biblical practices of spiritual significance and encourage similar activities; and as we pass on a vision for the ongoing process of making disciples. Change does not happen by happenstance. A disciple won’t wake up one morning and discover that he’s evolved into a better version of himself. Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples. Jesus demonstrated in his life and ministry the principles his disciples were to use to make disciples. Methods come and go. Principles are enduring.
If you are going to “make disciples,” it is more than a little helpful to know what you’re doing and why you are doing those things. We really have no business “making it up as we go along.” Jesus began by calling his disciples and telling them that he would be training them in the “why’s” and “how’s” of making disciples. While much of what Jesus did in his years of ministry with the disciples had to do with the “nuts and bolts” of making disciples, undergirding it all were the principles he used to turn out the “right kind” of disciple. The goal of his training was that his disciples were to be transformed in such a way that their time in this world would be destined to have an eternal impact. Jesus taught his disciples how to make disciples.
Through it all, one of the preeminent and continuing lessons that he taught revolved around the question of what he expected his disciples to become like. That is, Jesus defined discipleship. The inspired stories of Jesus’ life and ministry contain these definitions. If we are going to become authentic followers of Jesus, if we are going to train others to become the men and women Jesus intends them to be, we must use Jesus’ description of his disciples.