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The Discipleship Journey $

The Discipleship Journey

The Discipleship Journey

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ … - Colossians 1:28

There is a traceable (and at times disjointed) growth story from the new birth to spiritual parenthood where the Holy Spirit leads us on a shared, formative journey.

When we started to take Jesus seriously as adults we often just assumed that true Christians automatically followed whatever Jesus taught right away. We are not sure where we got that idea? Was it from the Christians that we knew or was it the teaching that we received or was it that the emphasis of those around us on “living the Christian life” that led us to just assume it? We aren’t sure, but this idea is both unrealistic and unbiblical.

The discipleship.org definition of a disciple is a person who is following Jesus, being formed by Jesus, and faithful to the mission of Jesus? By definition, discipleship is a process because I must learn to follow, formation is a life-long process, and faithfully joining a mission requires understanding and developed effectiveness in it. The key words here are process, formation, journey, or your development story.

When guiding people along the discipleship journey it is important to consider our interconnectedness as we travel. While the disciple cannot travel the journey very effectively without help, the responsibility for spiritual growth must never rest on the disciple maker alone. We teach, based upon Matthew 28:19-20, that there are three parts to the discipleship process. There is my part as disciple maker, the disciple’s part, and God’s part:

The disciple maker’s role:  To make disciples of Jesus by pursuing, encouraging, teaching, and coaching a person in his or her spiritual journey.

The disciple’s role: To be a faithful disciple by learning and responding in obedience to the teachings of Jesus.

God’s role: God promises to be present in the disciple making process; He works in the process by his Spirit to transforms lives and bring change.

We can always trust God to be present doing his part, but we also need to remember that disciples need to choose the path of discipleship, as we choose to guide them, out of the love that God has shown us. I need to understand my responsibility as a leader in light of God’s role, learning to be patient and rest in God’s plan and timing while being alert to opportunities he provides.

Discipleship requires that we walk with people through the next step in their journey to be like Jesus. It is important to acknowledge that there is a traceable development path revealed in the Bible. Disciple makers are conscious of this path and lead disciples accordingly. It is an incremental journey, with next steps for everyone along the path.

Bobby Harrington is one of the  founding board members of the Relational Discipleship Network, you can read more articles by Bobby at discipleship.org

Visit our DiscipleShift training for more information

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He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ … Colossians 1:28 There is a traceable (and at times disjointed) growth story from the new birth to spiritual parenthood where the Holy Spirit leads us on a shared, formative journey. When […]

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The Discipleship Journey

$
He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ … Colossians 1:28 There is a traceable (and at times disjointed) growth story from the new birth to spiritual parenthood where the Holy Spirit leads us on a shared, formative journey. When […]
Intentionality in Disciple Making $

Intentionality in Disciple Making

Intentionality in Disciple Making

Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it …

- 1 Timothy 4:8-9 (NLT)

INTENTIONALITY – Discipleship requires us to have strategy, direction, and specific steps for those we are discipling.

The Oxford Dictionary describes intentionality as “the fact of being deliberate or purposive” (yes, purposive is a word!). We must state, up front, that this concept may be hard for people to believe in or grasp in our day. This concept means that disciple makers know where other people need to go and they have a plan to help them get there.

We live in a time where we celebrate humility in moral and spiritual circles and we do not like those who talk and act like they might know the way. We are suspicious of those who claim knowledge or insight about a spiritual journey for others. Our post-modern world pushes away from absolutes. Instead we prize the modesty of uncertainty and admire self-professed expressions of doubt. Amongst Christians, there is now a common posture that people take, saying, “only God can guide people.” “Our only job,” they say, “is to pray and trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance in another person’s life.”

The problem with this posture is that it can be at odds with the teaching of Jesus and with discipleship as it is found in the Bible. Let’s carefully examine a few sections of scripture that make this point clearer.

We want to start with the primary text on discipleship in the New Testament again from the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

This text begins with two imperatives: “go” and “make.” Jesus is commanding us to be intentional. We can only follow Jesus’ teaching in this text if “we make the decision to go” (into the world of lost people, those facing eternal judgment without Christ) and “we make disciples” (enable people to follow Jesus by our efforts). The second imperative is key: we can only “make disciples” if we know what a disciple is and how to make one. A disciple maker, by definition, is guided by intentionality and planning.

There is balance here because the text ends with a promise of Jesus’ presence. He tells us that in the disciple making process, he is with us always, to the very end of the age. So, we do our part and we trust that Jesus is in us, making it happen through our efforts. I make disciples, but I do not do it by myself. And I do not just leave it to Jesus. He commanded me to do my part, as he works through me.

If I do not pursue an agenda and if I do not have a basic sense of direction, I cannot make disciples. If the plan deviates from Jesus’ model, it will be a monumental failure. And if I don’t move out and implement this plan, I won’t make disciples. I need a plan because, according to the text, making disciples includes my role in teaching them “to obey everything that Jesus commanded.” I must be intentional so that I can be faithful to teach them what Jesus commanded.

 

Bobby Harrington is one of the  founding board members of the Relational Discipleship Network, you can read more articles by Bobby at discipleship.org

Visit DiscipleShift1 for dates and locations.

 

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Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it … 1 Timothy 4:8-9 (NLT) Intentionality – discipleship requires us to have strategy, direction, and specific steps for those we are discipling. The […]

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Intentionality in Disciple Making

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Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it … 1 Timothy 4:8-9 (NLT) Intentionality – discipleship requires us to have strategy, direction, and specific steps for those we are discipling. The […]
Repeat – A Reproducible Process $

Repeat – A Reproducible Process

Repeat – A Reproducible Process

Repeat

 

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others … 2 Timothy 2:2

Authentic discipleship repeats itself, where the disciple becomes a disciple-maker: reproducing the discipleship process.

In preparation for the launch of discipleship.org, we solicited the input of some the most effective disciplemakers in North America. We were stunned by their uniform emphasis on one point (and it was especially punctuated by Robert Coleman and Bill Hull): discipleship is not biblical without an emphasis on multiplication. If our vision of discipleship stops with the disciple, it falls short of the example Jesus left for us. Authentic discipleship repeats itself – where the disciple becomes a disciple-maker – reproducing the discipleship process.

As Bobby Harrington and Jim Putman pointed out in the book, DiscipleShift: Five Shifts to Help Your Church Make Disciples Who Make Disciples, no one can be mature without experiencing the love of God in Christ and loving others in turn. It is hard to believe that someone is truly Christ-like if he or she does not personally seek and save the lost, since that was Jesus’ purpose for coming to the earth (Luke 19:1-11). Jesus was sent by the Father into the world for the redemption of people and he, in turn, sent his disciples into the world for the redemption of others (John 20:21). Can we truly be like Christ, who made discipleship a high priority, and not personally make disciples ourselves? His last words were very clear. He commissioned us with the commandment to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Discipleship is for people who are lost

Let’s talk first about discipling lost people. These are people who do not know or claim to know Jesus. We have both lived in areas where there are few Christians. In those areas of the world, the saved and the lost are clearly distinct. And the approach is clear – we follow Jesus by entering their world to love and serve them as Jesus loved and served people (which is to be missional) and, out of safe relationships that are established through this kind of love, we tell them about and invite them to join the kingdom of God. We call this strategy show and tell.

Let’s be honest. The closest friends of most Christians are Christians. They may have a few ongoing and meaningful relationships with lost people, but probably not too many. Christians naturally connect with other Christians, so most (if not all) of their best relational energy is invested in people they know or meet at church. The discipleship lifestyle means that we must follow Jesus and actually go out and find lost people (Luke 15)! We must constantly encourage people to be like Jesus by intentionally connecting with non-disciples and helping them to become disciples. This is repeating the discipleship process at the most basic level. Someone taught us about Jesus. Now we want to repeat that with others. Eternal destinies lie in the balance.

Discipleship is for the saved

Now let’s talk about discipling saved people. Far too many people have been saved and then abandoned. Somehow it is just assumed that they will be discipled by getting involved in a church or that it will just automatically happen somehow. It doesn’t work that way. Jesus and the apostles showed us that disciples are made by other disciples. So it is vitally important to raise up disciplemakers who equip and disciple the saved, so that they become mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28). We must replicate disciples.

Too many people think that it’s the minister or a pastor or the elders who make disciples. They’re concerned that they don’t know what to do or that they will make mistakes. This is where biblical teaching on the ministry of all believers and the coaching role of leaders is so important (Ephesians 4:11-13; Romans 8:3-8). Every disciple has the capability and responsibility to make disciples. We are all ambassadors, lights in the world, and ministers of reconciliation. Understood this way, it’s the role of every disciple of Jesus to be ministers and to make disciples, and the role of every minister, pastor, and elder to train, equip, and coach every disciple to become disciplemakers.

The acid test of a disciple-maker is not that he or she is making disciples, but are making disciples who have gone on to be disciple-makers. A mature disciplemaker can point to several people that he has discipled and that are now discipling others. At the beginning, we were their disciples, but now they are our co-laborers. We may release people from being actively discipled by us, yes, but we never release them from relationship.

Bobby Harrington is one of the  founding board members of the Relational Discipleship Network, you can read more articles by Bobby at Discipleship.org

 

Bobby Harrington

Harpeth Community Church Senior Pastor
Franklin, TN

Bobby Harrington is the founding and lead pastor of Harpeth Community Church, just beside the Harpeth River, south of Nashville, Tennessee. Bobby holds many theological degrees, including the doctor of ministry degree from Southern Baptist Theological seminary. Bobby is one of the founders of the new Relational Discipleship Network. Bobby served as the director of Research, Development, and Missional Lea

dership for Stadia, a national church planting organization. He was Stadia’s lead trainer of church planters, where he trained hundreds of church planters from 2003 through 2011 and helped pioneer their national church planting network system. He was also the president of Church Coaching Solutions from 2005 through 2010. He is the author of Together: Network and Church Planting (with Marcus Bigelow). Bobby is married to Cindy, with two children, Ashley and Chad.

 

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  And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others … 2 Timothy 2:2 Authentic discipleship repeats itself, where the disciple becomes a disciple-maker: reproducing the discipleship process. In preparation for the launch of discipleship.org, we solicited the […]

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Repeat – A Reproducible Process

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  And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others … 2 Timothy 2:2 Authentic discipleship repeats itself, where the disciple becomes a disciple-maker: reproducing the discipleship process. In preparation for the launch of discipleship.org, we solicited the […]