Howdy howdy! This blog post is a continuation of this post, and that post is a continuation of this post. We have been talking about one question which has been widely misunderstood, "What is a disciple?" In the last post, we redefined discipleship as, "The process of growing a personal relationship with God through mentorship." In this post, I want to give you three things that I believe are required for true discipleship.
I have a discipleship process called The Few. My Youth Pastor in high school created it, and then passed ownership to me. Since then I have made modifications to the process while sticking to the core experiences and spirit of the original process. We are about teaching others how to cultivate bold disciples who will minister to the world wherever they go. In order to do that, our process revolves around the illustration of a rubber band.
Rubber bands are designed to do one thing: stretch. And if a rubber band is not being stretched, it is not being used what it is intended for. Christians are a lot like rubber bands, we are not being used if we are not being stretched. So throughout the discipleship, our goal is to stretch the comfort zone of every disciple. Emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and even physically, we aim to stretch the comfort zones of our disciples. Throughout the "stretching," we teach them practical and powerful truths in dynamic ways.
And the results always pay off. I have never seen someone go through The Few whose life was not radically changed. In high school, we saw hundreds of students come into the doors of our student ministry and hear the gospel. In my own life, every student who I have discipled has learned what it means to simply love Jesus. I can confidently trust that each disciple will teach the true love of God to anyone and everyone and everywhere.
The Three Requirements For True Discipleship
I am not here to sell you on my method of discipleship. I do not believe my way is the way, I believe it is a way. An effective way, but nevertheless, just a way. What I want to do is share with you driving principles, a philosophy if you will. Regardless of whatever method you use to disciple someone, here are three things I believe you need to include if you want your discipleship to be effective:
- Intentional Investment
- Sacrificial Commitment
- Relational Authority
This point should be fairly obvious, but effective discipleship requires you to invest in the people you are teaching. Invest in their lives, teach them what you know. Invest in them by passing on your knowledge, share with them the events of your life and how you are using God's Word to respond to those things. And in the process, teach them how they should respond to certain things in their life through the love of God. I invest in my disciples by teaching them my philosophy, "Simply Love Jesus," which sets up biblically fundamental truths that they can use as a filter when navigating life.
I invest in their lives by challenging any incorrect or incoherent ideas about God, helping them navigate through the Bible and piece the ideas together so they can fully understand them. This can often take hours in one sitting, it takes a lot of time when intentionally investing in disciples. But that time leads us to the next requirement for effective discipleship.
I can summarize this entire point in one sentence.
- "Jesus will never be convenient."
To stay up late, helping teach your disciples how to navigate through the Bible, to learn who God is as a person, to intentionally invest in them, it all requires sacrifice. Sacrifice your time, your energy, it requires you to be committed to being their teacher which requires a sacrifice from you. And it requires the same of them.
Jesus says "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23 NIV)
You must sacrificially commit to your disciples, and they must willingly and sacrificially commit to you as their teacher, it must cost both of you something. One of my disciples is a busy guy. He is in jazz band, show choir, acapella, he's taking all types of advanced classes. But he applied, and he understood that he would need to sacrifice his time if he wanted to be a disciple. With everything plus discipleship, he had almost no free time.
But he did it. And he didn't have enough time for discipleship, he would have given up one of his extracurricular activities. I think the only reason he didn't is that he took what he learned in The Few and applied it to minister to those in his other activities. But if I had asked, he would have quit. Because he understands the third requirement for effective discipleship.
Anyone who puts in an application to be a disciple quickly learns what is expected of them by the time their first day is over. We explain to them what I am explaining to you, the history of discipleship, the idea of rabbi's and their disciples in 1st Century Israel. And if they choose to continue with the discipleship they willingly give me a level of authority over their entire life. (I have never had anyone quit because students love to meet the challenge.)
They understand that in our discipleship, there is an established student and there is an established teacher. What this looks like for you may be different, but in our
I am not saying it's the perfect way, but it works for us really well. Whatever it means to you and however you apply it, there needs to be a level of relational authority. Your disciples have to willingly recognize you as an authority in their life.
What's very important for you, (if you are the teacher,) is that you handle that responsibly. You have to set up healthy boundaries, you have to understand the weight of your influence and handle it with grace and the love of God. There's serious pressure, but it's a pressure that should be received with joy and honor.
The honor of making disciples
Teaching others, investing in their lives, committing to them, gracefully handling the relational authority, it can be exhausting. But wow is it fulfilling. It fills me with joy and fills me with excitement when I think of the nights spent investing in different disciples. It gives me hope because I know they will go on to pass the teachings of Jesus, the love of God. They will be the people who give Christians a good name. The people who bring the good news back into the gospel.
Do you think last words are important? I do. And Jesus' last words before ascending into heaven were this:
"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.”Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)
Grace be upon you, peace be with you, and may you walk in love.