The stages of discipleship

“I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.  I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:12-14 NIV).

In the above scripture John describes the physical stages of man:  children, young men, father [adults].  There are also stages of discipleship that individuals go through in order for them to grow in Christ.  So Paul directed them to study, “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).  It is the role and responsibility of a true believer to be actively involved in the discipleship process and teach others the importance of obedience to the will of the Father.  Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey stated,

Disciple making is about comprehensive training in obedience leading to reproduction and multiplication. When many speak of fulfilling the Great Commission, they are talking only about evangelism. Yet, Jesus was quite clear: disciple making is not complete until the disciple is practicing everything Jesus commanded, including the command to make more disciples.[1]

The Lord commissioned the disciples [and us] to, “. . . . go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 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 28:18-20).[2]  This is our calling.  Discipleship occurs in stages.  It is a process that takes time effort and dedication.
According to the Earley and Dempsey text there are three stages of discipleship; Stage one is Declaration. [3]  During the stage of declaration the seeking unbeliever begins to investigate the person of Christ. [4] Discussing who Jesus is and what he is to you the disciple is a great way to personalize this stage.  Talking about how the disciple came to know Christ and sharing scriptures such as John 3:16 (NIV) will open the door to questions from the person being discipled.  Discussing one’s personal thirst for knowledge of Christ and how that thirst was quenched presents a visual image to the listener of how their own thirst can be quenched.  Using the scriptural reference about the woman at the well, discussing sin, the forgiveness of sin, and how it brings about repentance and faith in Jesus Christ if the focus of this stage.[5]  The authors declared that, “The goal is to arrive at a place of committed belief.” [6]However, it is essential that the individual being discipled also understands that this requires commitment on their part as well as obedience to Christ and his word.  Demonstrative examples of this in the lives of living human beings helps the new believer to comprehend that this does not  apply to just the “holy men” of the bible, but it also applies to people today and more importantly can be accomplished through the blood of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Stage two is Development: this stage focuses on immersion into the new life with Christ, abandoning the contacts, connections, and lures of the old life, and becoming a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.[7]  Stage two is the act of being prepared and being ready to serve the church community and preparation and training for sharing the gospel with other.  The training must be intentional.  Accountability and ongoing coaching is critical at this stage.  Start with small incremental assignments and areas where they can serve and see success.  As this stage develops the act of obedience and submitting the disciple’s entire life to the way of the cross and service to Jesus Christ, becomes a way of life. During this stage the transformation process has begun.  Immersion into the church community and being provided with opportunities to serve, while still being ministered, will grow the disciple in this stage of development.  Stage two is an ongoing life long process. It is essential that the new disciple knows this; share (Romans 7:15-20) and let them know that you are there to encourage them as needed when they feel that they are having challenges.

The third stage is deployment or intentional global commissioning.[8]  As the disciple grows through Stage two and becomes proficient in the word they intentionally begin the process of disciplining others. The disciple is sent to present salvation through the gospel to future Christian disciples.  [9] The mentor expresses the importance of the act of obedience and the willingness to go where ever it is that God sends the disciple.  During this stage the disciple becomes a multiplier[10]. This stage is not fulfilled until the disciple is called home to be with Christ in heaven.  This is the fulfillment of the great commission.

Explaining, demonstrating, and implementing these stages in the local congregation is easier if it is done with the framework of small group ministry.  It makes the training process intimate and personalized.  It is highly probably that present key leaders in the congregation will have to be trained in the process of “multiplying and discipleship” before it can be launched as a full scale church initiative.[11]  However, it should not be left until “individuals’ have perfected the process!  Sharing one’s own story of how they became a Christian is a personalized way of beginning the process. The mentee/discipled will understand that in a more rapid fashion that just quoting the bible and passages to them.

Finally, obedience to the commands of the Lord is our way of showing how much we love him.  Are you ready to go forward and bring glory to the name of the Lord?

[1] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is. . . How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), Location 175, Kindle.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI:

Zondervan, 1998).

[3] Earley & Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, Location 1109, Kindle.

[4] Earley & Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, Location 1109, Kindle.

[5] Ibid., Location 1182.

[6] Ibid., Location 1064.

[7] Ibid., Location 1066.

[8] Ibid., Location 1073.

[9] Ibid., Location 1512.

[10] Ibid., Location 2712.

[11] Ibid.

Bibliography

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is . . . How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H  Publishing Group, 2013.

 

Disciple Making in the Local Church

The Role and Importance of the Local Church [Spiritual Gifts]

The process of discipleship is not one that is left to the sole proprietorship of the pastor.  It is the responsibility of the entire body or community of believers. Dietrich Bonhoeffer presented a convicting explanation of what the community of believers represents.  He begins by explaining that, “Jesus Christ lives here on earth in the form of his body, the church-community.”[1]  Christians are well aware that Jesus told the disciples to follow him and they would become fishers of men (Matthew 4:19 NIV).[2]  Bonhoeffer continued the discourse, “To be in Christ means to be in the church-community. . . . For Christ truly is and eternally remains the incarnate one and the new humanity truly is his body [of]. . . . . Christian believers filled with [the incarnate] Christ.”[3]  In explaining Ephesians 4: 11– 14, Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey concurred with Bonhoeffer.  They declared, “This passage is saying that the church is the same thing as the body of Christ. They are synonymous. In addition, Paul points out that the body of Christ is to be built up [by] “the proper working of each individual part.”[4]

Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington and Robert Coleman proposed that the local church has a specific role to play; it involves a methodology that includes sharing, connecting, ministering and disciplining.[5]  The authors purport that when the church works with unsaved people it does so at the” Share” level; it knows that they need salvation. . . .they need biblical evidence of the incarnation of Christ, and an invitation to accept him (John 3:16). [6] In this phase, believers also need an understanding of what it means to be a Christian; they also learn what obedience to Christ means and demonstrates it in daily living.[7]

Connect is the second methodology presented by Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, “Churches can reach out corporately through small groups, community groups, church services, and various ministries.”[8]  The local church reaches out in this manner by obedience to the Lord’s admonishment to congregate, and to carry out The Great Commission.  As the church connects with congregants, it teaches them how to establish relationships with fellow believers (Galatians 5:13). As believers connect with each other, they learn obedience to the commandment to, “Love one another” (John 13:34).  Connection leads to, “Consecration [consecration] means that, like Jesus, we help people to obey God’s teachings.”[9]  Robert Coleman extends the concept of consecration by explaining what obedience means,

Supreme obedience was interpreted to be the expression of love. Jesus said: “If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments. . . . This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I have told you[10]

The local congregation teaches the new disciples how to demonstrate agape love.  The teaching of obedience can come from the pastor, through Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, or discipleship mentors.[11] Obedience to the teachings of the Lord comes only from the knowledge of said teachings (2 Timothy 2:2).

According to Putman, Harrington and Coleman, the third methodology is “train to minister”.[12]  It is a three pronged process that begins with demonstrative teaching.  Jesus’ entire ministry while he was on earth was a demonstrative one.  He used parables to teach (Mt 13:1-44). The second part of this process involves delegation. The authors stated, “Delegation means we not only encourage people to do ministry in Jesus’ name but also supply opportunities and places for them to do ministry. . . disciple makers need to give people a time and place when and where they can participate in doing something, or they will soon get bored and walk away.”[13]  Jesus delegated “missions’ to his disciples too (Mark 6: 7-13). Paul used delegation too (2 Timothy 2:2).  The authors detailed an accountability processes that they referred to as coaching.[14] Jesus used the “coaching” process with his disciples (Matthew 17:20; Matthew 16:13-20).

In the final stage, “release to be a disciple maker” in other words the disciple is now expected to go out and bear spiritual fruit by discipling others; “Every disciple has the capability and the responsibility to minister to others in God’s name. [Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey calls this stage, “Produce Reproducers”]”[15] The disciple who has learned how to share, connect, and train to minister, is now ready to begin the process of carrying out The Great Commission. This statement of the authors clarifies the final stage, “The best indicator that someone is mature is not that they are making disciples but that they are making disciples who have gone on to be disciple makers themselves.”[16]

Part of the process of becoming a disciple and making disciples is recognizing an individual’s spiritual gifts.  Discipleship, within the body of Christ, is a symbiotic process when each member is intentionally utilizing the gifts that God has given them for the equipping of the saints (Ephesians 4:11–13).  Stephen Hong declared, “The mission of the church on earth is not just to preach the gospel but to be the living expression of the gospel.”[17] That example is borne out each week as the local church meets as a body of spirit filled individuals who are obedient to the will of God will produce fruit (Hebrews 10:24-25).[18]  The pastor plays a pivotal role in the vision and mission of a church that is bearing fruit, utilizing the acquired spiritual gifts and growing disciples for the Kingdom of God.

Role of the Pastor

            What is the role of the pastor in the local congregation and the discipleship process?

Earley and Dempsey describes the pastor’s role,

Pastors are to “train” or “equip” the saints, and the saints are to do the “work of ministry.” Barnes’ Notes on the Bible explains that this “training” (katartismon) properly refers to “the restoring of anything to its place.’” This arranging has to do with helping the saints “grow up in every way into Him,” becoming “mature” believers. This involves properly connecting the individual inside the body, just as Christ desires.[19]

Paul tells the Ephesians that Christ gave the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, to prepare his people for ministry, so that the body of Christ may become mature in every respect as the mature body of him who is the head. (Ephesians 4:11-16).  The pastor’s job is to share the gospel, teach, train, equip, connect, and prepare the congregation for the process of reproducing disciples.[20]  He delegates to elders, deacons, and other leaders in the congregation.  He operates on an individual basis; he is responsible for the growth and development of each member in the congregation; he must ensure that they are growing, understand what spiritual gifts are, and are maturing in the faith.[21] However in the final analysis, “Christian leadership is the process of influencing individuals to follow God’s plan for their lives and become all they can be for Christ and His mission.”[22] After the pastor, “planted the seed, [Elders and others] water it, but God . . . . makes it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6).

              In concluding, the author wrote this paper to look at the role of the church in the discipleship process.   The paper also explored the importance of the local church and the use of spiritual gifts.  The research in this paper discussed that local congregations, share, connect, minister and disciple.  The discipleship process ends with disciples producing other disciples.  Secondly the author also addressed the role of the pastor in the discipleship process.  Research indicated that pastors, congregations, and leaders within the body of Christ must demonstrate the deity and incarnation of Christ.  When demonstration of the incarnate nature of Christ is evident in a believer’s life it leads to obedience to The Law of Love for God and man as well as equipping the Saints for The Great Commission.  

Bibliography

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003.

Coleman, Robert Emerson. The Master Plan of Evangelism. Grand Rapids, MI: F.H. Revell, 1993.  Kindle.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is–: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville: TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013. Kindle.

Hong, Stephen A. “Reversing a Downward Spiral: Strengthening the Church’s Community, Holiness and Unity through Intentional Discipleship.” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies, no. 1 (January 1, 2012): 89-125. Accessed November 7, 2014. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert Emerson Coleman. DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 2013.

 Notes

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 218 and 220.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New

International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998).

[3] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, 216.

[4] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is–: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), Locations 3270-3272, Kindle.

[5] Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert Emerson Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 2013), 153.

[6] Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, DiscipleShift, 155-156

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., 159.

[10] Robert Emerson Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism (Grand Rapids, MI: F.H. Revell, 1993), 55-56. Kindle.

[11] Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, DiscipleShift, 159.

[12] Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, DiscipleShift, 159.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, DiscipleShift, 160

[15] Ibid., 163 and Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is–: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), Location 2114. Kindle.

[16] Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, DiscipleShift, 164.

[17] Stephen A. Hong, “Reversing a Downward Spiral: Strengthening the Church’s Community, Holiness and Unity through Intentional Discipleship.,” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies, no. 1 (January 1, 2012): 125, accessed November 7, 2014, ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

[18] Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, DiscipleShift, 163-165.

[19] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is–: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), Locations 754-760.

[20] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, Locations 3537-3538, Kindle.

[21] Ibid., Location 3377.

[22] Ibid., Location 3463.

We are family

My dear sweet cousin may be leaving us soon. She has pancreatic cancer. She loves the Lord with her heart soul and mind. We have been separated by distance and years for over 30 years. Her brother and I were raised by our grandmother for the first few years of my life. They were teens when they left her and went to their parents. I was 7 years old. Yes we all had interesting life experiences. But we talked about how gracious the Lord was to each of us as he brought us through those interesting times without emotional damage. We are convinced that it was because of the foundation laid by our sweet grand-mama who discipled us while she was raising us. She went home to Jesus in 1967, and my spiritual life was changed forever. It was after her death that I gave my heart to Jesus at age 14. My physical world fell apart when she died, but my spiritual world was enriched.  That is strange, right?  Families – including your extended family – are a gift from God! We should never take them for granted. I am so thankful to be spending time with my dear cousins.

I know that someone is out there saying when I became a Christian I lost my family.   Well the Lord promised us something, “. . . . “We have left everything to follow you!” . . . . “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:28-30). [1]  The family of believers everywhere in the world becomes our family.   Some of you out there are the only members of your family who is a Christian. Be reminded that I am your sister in Christ; my cousins are also your sister and brother in Christ.  This blog is here to encourage you as you walk in the Lord.  It is here to help your share Christ with others.  But even more importantly we are here to share him and his blessing through the power of prayer with everyone whom comes here.  You Are Not Alone.  We will continue with the story of my cousins.

We spent the evening going down memory lane. Talking about our dear sweet grandmother who taught us the difference between good from evil, and how to demonstrate love to others. She was an example of living theology, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20).  Our grandmother lived this every single day of her life.

Sometimes I reflect and I think we have lost that simple thing. It is not I love you if you love me back. Christ said love your neighbor as you love yourself. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).  He did not add a “but’ if they don’t love you-then don’t love them back. If they don’t give you what you want doesn’t love them back.  I was reminded of all of this last night as we talked into the wee hours of the morning about how the three of us were loved so unconditionally by our grand-mama and how she loved even total strangers the same way.

In light of our ongoing discussion about discipleship, I will state that she was a disciple who was a multiplier.[2] We are all a called to be multipliers for the kingdom of God.  Who are you disciplining right now so that they can come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ-the Messiah-and his saving grace?  If the answer is no one them you are not helping to grow the family of God and you are not in obedience to the Lord’s Commandment to, “He said to them, “Go into the entire world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). Go forward my friends with the goal of expanding The Family of God!

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002)

[2] In them Paul reminded Timothy of the necessity of mentoring multipliers: And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Tim 2: 2) Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is. . . How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013) Locations 2712-2714, Kindle.

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