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.


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.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bueller
    Nov 25, 2014 @ 15:09:38

    This teaches me exactly what is needed to be done. I have always considered myself a Christian yet it wasn’t until the past few years that I have taken that whole idea to a new level. It was through the blackness of evil and finding God there and willing to bring me back to His grace that really showed me the difference between saying one is a Christian and actually being one. It is difficult to follow the teachings of Christ… emulate Him and follow in His footsteps when one is continually tied to the past. You must lay down old anger and forgive all as well as yourself before you can continue on into the future. The future today looks so much different than the future did when I was younger. I never thought I would make it this far in life as the past bogged me down at every turn. Then I learned unconditional love and with that was able to take the steps necessary to begin a REAL life as a Christian. I thank those who brought me to where I am today as without them I have no idea where today would have been.


  2. Bueller
    Nov 28, 2014 @ 09:27:39

    I sure hope that is a good thing EM!! I’d hate to think I’m giving you unknown palpitations or beat-skipping!! But I think that’s a compliment so thank you!!


  3. Joyce
    Nov 28, 2014 @ 16:42:38

    It is a compliment my friend. “This is the statement, that made my heart skip abeat, “I thank those who brought me to where I am today as without them I have no idea where today would have been.” If we had not mentored and discipled you – you are saying you have no idea where you would be. That is why discipleship is so important.


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