DSM 500 Discipleship Ministries by Joyce Gerald, October 28, 2014

Contents. i

Introduction. 1

Stages of Discipleship. 1

Spiritually Dead. 2

Infant 3

Child. 5

Young Adult 6

Parent 7

Personal Level of Discipleship: Parent 7

Spheres of Discipleship. 16

Relationship within the Family of God, the church. 17

Relationships at Home. 18

Relationships with the World. 18

Author’s Spheres That Need Submission to Centrality of Christ 19

What Does it Mean to be in Submission to Christ?. 22

Conclusion. 23

Bibliography. 25

 

  

 

Introduction

Being born again happens instantaneously as soon as an individual accepts Christ as their personal Savior.  However, the process of discipleship is a journey. It is not an event that occurs at a specific point in time.  The process of discipleship is twofold. First an individual becomes a disciple, and as they grow spiritually, they begin producing other disciples. Putman, Harrington, and Coleman propose five stages of development as a disciple; they are, (1) Spiritually Dead, (2) Infant, (3) Child, (4) Young Adult, and (5) Parent.[1] The author will summarize and analyze the developmental steps and characteristics found in each of the five stages of discipleship.

This author will also present an analysis and summary of the spheres of discipleship: (1) The Centrality of a Relationship with God, (2) Relationship with the Family of God, church, (3) Relationships at Home, and (4) Relationships with the World.[2]  The author will identify their current stage of discipleship using biblical evidentiary proofs to correlate their claim. In order for the author to become a producer of disciples, a process must be pursued that identifies personal spheres that need submission to the centrality of Christ as prefaced by Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s call to the cross.[3]

Stages of Discipleship

The process of discipleship is a journey and not an event that occurs at a specific point in time. Discipleship is a progression that a believer experiences. According to Putnam, Harrington, and Coleman the progression begins with no relationship with Christ to the point where the disciple has reached the stage of leading others to Christ by disciplining them.[4]  The authors also state that it is possible for disciples to float in and out of the stages during their walk with the Lord.  For example, “Mature believers can often slip back into immaturity if they are not careful.” [5]

Spiritually Dead

Individuals in this stage also include people who want to have nothing to do with religion and or God. “People in this stage have not yet accepted Christ as Lord and Savior…” [6]  In this stage one finds believers who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, but they are not bearing any fruit; fruit is not apparent because the Holy Spirit does not reside inside of them. People who are spiritually dead have formed their moral compass; the Word of God is mythical to them; they have no religious affiliations; however, they do believe that they are good people.[7]

Finally, in this stage of discipleship one can state that this is a life devoid of the centrality of Christ.  The needs of people who are in this stage are relational and are called pre-conversion by the authors. [8] How are they discipled?  These individuals must see Christ come alive in the lives of their mentor.  As they begin to know their mentors, their questions on the authority of the Bible and the centrality of Christ must be answered in a clear and succinct manner.[9] Then the gospel is presented consequently followed by an invitation to follow Jesus.[10] This begins the disciple’s first step in obedience to the centrality of Christ.  A disciple cannot grow spiritually, or be obedient to his laws, without Christ being at the center of their being.

Infant

All believers start their Christian journey as infants in Christ. However, if they remain on the “Milk” of God’s Word as stated in Hebrews 5:12-14 New International Version (NIV) they can still be categorized as infants many years after their conversion.[11]  These disciples are being worked with by the Holy Spirit, but they are biblically uninformed and have intertwined biblical truths with worldly philosophical constructs.[12] Infantile disciples are primarily self-centered and seek spiritual nourishment from the pastor, and their expectation is that the church will meet their needs.

They question the authority of the Bible over every facet of their lives, and traditions.[13] Infantile disciples are shocked when “human nature” presents itself and begin to question their conversion. How is an infant discipled? They need someone to protect, guide, feed, and care for them because they are still vulnerable, and the devil will take advantage of that vulnerability. [14] This is the stage where teaching the disciple the truths of the God’s Word is not adequate; they must experience the Bible as they observe their mentor.[15]

They will then visualize a life that is obedient to the will of God, and begins to emulate said life. Thus, enabling them to live a life of obedience to the authority of Christ and become submissive to his call on their lives.  The Child stage of discipleship demonstrates faith that is growing and the disciple’s understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ is becoming solidified.  Christians at this stage are learning the language of Christianity and are bonding with other believers. However, much of their spiritual thought process is categorized as “self-centered”.

Putman, Harrington, and Coleman wrote, “. . . . a child can also be dogmatic, seeing the world in rigid, black-and-white terms, even concerning things that are not supposed to be black-and-white. A child can be overconfident, prideful, and full of himself, but they also can be insecure, timid, shy, and full of self-loathing or defeat.”   It is possible that an individual Christian with years of church attendance can still be in this stage of discipleship; spiritual maturity does not come with years after conversion.  Putman, Harrington, and Coleman stipulated that spiritual maturity is determined by how much the disciple has grown in “relational discipleship” from the time of conversion to their current state.

The person in the “child” stage of discipleship questions their role and the role of the church in their lives; insecurities arise when the “child” disciple experiences a change of any sort.  Although this stage of discipleship is a self-centered one and can be taxing for the disciple-mentor, in order for the “child” disciple to grow from this stage their relational needs must be met.   However, the focus must be on their relationships with spiritually mature believers and the Lord; they need people who will help them to grow from this level of childlike dependency to young adult, and even parent.

 

Child

The Child stage of discipleship demonstrates faith that is growing and the disciple’s understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ is becoming solidified.[16] Christians at this stage are learning the language of Christianity and are bonding with other believers. However, much of their spiritual thought process is categorized as “self-centered”.[17] Putman, Harrington, and Coleman wrote, “ . . . a child can also be dogmatic, seeing the world in rigid, black-and-white terms, even concerning things that are not supposed to be black-and-white. A child can be overconfident, prideful, and full of himself, but they also can be insecure, timid, shy, and full of self-loathing or defeat.”[18]  It is possible that an individual Christian with years of church attendance can still be in this stage of discipleship; spiritual maturity does not come with years after conversion.[19]

Putman, Harrington, and Coleman stipulated that spiritual maturity is determined by how much the disciple has grown in “relational discipleship” from the time of conversion to their current state.[20] The person in the “child” stage of discipleship questions their role and the role of the church in their lives; insecurities arise when the “child” disciple experiences a change of any sort.[21]  Although this stage of discipleship is a self-centered one and can be taxing for the disciple-mentor, in order for the “child” disciple to grow from this stage their relational needs must be met.[22]  However, the focus must be on their relationships with spiritually mature believers and the Lord; they need people who will help them to grow from this level of childlike dependency to young adult, and even parent.[23]

Young Adult

According to Putman, Harrington and Coleman, “Spiritual young adults are making [a spiritual transitional shift] from being self-centered to God-[sic] and others-centered.[24]  Spiritual young adults have caught the vision of the centrality of Christ in their lives; are demonstrating obedience by congregating with other believers, and comprehend brevity of The Great Commission as they serve others.[25]  These young adults have grasped the vision of “The Purpose Driven Life“.[26]The spiritual young adults use their abilities and skills to further the objectives of the Kingdom of God; however, further training in the identification of their spiritual gifts is needed.[27] In working with spiritual young adults, spiritual leaders awareness of their need for guidance in how, where, and when to serve within the congregation will further their development.[28] They also need accountability mentors or partners to proffer emotional guidance and encouragement when their human spirit has been offended.[29] They have mastered many of the spiritual disciplines but have not yet arrived at the level of a spiritual parent.  Emotional setbacks have the potential of resulting in regression to any other the previously mentioned levels of discipleship.[30]

Parent

According to the authors, the last stage of discipleship is called parent; however, theologians recognize the fact that God is the one who calls and “births” individuals into his kingdom.[31] Spiritual parents are disciples who are fully immersed in The Great Commission and are making disciples for The Kingdom of God. They are obedient to his call to “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people”(Matthew 4:19 New International Version).[32]  Spiritual parents live lives that demonstrate the centrality of Christ; they are intentional about establishing their relationship with Christ by feeding on the meat of the word.[33] These individuals look for opportunities to carry out the great commission; these may include but are not limited to small group leadership, missionary work, ensuring that their disciples are receiving the spiritual meat that they need to grow up to be parents too, and discipling their own family members.[34] Church leaders can support them by establishing accountability support systems within this group of disciples, leadership training, celebrate their successes to add value to the work that they are doing.[35]

Personal Level of Discipleship: Parent

Joyce Gerald proffers the following proof of her level of discipleship-which is parent.  She has served in every congregation that the Lord has placed her since her conversion. She has been told from her teenage years that her spiritual gifts were leadership, administration, teaching, and evangelism.  God has gifted her with a voice that inspires, so she uses that instrument to reach the souls of men for the Kingdom of God.  On numerous occasions, churched and unchurched persons have told her that their life is no longer the same because of her methodology of worship. Joyce called her ministry musical evangelism.  She wanted her life to exemplify this scripture, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16). She was a worship leader in The Savannah Congregation of Grace Community International.  When her family life changed she asked God where he wanted her to serve next.  The Lord led her to Grace Community Church on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.  She had never heard of the church before.  She looked it up on the internet and went to her first church service.  Within 2 months she was a member of the Saturday night worship service praise team, and also a member of the Sunday morning praise team.

PRG was her pastor at Grace Community Church on Hilton Head Island, SC [he is no longer the pastor there but has headed up a ministry through Celebrate Recovery].  She asked him to write an introduction for a devotional book that she has submitted to Cross Books for publication; this is an extension of her ministry to reach the world for Christ.  He responded to her request in an e-mail. He stated,

Joyce was in our congregation and is a personal friend of mine.  I think I can vouch for her character as I have watched her over the years.  However, I would like to recommend her to you based upon her deep desire and lifestyle that exhibit Christ’s character.  I had the privilege to minister alongside Joyce for a period of time.  Each week she and 2-3 others, along with me, would travel by ferry boat to an isolated island to conduct a Bible study.  Many times there were only 2-3 who would come to attend the study.  I watched Joyce as she interacted with different people.  We traveled one hour over and one hour there and one hour return trip.  What produces in an already busy lady the desire to spend this kind of time for two or three people?    I believe that desire in her was the same desire that has encouraged her to write this devotional, an intense love of God’s word and a servant’s heart.   These two desires separate Joyce to a life of intimacy with the Lord.  Therefore, the devotional; by the way, when you read the songs at the end of each day’s devotional….picture someone (Joyce) singing that song, totally lost and at home in the Lord’s presence, PRG.[36]

 

In 2009 when Joyce started her Ed. S in Educational Leadership she experienced a call from God to start an online ministry. She had a desire to reach the world for God.  The online ministry used the Word of God accompanied by worship songs to reach the hearts of many. Although Fibromyalgia and her workload limited her access to people in face to face meetings, she continued to work at discipleship.  First, in conjunction with a leadership team, she started a Facebook ministry called Egg Angels (EA).  The ministry used an online game to reach people for the kingdom of God.  The purpose of the ministry was to teach the law of Love, “. . . .Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31NIV).  Before the team could reach out to others they had to learn what the scripture meant. Each team member learned how to love and care for the other members of the team.  Then they could love and care for the people whom they were serving.

Fifty or more people were invited to participate in the EA ministry between 2009 to the present time.  Each person came with a different level of understanding of what it meant to be a Christian.  Most of them were at the spiritually dead stage.  W, a close friend and new Christian in Christ, was an individual whom I discipled closely.  We became very close friends.  She was eager to, “Love the Lord [her] God with all [her] heart and with all [her] soul and with all [her] mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-40).  Joyce shared everything she learned at Liberty about servant leadership with the ladies on the team who reported to her.  The following are examples of the growth of members of the EA team.

“X”  is a Catholic member of that the Lord led Joyce to invite to the ministry team.  In a comment posted to You Are Not the Only One (URNOT) blog on August 27, 2011, “X” stated,  “I’m not sure those questions have ever come to mind regarding others, but I do know they have come to mind for myself. What if I were to die tomorrow, would I go to heaven?? At one point I would not have known but after spending time with some extremely religious women, I no longer worry about my going to heaven. As one told me, the Spirit is within me! That was one thing I needed to know!!”  “X” was being fed, “. . . milk, [she was] still an infant, [was] not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness” (Hebrews 5:13).  “X” had a challenging relationship with her mother, sisters, children, and anyone who wronged her.  It took years before she could apply, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:34-35) to her family members.  She did not have an understanding of what it meant to pray to Christ herself. This spiritual infantile state was common among many of the other people on the team.  Joyce did not comprehend that a person could be a Christian and still not know the Lord in a personal and intentional manner.  Even though “X” is a Catholic she did not give her heart to Christ until she was led to understand that she could talk to Him herself. Then she struggled with prayer.  That was her reference to the fact that the Holy Spirit was inside of her.

In a recent comment posted to the (URNOT) blog on October 28, 2014, “X” stated, “A very interesting and expletive reading. We all say we are Christians, but very few ever say they are a disciple of Christ. Most may not know the meaning which is explained quite extensively by your post. I also think saying you are a disciple of Christ puts you on a whole new level with your fellow brethren. They understand being a Christian; however, they don’t understand being a disciple and think the two are interchangeable.”

On November 2, 2014 when asked this question on the EA Blog, “How did the EA/URNOT ministry change your life?” “X” responded with the following statement, “I would say out of all the folks who have stayed with EA, I’m probably the one who has changed the most spiritually. I was, in the beginning, a very take charge, no holds barred, type individual which comes from serving in the military. Although I was very certain I was a “good Christian”, I was soon led to understand the difference. With the help of the other three ladies who started and two of which are still here to keep me on the straight and narrow, I found not only how to be a good Christian in thought, word, and deed, but I also learned how to develop a relationship with God. That’s something that is not always easy to do as we want to do most of the talking and we need to listen more. Anyone who has known me for any length of time should also notice the difference in how I speak here and to each of you. Much quieter tone and I listen better. So, EM [This is the name that the team gave Joyce.  It means Egg Mummy-they considered her their parent.  She took care of them and prayed daily for their families.  They were not used to that.], I know this does not cover all the ways I have changed in the time we have been here, and it’s what I can share with everyone that they will understand. You knew the blackness; you knew the hard times I had. You and “W” got me through as much as she was allowed to before God called her home. Then it fell to me to continue my journey in the way taught through many prayers and lots of conversations. I feel entirely different than I did 5 years ago when we began. Most people notice the difference also!!

When “Y’ joined EA, she was a depressed Christian who did not know how to trust the Lord to handle her life challenges.  When asked the same question that “X” was asked she responded in an e-mail message to the author on November 3, 2014, “Y” revealed,

EA did change my life for the better. God gave me strength and security in being able to blog with the many “women of faith” ladies. Being on EA taught me to open up and let God’s Christian women ‘love on me’. This changed the way I felt about myself and helped me when I was so depressed and did not know which way to turn.  Through the faithful teaching on EA, I became a much better prayer warrior, but not only that, I learned how important praying is; for myself and others! Through the teachings of the devotionals, these helped me by reminding me of “who God is”, reminded me of “His promises to me”, encouraged me and strengthened my faith. Through having leadership roles on EA, God showed me that when He calls me to do something for Hm, first and foremost, trust Him that He will make sure that I succeed at the task that He has for me to do! I love how God taught me and strengthened me through the fellowship with the other ladies on EA. I loved the openness that each one had on the blog to share, so that together, we could all learn scriptures, meaning of scriptures and how God always had a purpose in a plan to help each of us, through one of the other ladies trials and challenges.

“Y’ has been disciplining her husband.  He is now disciplining the people at his place of work using the URNOT Blog posts.  They are both discipling her mother-in-law using the blog.  “Y” has occasional lapses in depression; therefore the discipleship process is an ongoing process for her.

“Z” is another member of the team. “Z” stated,  “The biggest change in me is that I am more committed to prayer. I’ve always prayed, well, since childhood. Now, I pray for others I would have never had the chance to do so because of what we are asked to do….hope this makes sense. I’ve always had a conversational relationship with God. I just have. I cannot remember a time in my life, even as a child, that I did not acknowledge the Lord, or talk with Him. Maybe one of the things I’ve learned is that there are others like me “out there” who truly understand this relationship I have with the Lord.

Wynette and Joyce – led by the Holy Spirit – started the You Are Not the Only One (URNOT) online ministry.  Wynette went home to the Lord 2 years ago. The You Are Not the Only One online ministry is a prayer and devotional blog that has reached individuals in 115 countries.  Joyce’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) is to make this scripture a reality in the URNOT ministry, “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).

Joyce’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) is to make this scripture a reality in the URNOT ministry, “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). [37] Many of the people, who are in foreign countries and even the USA, do not post comments on the blog for fear of reprisals from family members.  When the blog was first published this problem did not present itself. People posted daily.  Joyce actually prayed about the lack of response to the devotionals and asked the Lord to show her if people in foreign countries are still being affected by the ministry.  The following is a word for word excerpt from two prayer requests recently received on the blog,

“K” from Jamaica: I desperately need Healing for my tubes which are blocked, I also have a microadenoma which causes high prolactin level which alters my hormones and possible endometriosis.my husband and I have been trying to conceive for 6yrs now I’ve been to many doctors n nothing has happen so far. Please pray for us as we believe that nothing is too hard for God to do. We are desperate to have a baby and just to have this emptiness in our hearts filled. May God bless u all as u pray for us. Thank u

Greetings! We very request your praying help about planning / project to buy capling land my office partner, Mr. Hendra and Mrs. Zahara’s family of their land sizing 20X30 meter. They are Muslim. Our plan yet tell to them, before bring it into pray. According to our thought, the land isn’t sell possibility. However, how big our hope so that we can buy the land. Because to intend make the fruits plantation. Because of that, we requested your help and support to pray. In order that God give the way and his regulation may happen for this plan. After several times prayed, we’ll tell to them about our plan, cause it has told to God firstly so, God working and guiding our step also organizing every condition in this matter. Thus our request, supposing to be the subject of your pray, Mr. and Madam. Thank you so much and God bless. From JD Pekanbaru – Indonesia. (These statements were cited exactly as they were postedon the blog.)

Joyce counsels with many people online and has had the opportunity to foster the growth of several spiritual infants to a stronger relationship with the Lord. SE posted on the blog, “Thank you so much Joyce for this. I have been so angry lately at everyone, even God. I need to trust and have faith more so that I can forgive others, so that the Lord will forgive me.”  Joyce worked with SE on Facebook also, and SE started going back to church and is now being counseled for her anger.  She has grown a lot in her faith and trusted God for deliverance from her infantile faith.  She now posts scriptures on her profile page and encourages others to trust in the Lord.

Students whom Joyce taught in the past have dedicated their lives to Christ, and service to others.  She prayed for them regularly while she was their teacher.  One is being trained to become a Missionary Pilot.  As a public school teacher, she could not preach the Gospel to them, but she strove to “be an example of Christ to them in her classroom”.  They confirmed her example by sending her a video for Christmas when they heard that she could no longer work in education due to the severity of her medical condition.[38] She believed the scripture that stated, “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).  She taught YES (Youth Educational Program) while she was a member of the Grace Community International Church, and taught the lessons to her children at her home.  Both of her daughters gave their lives to the Lord when they were teenagers.  She works with her grandchildren regularly during the week and sings worship songs with them.  She leads them in prayer in thanks over their meals each day and talks with them about God and his creation.  She did not realize that she thanked the Lord so frequently throughout the day that now her grandchildren say, “Thank you God.” When something happens that they appreciate.

She remains in severe pain daily. However, she has started seminary because she wants to, “Grow [even more] in the knowledge of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).  Joyce wants to become a Christian counselor.  She has seen the pain that so many believers are experiencing and wants to be God’s instrument to help them hand it over to him, and grow in their faith.  She has learned to, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-8).  Joyce does not consider herself perfect.  However, she does not allow the fibromyalgia to prevent her from discipling others as she is physically able to.  She believes that, “[His] grace is sufficient for [her], for [his] power is made perfect in [her] weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Since moving to Georgia she has not been able to join the praise team; however, she participates in an adult Sunday school class and has been asked to add comments to enrich the teachings.  She has also offered to lead devotionals at the Circle of Friends Women’s Ministry.  She can become discouraged when she feels that she is just not doing enough for the kingdom in her current role in this new congregation [she moved to Georgia in April of 2014-with limited mobility and several health challenges].  The level of frustration that she feels stems from the Fibro Fog, A type of cognitive dysfunction reported by many people with fibromyalgia. Also sometimes referred to as brain fog, its symptoms include difficulty with concentration, memory deficits, and confusion. The reason for the changes in brain function with fibromyalgia is not clearly understood. People with fibromyalgia experience fatigue and are at risk for sleep deprivation and depression, but research has not supported the idea that these factors are the cause of the so-called fibro fog. Another possible theory is that the nervous system disturbances in fibromyalgia affect the blood vessels of the brain, causing certain areas of the brain to receive less oxygen at times.[39]  Joyce is not as cognitively adept as she used to be.  It takes longer to read and comprehend, but she is determined to continue the journey that the Lord has placed her on. However, she continues to disciple others.  She believes it is her calling and will do so until the Lord takes her home.

Spheres of Discipleship

Putnam, Harrington, and Coleman present four areas in which disciples must need to exhibit growth. The disciple governed by the centrality of Christ and obedient to his will must intentional in their relationship with God, with the family of God, in their home life, and in their relationships to the world.[40]  As stated by the authors, these are the four spheres: (1) The Centrality of a Relationship with God, (2) Relationship within the Family of God, (3) Relationships at Home, and (4) Relationships with the World.[41]  Obedience and submission are the pivotal terms and actions of a disciple as they live out these spheres. Living within the spheres requires a Christ-centered life focused on carrying out The Great Commission[42]

The Centrality of a Relationship with God

Dietrich Bonhoeffer delivered a poignant statement that clarifies this stage of discipleship.   He declared, “Now his call to discipleship dissolved all ties for the sake of the unique commitment to Jesus Christ.” [43] Putnam, Harrington, and Coleman described a head that is focused on developing a relationship with Jesus through prayer and bible study. [44]A heart that is indicative of a changed life, or is the fruit on the tree of their lives. Finally are they using their hands, skills, and abilities to further The Great Commission? Coupled with Bonhoeffer’s statement it is clear that absolute submission to the centrality of Christ is the focus of this sphere. These principles refer to the person who is the disciple and the discipled.[45] Putnam, Harrington, and Coleman continued, “If we forget we are saved by grace, that our security and our strength are from God and not of ourselves, then we fall into a form of salvation by works.”[46] A life focused on works cannot bespeak the importance of establishing relationships with the family of God.

Relationship within the Family of God, the church

As disciples of Christ, our level of commitment to fellow believers is just as important as our commitment to Christ.  The Lord admonished the disciples that, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life”( Matthew 19:29).  The scenario applies to everyone involved in the discipleship process. The authors reiterated, “As a family, the church works together and lives together in a network of loving relationships. In the days of the early church, many believers were coming out of a broken world and did not have family relationships in which they were encouraged, challenged, challenged, and loved.”[47]  During the discipleship process, the new disciple must comprehend what it means to be a member of the congregation and what The Word of God teaches about that position. Is their love for the Body of Christ visible to all; are they developing the interpersonal skills needed to establish relationships with their brothers and sisters in Christ and finally are they aware of and using their spiritual gifts for the betterment of the body of Christ?[48]  As they grow in these relationships, their relationship at home will blossom and flourish.

Relationships at Home

God established the hierarchical structure of the home (Ephesians 5). He also delineated the roles of parents in how they should raise their children (Deut. 6:7). A heart that is submissive to the centrality of Christ will not have a problem being submissive at home; however, submission to Christ takes time.  Discipleship making begins at home, and so does submission.[49] Putman, Hartman, and Coleman stated, “This sphere is important for us to address because it is possible for people to grasp the concepts of the gospel but fail to apply them in the home.  . . [Paul] understood that we cannot compartmentalize our relationships, that the Holy Spirit wants to influence every believer’s life, and that the best place to make disciples is in our families.”[50]  Following the models of strong family relations that are evident in the church fosters the same type of relationships at home; thus, the symbiotic relationship between sphere two and sphere three.[51]

Relationships with the World

The final sphere of relationships addressed by Paul in Ephesians 6 is referred to as “the world”.  The authors expounded on the manner in which disciples interact with the outside world which includes but was not limited to the workplace, but anywhere a believer encounters people who are not of the faith. [52]   Believers denote the centrality of Christ in their lives as they live and work; they live and work as unto Christ. The authors point out that, “Paul makes it clear that when we are in the world, we represent Christ, and in what we do, we do not simply work for other people; we work for the Lord.”[53] Therefore, where ever we must represent Christ through the same process presented in the other spheres; our heads, hearts, and hands.

Author’s Spheres That Need Submission to Centrality of Christ

The author moved to Georgia in April of 2014 due to a severe case of Fibromyalgia.  She has spent most of this year getting medical assistance and stabilizing her health concerns.  In the midst of all of this, she has not missed church attendance, but she was falling back in the disciplines of bible study, prayer, and meditation.  Christ was taking second place to this huge medical problem.  She could barely use her hands; her entire body was in so much pain that it was difficult to focus.  She spent most of her time traveling back and forth between doctors.

She moved in with her oldest daughter and her husband.  He daughter gave her life to the Lord when she was at a Christian College.  At age thirty-three, she met an unsaved man and against the wishes of her parents married him. They have two beautiful children.  Joyce could not take care of herself, but she was in a family environment that violated everything that she believed.  He continued to use the language because he knew how much it disturbed her.  She discussed it with her daughter.  It stopped for a while. Then it started back again.  Again a discussion ensued.

The author had to make a decision.  Stay where she was or go to live with her other daughter and still spend time with her oldest daughter and her grandchildren.  After being accepted into Liberty for seminary, the author was faced with the same dilemma.  The oldest daughter had the most effective internet connection.  However, this time around the author was once again armed with the spiritual disciples to suffer through whatever she had to face.  He attacked her faith; he attacked her belief system, and then stated that the bible was nothing more that lies written by men.  She made it clear to him that the Bible is God breathed and that he can believe whatever he wants, but one day the truth will prevail. The dialogue changed.

The author’s body was stabilizing but the intensity of the pain was still there, the freedom of spirit and the joy of the Lord brought about by Reading Dr. Falwell’s book on Building Dynamic Faith changed the author internally, (Hebrews 11).[54] Bonhoeffer’s definition of suffering for Christians is something that the author is well aware of; his statement that, “Thus, suffering becomes the identifying mark of a follower of Christ. The disciple is not above the teacher. The disciple is not above the teacher’ is something that she is familiar with.[55]  After a week of fasting, prayer, and meditation the author handed the situation over to Christ.  Christ must be the central focus of her relationships with her family.  She will carry this cross until the Lord provides her with the skills needed to be able to disciple her son-in-law.  It is a daily battle to her the foul language, it is even more of a battle to keep it out of her soul.  The Holy Spirit had to take control of that situation.  It is like being in the midst of a mental battle.  I am a disciple of Christ; therefore, I will “…. bear what is put on [me]. Bearing constitutes being a Christian.”[56]

The second area is relationship with the church.  The author has only been in her current congregation since April of 2014.  She is a classic introvert.  Even though she has served prolifically in her previous congregations, she has not stepped out of her comfort zone and met with many of the members of this congregation.  She has joined the Women’s Ministry, and attends Sunday school.  She has established positive relationships and disciples members of the Sunday school class, but she still does not know most of the members of the congregation.  Four hundred people just seem too overwhelming for her.  Walking out into a congregation of four hundred people is literally torture for the author.  She is one of maybe a handful of people in her ethnic group who attends this church.  She has been praying about how to cross this relational bridge.

Bonhoeffer stated,” They will recognize their cross in communion with Jesus.”[57]  The author’s cross is her extreme introversion and the excruciating pain that she experiences from fibromyalgia.  The introversion has plagued the author most of her walk as a follower of Christ.  However, when she is in total communion with the Lord she does find herself talking to and smiling with strangers.  The author is aware, maybe for the first time in her life, that her ethnicity is a barrier to her relationship with her fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in this congregation.  However, Bonhoeffer made it clear when he stated, “Those who do not want to take up their cross, who do not want to give their lives in suffering and being rejected by people, lose their community with Christ.”[58]   So, the author handed this challenge over to Christ.  She has begun the intentional process of meeting with and talking to people.

Her relationship with the Lord and the need to be obedient and submissive to him has led her to step out of her comfort zone.  On Sunday, she walked all the way to the back of the sanctuary to meet and greet people. The author was reminded that,” Suffering must be borne in order for it to pass.”[59] Disobedience to God’s will for her life is not an option.  She will forge forward praying daily for the Lord to allow her to step out in faith as she ministers to others in her new congregation.

What Does it Mean to be in Submission to Christ?

            The Apostle Paul speaks to the act of submission in Ephesians 5:21-24.  The common frame of reference for this scripture is a wife’s submission to her husband.  However, this section of the same scripture also addresses the church’s submission to Christ, “Now as the church submits to Christ” (Ephesians 5: 24b).   A working definition of submission is contained on Got Questions.Org. The definition stated,

In all the New Testament incidences where the word submit occurs, the word is translated from the Greek word hupotasso. The hupo means “under” and the tasso means “to arrange.” This word and a root of it are also translated by the words subject and subjection. The word’s full meaning is “to obey, put under, be subject to, submit oneself unto, put in subjection under or be under obedience or obedient to.” The word was used as a military term meaning “to arrange troop divisions in a military fashion under the command of a leader.”[60]

This word is a wonderful definition of what it means to “submit” to God. It means to arrange oneself under the command of his divine viewpoint rather than to live according to one’s old way of life-based on a human viewpoint. It is a process surrendering our own will to that of our Father’s.[61]

In general, the worldly definition of submission denotes denial of one’s self and a loss of one’s identity.  However, when a Christian considers submission they are considering, “sub [mitting] to the teachings of Jesus [now this becomes], an intense experience of the freedom for which [the disciple has desired in] his lifelong search for meaning and fulfillment.”[62]

Submission to the Centrality of Christ and the Godhead also means being in submission to the persons whom he has placed in authority over us, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment (Romans 13:1–7 English Standard Version ESV).  James admonishes believers to, “Submit yourselves therefore to God (4:7 ESV).  Submission requires humility, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5).  There are times when “perfect submission leads to perfect death [as in the death of our Lord or the death of our own will].” [63] In order for a believer to state that Christ is the centrality of their lives they must, “whole-hearted[ly] surrender to His guidance, this implicit submission to His authority, Christ asks. We come to Him asking Him to teach us the lost art of obeying God as He did. He asks us if we are ready to pay the price. It is entirely and utterly to deny self! It is to give up our will and our life to the death! [Therefore submission is being]. . .to be ready to do whatever He saith!”[64]  We are no longer our own man.  We willing become enslaved to our Lord and Savior (Acts 16:17 NASB).  That is total submission to the authority of Christ over our lives.

Conclusion

The discussion presented by the author detailed the five stages of development as a disciple; they are, (1) Spiritually Dead, (2) Infant, (3) Child, (4) Young Adult, and (5) Parent as presented by Putman, Harrington, and Coleman.  The author summarizes and analyzes the developmental steps and characteristics found in each of the five stages.  Secondly, the author presented an analysis and summary of the spheres of discipleship as presented by Putman, Harrington, and Coleman; (1) The Centrality of a Relationship with God, (2) Relationship with the Family of God, church, (3) Relationships at Home, and (4) Relationships with the World. The author identified their current stage of discipleship using biblical evidentiary proofs to correlate their claim, as well as testimonials from people whom she has discipled. Lastly, the author presented a summary of what submission to the centrality of Christ means as prefaced by Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s call to the cross.

 Bibliography

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works. Vol. 4. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2003.

 

Falwell, Jerry. Building Dynamic Faith. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007.

 

“Fibro Fog.” MedicineNet. N.P., 28 Aug. 2013. Web. 1 Nov. 2014. <http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=125458&gt;.

 

Hirschman, Dave “Leaving LUBTS with a BHAG” (video of lecture SEMI 500 Week 7: Moving in Building Your Dynamic Faith. Liberty University, October 27, 2014) accessed November 2, 2014

 

“How Are We to Submit to God?” GotQuestions.org. N.P., 2014. Web. 04 Nov. 2014. <http://www.gotquestions.org/submit-to-God.html&gt;.

 

Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. New York, NY: Harper One, 1996.

 

Murray, Andrew. The Essential Works of Andrew Murray. Uhrichville: Barbour Pub. Inc., 2008, Kindle,

 

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.

 

Tran, Andrew. Dear Ms. Gerald. N.P., 23 Dec. 2013. Web. 1 Nov. 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAtQ-bB8_qU.&gt;.

 

Warren, Rick. The Purpose Driven Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002.

[1] 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), 55-75.

[2] Putman, Harrington, Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five, 85-89.

[3] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 85-91.

[4] Putman, Harrington, Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five, 60.

[5] Ibid., 73.

[6] Ibid., 61.

[7] Ibid., 62-63

[8] Ibid., 62.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Putman, Harrington, Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five, 63.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., 64.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Putman, Harrington, Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five,, 64.

[17] Ibid., 65.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid., 66.

[22] Ibid.

[23] 66.

[24] Ibid., 67.

[25] Putman, Harrington, Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five, 68.

[26] Richard Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002).

[27] Putman, Harrington, Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five, 68-69.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.,  69.

[31] Ibid.

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

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

 

[33] Putman, Harrington, Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five, 70.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid., 71.

[36] Roy Graves, e-mail message to author, September 23, 2014.

[37] Dave Hirschman, ” Leaving LUBTS with a BHAG” (video of lecture SEMI 500 Week 7:Moving In Building Your Dynamic Faith, Liberty University, October 27, 2014) accessed November 2, 2014.

[38] Andrew Tran, “Dear Ms. Gerald,” (video), December 24, 2013, accessed November 1, 2014,

[39] “Fibro Fog,” MedicineNet, August 28, 2013, section goes here, accessed November 1, 2014, http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=125458

[40] Putman, Harrington, Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five, 79-80.

[41] Ibid.

 

[42] Ibid.

[43] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 4 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press,2003), 62.

[44] Putman, Harrington, Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five, 85

[45] Ibid., 85-86.

[46] Ibid., 85.

 

[47] Putman, Harrington, Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five, 86.

[48] Ibid., 87.

[49] Putman, Harrington, Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five, 88.

[50] Ibid., 87.

[51] Putman, Harrington, Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five, 88.

[52] Ibid., 89.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Jerry Falwell, Building Dynamic Faith, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007).

[55] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 89.

[56] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 90-91

[57] Ibid.,89

[58] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003),90-91

[59] Ibid., 90.

[60] “How Are We to Submit to God?,” GotQuestions.org, 2014, , accessed November 04, 2014, http://www.gotquestions.org/submit-to-God.html.

[61] “How Are We to Submit to God?,” GotQuestions.org, 2014, , accessed November 04, 2014, http://www.gotquestions.org/submit-to-God.html.

[62] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 22.

[63] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, NY: Harper One, 1996), 58.

[64] Andrew Murray, The Collected Works of Andrew Murray) Uhrichville: Barbour Pub. Inc., 2008), Location 9355-9367, Kindle.

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