Archives For discipleship

When talking with people about what is “church” I often hear someone say, “But hey, the Bible says ‘where two are gathered in Jesus’ name, I am with you.’ People will often use this phrase to describe how a small group is a church. Yet, the context of that passage has nothing to do with what a church is or what a church does. In Matt 18:19-20 the context is correcting another believer and prayer, not what is or is not a church.

What is the Church

Photo Credit: Peter’s First Preaching (The Bible and Its Story, vol 10)

With that said, let’s look at what the church actually is. From my understanding of the Bible there are seven key elements of a church.

I. MAKE DISCIPLES

First, the church is commanded to go into all nations and make disciples. Continue Reading…

Discipleship is core to the Christian faith. It is the way we reproduce ourselves and pour our lives into the new Christians learning to live a life obedient to the Bible and Jesus’ example. But, what should a discipleship meeting look like? How should it flow? What should be talked about?

pic of two people meeting

Flickr Photo Credit: Digital Internet

As I shared in a past post I have began discipling a young man named Allan (not his real name). We have been meeting and I am doing my best to disciple him. My model of discipling Allan comes from what I was taught while at student at Fresno Pacific University and what has been modeled to me through the mentorship of Steve Elliott.

Based on these experiences, here is a picture of what I believe a disciple meeting should look like. Continue Reading…

The process of discipling a new Christian is important and critical to the Christian faith. Therefore, deciding what to study when a discipleship relationship begins is also vitally important and must be done with care and tact.

pic of books to study

Flickr Photo Credit: jimmiehomeschoolmom

This year I have enjoyed the process of discipling a young man named Allan (not his real name). However, the beginning of a discipleship relationship is very important because it lays the foundation for what is going to occur later in the discipleship process. In the second meeting Allan and I had we were faced with the topic of how to decide what to study. Continue Reading…

One of my wife’s girlfriends recently began dating a young man who was a new Christian. I wondered if Allan (not his real name) had anyone who was discipling him. Later I learned that Allan had been connected to someone at his church to disciple him, but the person had not returned Allan’s calls.

pic of question mark

Flickr Photo Credit: Colin K

As a result, I asked to be connected to Allan and see if he might be interested in meeting with me to discuss the possibility of me being a disciple to him. The meeting went great and we have been meeting twice a month since then. (If you’re not sure what a “disciple” is, this blog post will help.) Continue Reading…

When a person comes to the end of his life he is going to be selective with his last words. He will only say what he feels is most important; those will be the words remembered by everyone who hears them.

Why Discipling Others is Important pic

Knowing the importance and significance of a person’s last words helps us to understand the importance of Jesus’ final words:

. . . Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always even to the end of the age. 1 Continue Reading…

Notes:

  1. Matthew 28:19-20 NLT

Relating to my posts over the last few days, I think you will enjoy reading about a book I just finished titled, Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time by Greg Ogden.

God is God. He rules over you and me. It is nice to have Ogden affirm this when he writes, “we are kingdom people, which means that Jesus is Lord in our hearts, homes and workplaces; our attitudes, thoughts and desires; our relationships and moral decisions; our political convictions and social conscience” (pg 28). The dilemma is how we use the power of discipleship in triads to help each other make that happen.

Based on my personal story of being discipled before being a Christian, I agree with Ogden on making discipleship not just for “super-Christians” (pg 48). I believe that we should frame discipleship as something that can happen to people the moment they become a Christian, and before. The task for us as churches is to encourage that to happen.

I learned years ago that who you spend time with is who you become. Who you hang around and who you allow to influence you determines what kind of person is modeled for you. Jesus seems to have known that before I did, and Ogden reminds us, saying, “His [Jesus] life and mission needed to be internalized in the lives of the disciples. The way to ensure that they internalized his mission was through ‘purposeful proximity’” (pg 65). Jesus knew that his disciples would be like him and catch on to what he was doing by simply having them around. That is exciting to me as a Christian leader to know that I do not always have to be teaching and mentoring. I can simply allow the people I want to disciple to hang around with me.

I often ponder and write about the purpose of leadership and how to do a great job of it. Ogden offers us great insight when he tells us that, “Jesus staked his entire ministry on the preparation of the Twelve to carry on his mission after he returned to the Father” (pg 95). This is a great call to us as current Christian leaders that we are to stake our entire ministry on preparing the people around us to carry on our ministry for Christ before returning to the Father.

Approaching the end of Transforming Discipleship, Ogden starts to give us a picture of what successful discipleship looks like in a church. He touches on something that seems very important as an implementer of discipleship groups when he writes, “A discipling or training model has a much greater chance of outliving a primary leader than does one built around a leader’s personality” (pg 134). This is big for us as leaders because it is easy to use our charisma to cast vision and lead based on our skills and personal style of discipleship. But if we work hard to develop a “model” for discipleship to take place on a regular basis that might slightly reflect our personality but not depend on it, that model has great chance to continue on after we leave.

Perhaps one of Ogden’s shortest statements in the book is also one of the most moving for me. When talking about training in righteousness through Scripture he declares, “We become what we place our minds on” (pg 167). I believe this applies to scripture and to the discipleship relationships we might engage in. When we commit to meeting with one or two other believers in a covenantal discipleship relationship, we are going to be placing our minds on the right things. And placing our minds on the right things with other Christians is going to help us become the people God wants us to be: solid Christian men and women who are trained to equip other saints and share the gospel.

Question: What has been your experience in a discipleship relationship? 

Today's post continues a three part series titled, My Story of Being Discipled. To read yesterday's post, go here.

I believe the most important mark of a productive discipleship environment is that the person being discipled must have a desire to grow.

If the person being discipled lacks motivation and desire to grow, then the discipleship relationship will go nowhere. One of the reasons that I believe my relationship has been productive with Steve is that I have been hungry to grow. Even though Steve came to me and offered to disciple me, I have not taken his offer lightly. I take every opportunity that I possibly can to learn and grow from him.

Another important element that I believe a discipleship relationship should have is that the person giving the discipling must have a sincere interest in the disciple. In my relationship with Steve, I have always felt that he has a genuine desire to serve me. He always offers his time to me for free and he even tries to purchase his own coffee when we meet (which I never let him do). If Steve offered the discipling with a strong interest in his personal gain, I do not think that I would have allowed Steve to have as much of an influence on my life.

Because I know Steve is altruistic in his offer to help me, his suggestions and insight mean much more to me than it would if I felt he was trying to get something out of our relationship or if he had some type of a secret agenda he was trying to fulfill. Knowing that a desire to grow and a sincere interest are important to have in discipling relationships, I hope to make those part of the future discipling relationships I am involved in.

I am fortunate that my friend, John Calhoun, asked me to disciple and mentor him. I feel honored and am grateful that he would look to me for guidance and insight about how to live a righteous life that allows him and his family to reach their goals.

Going forward with my relationship with John, I want these two elements in our relationship: 1) John’s desire to learn, and, 2) my sincere desire to serve him. I want to see that John has a desire to learn by him making progress and following through on his action items that he is assigned between our meetings. And I want to show him that I have a sincere desire to help him by asking him what I can do to serve him and clearing explaining to him that I expect nothing in return as a result of our relationship.

For three and a half years I have been the beneficiary of a discipling relationship that started with me sharing my vision with Steve. I am grateful for his help and I can clearly see the positive difference (and the strong need) that discipleship makes in the life of someone before becoming a Christian and shortly after making that decision. Now, I am grateful for the opportunity that I have to foster a great discipling relationship with John going forward.

Question: I am interested to hear of any type of mentor or discipleship relationship you have benefited from? 

Today's post continues a three part series titled, My Story of Being Discipled. To read yesterday's post, go here.

Characterizing the relationship Steve and I have is difficult to do because it does not fit into one single category.

My professor in a Current Evangelism and Discipleship Class often taught us that rarely do we lock into one category of relationship with someone. Instead, it is very common, as Nancy says, that our relationship with someone discipling or mentoring us will have several different elements and characteristics to it. 

In their book, Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed, authors Paul Stanley and Robert Clinton outline eight different types of mentoring relationships that someone might engage in. Most of my time with Steve consists of a coach or teacher type of relationship. When we started off our relationship most of the time Steve was coaching me through the new situations I was experiencing and teaching me the skills that I wanted to learn. Through that Steve would coach me and bring out the elements of my character that I needed to have for assertiveness and conflict resolution. Even though Steve does impart a lot of wisdom to me as a teacher, he often says that he learns as much from me as I learn from him. For instance, he often learns about his own coaching and teaching as he sees in writing the things that he often only says.

The model of discipleship that definitely works best for me is when I am able to have a relationship with the other person and ask questions. As I shared earlier, the way I am discipled by Steve is highly dependent on me coming to him with situations and questions. I usually come to him with about half a page of questions. Steve is someone with great wisdom and insight, and I always want to tap into that wisdom for the situation that I am in. 

As a young man and a new Christian, I have a strong desire to be a strong Christian leader, but I do not always know what that looks like. Steve has helped me by showing me what I need to do and what habits I need to possess to be a strong Christian man and leader. That is why I always take time to think through what is going on in my life and then ask Steve to help me with that. And, from what Steve tells me, he appreciates that I do that. He does not have to give as much effort to keep me accountable as other men he disciples because I put in the work on my own, and that fosters the positive relationship that we enjoy and each mutually benefit from.

Based on what I have shared thus far, I agree with Ogden when he shares that “Discipleship is fundamentally a relational process.”[1] I know that Steve has my back. He cares for me, believes in me, and he is going to walk with me through whatever I am going through. When Steve and I get together we start our time by sharing how our month has been going and what we have been up to. In addition to that, Steve and I regularly pray together and for each other.

In a way, we are a team working together where Steve offers discipleship to me while I help him to clarify his thinking by writing his quotes and giving them back to him. Through this process, Steve provides tremendous encouragement to me as a leader. Through Steve’s encouragement, he acts out the same process that the apostle Paul follows when Ogden describes, “Paul’s parental discipling model always had the goal of encouraging people to become all they were intended to be in Christ.”[2] I feel this type of parental encouragement in Steve’s influence on my life.

He always believes in me more than I believe in myself. He definitely has a desire to see me grow up and flourish as a Christian who has all the tools and practices necessary to be an effective Christian leader.

Question: What's your story of being discipled? Has someone believed in you more than you believed in yourself?


[1] ibid 67

[2] ibid 116

It was a spring afternoon when I shared with two men my vision for the work that I wanted to do in the future.

I shared with them my desire to serve leaders through writing books and teaching. Shortly after that day, one of the two men privately approached me and shared that he saw some leadership giftedness in me, and he wanted to coach me to help maximize my effectiveness as a leader. I gratefully accepted his offer knowing little about the drastic change that was about to take place in my professional and spiritual life.

For the past three and a half years I have been fortunate to benefit from a discipleship relationship with Steve Elliott who serves as President of Church Assistance Ministry and as a staff pastor at Enclave Community Church. The relationship that Steve and I have enjoyed has been extremely beneficial to me and played a crucial role in allowing me to make a commitment in November of 2009 to follow Jesus.

When Steve and I first began meeting, we only talked about leadership. In fact, the relationship did not start out as a formal “discipling” relationship. However, the topics of our conversations slowly turned more and more towards God over the years. Every opportunity that Steve had to bring up Jesus, he did. Through the process of meeting with Steve I began to realize more and more that Steve has great wisdom to share.

I perceive Steve’s insight and discernment as very valuable. So I work very hard to maximize our time together so I may glean as much as possible from him.

When we meet, I usually prepare for our time the by writing about four topics:

  1. Here’s What I Learned: I write the notes that I took from the last time that Steve and I met, 
  2. Here’s What I Did: This is a list of the things that I have actively done and experienced since our last meeting, 
  3. Here’s What I Learned: These are the things I have learned since we last met relating to what he said and what I have experienced, and 
  4. Here’s What I Need Coaching On: These are questions and situations that I am looking for him to help me with by sharing wisdom, suggestions, and insight. 

These lists tell Steve exactly what I am going through, what I am learning, and where he can help. Recording our time together in this way also helps Steve to see his own words in writing so he knows what he is teaching.

The relationship Steve and I share is a great example of what Greg Odgen talks about when he states that we need people to live with us and guide us in our early years. As he writes, “a necessary and pivotal element in providing the motivation and discipline to grow self-initiating, reproducing, fully devoted followers of Jesus comes only through personal involvement.”[1] Steve provides that investment in me by spending his time, energy, and money on me.

Although Steve and I began meeting in March of 2008, I did not accept Christ until November of 2009. This means he was involved in my life before I was a Christian, when I did become a Christian, and since then. With that in mind, Steve has played a crucial role in showing me what it means to make a commitment to Christ. Steve showed me what it means to be a Christian leader who has had a life of ministry. And, that picture is a picture that I wanted to be part of. It was something that I wanted to be involved and included in because of the unique relationship Steve and I had.

Question: Please share your story of being discipled? 


[1] Greg Ogden, Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 55.