Consider how to stir one another up to greater love and good deeds in the assembly. Why? For the Day is drawing near.
“Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.”
“We proclaim Christ, warning every man and teaching every manwith all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete (mature) in Christ. For this purpose I labor, striving according to His power which works mightily in me.”
Matthew 28:18–20 is the mandate of every Christian. This is where we develop our doctrine of discipleship. Discipleship is not optional. All are called to disciple—that is, we must teach what Jesus taught and instruct them to obey Him.
Four reasons Christians struggle to get involved in discipleship
- People don’t know it’s a mandate
- People over-complicate their view of it
- People think it’s a specialized area for ‘professionals’
- Selfish use of time
- Hesitant (how would it work? where do I start?)
- Fearful (to the vulnerability/awkwardness/humiliation)
- Too self-aware to serve others
- Busying their life with other things
- They just dont’ care
- They’re not sure it really matters much
- They have a sense of what to do, but simply choose not to do it
- They have been taught it clearly from Scripture, but refuse to do it
The Foundation of Discipleship
Discipleship relationships often begin and flourish in a variety of circumstances, but all effective discipleship is undergirded by four essential elements:
1. Imitation—influencing others by the way you live and by the proactive teaching of the truth
- What imitation means (Phil 3:17; 1 Cor 4:16; 11:1)
- Imitation does not mean following a man as if he has inherent authority in and of himself.
- It does mean imitating the teaching and living that aligns with Christ.
- This requires that you have a credible life.
- That the discipler is living a holy and compelling life worth following (1 Tim 4:12). The discipler is in the war against sin and gaining victory. This allows him to mentor others while having credibility (2 Tim 2:4).
- You can never take them further or deeper than what you are willing to live.
- The disciplee is not giving way to the temptation to be threatened, lazy, fearful, or resistant, but is willing to step out in faith and latch on to his discipler as a model for godly living (Phil 3:17).
- Essentially, this means helping people become more like Christ and less like the world (Rom 14:19; 1 Tim 4:12; Titus 2:7).
2. Renovation—the passionate pursuit of answers
- A complete overhaul of your reasoning (Rom 12:1; 1 Tim 4:6, 11; 2 Tim 2:2; Titus 2:1–6)
- This simplifies discipleship—you are helping others find areas where their minds need to be renovated, and teach them to observe all that Jesus commands them (Matt 28:20).
- Ask questions to see how people think about Christ, truth, ethics, the world, the kingdom, work, sin, marriage, etc. Then help them see what needs to change in their reasoning. (Ephesians 4:17ff)
- Areas of flawed thinking needing change:
- Help them:
- develop new convictions as they learn how to reason.
- grow in discernment.
- identify lies they are believing.
- We are “to teach” (didáskō, 2 Tim 2:2). We are not looking to opinionize or philosophize, or else we would violate 1 Corinthians 2:5 where Paul warns us not to have people’s faith “rest on the wisdom of men.”
- We are to instruct with propositional truth from the Word of God so that the mind of God is implanted into disciples’ thinking.
- We are to do as Galatians 6:1 tells us: to restore and set people’s thinking back in place for godly living.
3. Cultivation—staying in the process for the long haul
- Be willing to cut personal time and your enjoyments to spend enough time with those you’re discipling.
- Be someone who is willing to set aside personal time to meet needs.
- Be willing to get involved in the process—even for the long haul when the messiness of sin is complicating everything.
- When you are helping people, remember:
- They likely don’t have a good sense of their spiritual maturity, stamina, or strength.
- They are often blind to weakness, sin, laziness, pride, self-importance, and a host of other evil lusts (1 John 2:15–17). Hebrews 3:12–13 is clear that each person needs to be regularly receiving biblical instruction from objective sources outside themselves to keep them from unbelief and ultimate apostasy.
- Whether or not you are an elder, you should be teachable. First Peter 5:5 carries the key principle that submission to those over you cultivates humility.
- Resisting submission to a discipler when he is giving biblical counsel puts the disciplee in the camp of pride, and “God is opposed to the proud” (1 Pet 5:5). God does not look on the proud as someone who is interested in godly living (Isa 66:2).
4. Conformation—aiming to see Christ formed in them
- The discipler should have goals in mind.
- Not to recreate a ‘better version’ of himself
- Not to cultivate convictions in his disciplee that he personally views as authoritative
- The discipler should have the desire to admonish and teach every man until they are complete in Christ (Col 1:28–29; Phil 3:12–16).
- The discipler should continually be faithful with the truth regardless of the response of the disciplee.
- The discipler will be persuaded that only the Spirit of God can effect change in the disciplee (John 16:8). Any feeble attempt to manipulate change and push personal influence will only cause harm to the disciplee.